December 21, 2011

In the beginning of December, the US Department of Education (ED) released a report detailing their analysis ofstate and local anti-bullying laws. GLSEN applauds ED for taking this much needed step to support state and local anti-bullying lawsand policies. Building upon the critical elements the Department has identifiedas necessary to create comprehensive anti-bullying laws and policies, thereport has identified best practices in state laws, state model policies, anddistrict policies. We hope that states and districts will examine their ownanti-bullying laws and policies in light of this report and consider updatingtheir laws to create safer schools for all students. 

We areespecially encouraged that the report details the need for enumeration inanti-bullying laws and policies. Enumerated laws and policies provide specificprotection based on characteristics that are frequently the target of bullyingand harassment, such as race, disability, sex, sexual orientation, and genderidentity and expression. 

Research has continually demonstrated that enumeration is an essential element of laws needed to provide effective protection to vulnerable students, such as LGBT students. 

The report assesses that whileabout a third of state anti-bullying laws contain enumeration language, morethan 2/3 of state model policies are enumerated. This reflects the factthat state education associations recognize the need to enumerate anti-bullyingpolicies to provide protection for all students. 


The report also looks at other important components ofanti-bullying laws such as prohibition of bullying through electronic means otherwise known as cyberbullying. While 
36 states prohibit cyberbullying, 13 states specifically allow districts to prohibit off campus cyberbullyingactivity. 


Cyberbulling is a developing area of the law, and there are a lot ofquestions about how much authority and responsibility schools should have topunish this sort of behavior.


While thevast majority of states already have anti-bullying laws, the report shows that 3 states prohibit bullying without providing a suitable definition of theterm, and 10 states prohibit bullying but do not require any specificcomponents for district policies. 


Moreover, the majority of state laws do notprovide specific protection to vulnerable students, such as LGBT students. Thispatchwork of inconsistent protections for students demonstrates the need for afederal anti-bullying measure. GLSEN supports the Safe Schools Improvement Act(H.R. 1648/S. 506), a federal anti-bullying bill which would provide a clear,enumerated definition of bullying and require all districts to take steps toaddress these issues.


Do you know who the National Safe Schools Partnership is? See who else supports the Safe Schools Improvement Act. 


We areencouraged by the strong stance ED has taken onbullying, from issuing guidance to making clear that districts that ignorebullying and harassment may incur liability under federal civil rights laws.Similarly, we believe this report will serve as a useful tool to advocates,educators, lawmakers, and school districts as they develop safe schools lawsand policies that will protect all of our nation’s youth.

May 07, 2013

>Like every other workplace, the GLSEN staff came together to celebrate the upcoming winter holidays. Our Public Policy staff in Washington, DC joined us for the day-long holiday party. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how we bring in the holiday season.


This year's holiday party gave staff the chance to exercise a different kind of skill set than what is normally used at GLSEN. Throughout the day, staff took part in a lively Wii competition (a la Michael Jackson: The Experience and Dance Dance Revolution) and competed in several rounds of Apples to Apples, Catch Phrase, and old-fashioned darts.

The competition is fierce.

A make-shift photo booth was set up to capture some memorable moments. But we'll let our fair-minded readers be the final judges.

Say "Hello!" to some of our Communications staff

Every year, GLSEN's holiday party includes a Silent Auction where staff bring a small item (new or gently used) for others to bid on. Proceeds raised from the annual auction are donated to a local organization that directly serves the LGBT community.


Some of the items up for bidding included:

    • Yoshitomo Nara Wood Prints
    • Legalize Trans T-Shirt
    • 15 awesome CDs in German
    • Knitting lessons
    • Battlestar Gallactica (Seasons 1-3)
    • Handmade scarf
    • Issey Miyake body products
    • World map
    • Restoration Hardware foot duvets
    • A Bengali lunch
  • Fish mold



Over $500 was raised from the staff's Silent Auction to benefit The Ali Forney Center, a LGBT youth homeless shelter based in New York. The organization offers additional services including a drop-in center, medical care, employment assistance, counseling and transitional housing.


As GLSEN gets ready for the winter holidays, we asked a handful of our staff to answer the following question:

"What’s oneof your favorite things to do during the winter holidays?"



Here are some of their answers:


Ashley, Accounting Manager: I love to dress up my cats andtake photos of them posing with the gifts under the tree.

 



La-Trinnia, Constituent Relationship Manager: My dad and I pile all 15 of my niecesand nephews in the van and drive around checking out theneighborhood Christmas decorations and drinking hot chocolate.

 

Brian M., Online Strategies Manager: Myfamily makes æbleskiver. It’s supposed to be a Danish dessert, but we usually can’t wait and eat them all Christmas morning.


Ian, Special Events and Online Giving Manager: Wandering through the Holiday fairs while listening to“All I want for Christmas is You,” on repeat.


Kris, Executive Assistant: My best friend and I prepare a huge Christmas feast forfriends, family, and community members who will be here in New York for theholiday.


Brian S., Major and Planned Gifts Manager: Everyyear I look forward to driving to Ohio for a 3 day marathon of family Christmasparties, lots of eggnog, and hopefully snow.

 



Emily, Senior Research Associate: Ialways make chocolate fondue on New Year's Eve. Chocolate covered strawberriesgo great with champagne!


Kiwi, Community Initiatives Associate: As an atheist, the holidays don't have anyspiritual significance for me, but I appreciate the opportunity theyprovide to bring my family together. I also have a soft spot for watchingRudolph on TV.


Thank you to all of our readers for being a part of GLSEN's work to create safe and respectful schools for all students. The work we've been able to carry out for more than 20 years has only been possible because of your generosity and unwavering belief in our mission.

 

And don't forget to connect with us on your winter break. Let us know how you're spending the holidays by sending us a tweet on Twitter at @glsen or by leaving us a message on the GLSEN Facebook page.

 

On behalf of all of the GLSEN staff, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday!



November 14, 2011

The Casper Star Tribune in Wyoming recently reported on Buffalo High School football coach Pat Lynch who was forced to resign after distributing to the football team a gag report about bullying.

The "Hurt Feelings" report was laced with homophobic and sexist remarks including "I am a pussy," "I am a queer" and "I am a little bitch." You can view the survey in its entirety here.
Lynch was the school's head football coach for the past 13-plus seasons. He coached the high school football team to two state titles in 2004 and 2005.
The coach submitted his resignation as head coach and weight room supervisor to the Johnson County school board this week. At a school board meeting, a letter of apology from Lynch was read aloud.
In his letter, the coach wrote:
I would like to apologize for my lapse in judgment and the poor choice that I made from my position as the Head Football Coach for Buffalo High School...I know that this situation has caused you pain and discomfort, and for that I am truly sorry. As a person and a professional, I believe I will learn and grow from this experience and use it to help others.

What remains unclear is why the school board allowed Lynch to stay on as a guidance counselor when he resigned for overtly sharing inappropriate material with students that was clearly sexist and homophobic.

The high school has reportedly not commented on the decision to retain Lynch as an employee of the school district.

According to data from the GLSEN 2009 National School Climate Survey, a national survey of 7,261 middle and high school students revealed that more than half (58.2%) of the survey participants felt "somewhat comfortable" or "very comfortable" talking to a school-based mental health professional like a guidance counselor about LGBT issues.

If a majority of LGBT students perceive school-based mental health professionals to be safe and affirming school personnel, it seems questionable the Johnson County school district would retain Pat Lynch in his position as a high school guidance counselor when he poked fun of LGBT bullying.

The same argument can be made for female-identified students. Lynch's "joke survey"was littered with sexist language that would make any student wonder if this school staff member was an ally and a resource to seek out for support or assistance.

It's clear that LGBT students need supportive educators that model behavior that promotes respect and the positive value in difference. In the same GLSEN study, LGBT students who can identify supportive educators reported feeling safer in school and obtaining higher grade point averages than other students (3.1 vs 2.7).

Similarly, Lynch sent the wrong message to Buffalo High School athletes that homophobia and sexism are acceptable within competitive sports. But we know this is not an isolated incident.

In response, Changing the Game: The GLSEN Sports Project was formed to address similar anti-LGBT incidents found within school athletics. The project aims to create and maintain an athletic and physical education climate that is based on the core principles of respect, safety and equal access for all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

Coaches, athletes and teams have come together to promote this inclusive message to others like Pat Lynch in the sports community. GLSEN recently teamed up with The Ad Council and the NBA to produce a public service announcement on the very issue. You can watch it below:

Have you heard any anti-LGBT remarks or experienced harassment by your school personnel because of your sexual orientation or gender identity/expression? Or does your school do an amazing job at supporting LGBT students? Let us know!

Send us a tweet at @glsen or talk to us on our Facebook Page.

November 09, 2011

In an article by the The Hollywood Reporter, film director Brett Ratner announced that he was stepping down from producing the 84th Academy Awards after coming under fire for using anti-gay slurs in a recent screening of "Tower Heist."

Ratner was participating a Q&A session for his upcoming film when he responded to a question about rehearsals from an audience member saying, "Rehearsal? What's that? Rehearsal's for fags."

GLSEN intimately knows the damaging effects of anti-gay slurs and they can often be heard in school hallways, cafeterias, cafeterias or the locker room.

According to the 2009 GLSEN National School Climate Survey, 72.4% of students reported they heard homophobic remarks like "dyke" or "faggot" frequently or often at school.

The 2009 survey of 7,261 middle and high school students also found that at school nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation.

Ratner's homophobic comment quickly gained widespread attention causing a flurry of criticism and resulting in Ratner's resignation as producer of the Academy Awards.

The film director wrote in a public statement:

So many artists and craftspeople in our business are members of the LGBT community, and it pains me deeply that I may have hurt them. I should have known this all along, but at least I know it now: words do matter. Having love in your heart doesn’t count for much if what comes out of your mouth is ugly and bigoted. With this in mind, and to all those who understandably feel that apologies are not enough, please know that I will be taking real action over the coming weeks and months in an effort to do everything I can both professionally and personally to help stamp out the kind of thoughtless bigotry I’ve so foolishly perpetuated.

Brett Ratner called Tom Sherak, the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to announce his resignation from the awards show.

In response, Sherak said in a brief statement:


"He did the right thing for the Academy and for himself. Words have meaning, and they have consequences. Brett is a good person, but his comments were unacceptable. We all hope this will be an opportunity to raise awareness about the harm that is caused by reckless and insensitive remarks, regardless of the intent."

GLSEN continues to raise awareness about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students and their experiences with homophobic remarks and harassment. Our partnership with the Ad Council on the "Think Before You Speak" ad campaign is designed to draw attention to the use of remarks like "that's so gay," the consequences of the casual use of this language.

This campaign aims to raise awareness about the prevalence and consequences of anti-LGBT bias and behavior in America’s schools. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce and prevent the use of homophobic language in an effort to create a more positive environment for LGBT teens. The campaign also aims to reach adults, including school personnel and parents; their support of this message is crucial to the success of efforts to change behavior.

Have you heard any anti-LGBT remarks or experienced harassment because of your sexual orientation or gender identity? Let us know!

Send us a tweet at @glsen or talk to us on the GLSEN Facebook page.

November 07, 2011

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Blog Post on Michigan by Alison Gill, Public Policy Manager

Michigan has been deeply divided over the issue of anti-bullying legislation for more than 10 years. As one of only three states that have failed to enact any sort of anti-bullying protection for students, Michigan lacks vital legal protections which have been shown to make schools safer for all students. The main issue which has held up passage of an anti-bullying bill is whether or not the bill should include enumeration, or a specific listing of characteristics that are frequently the subject of bullying and harassment, such as race, disability, and sexual orientation.

Why is this such a hurdle? Well it isn’t a conflict about the best way to protect students. Research has continually shown that enumeration in anti-bullying laws is critical to ensure that all students are protected from bullying and harassment. Students who attend schools with policies that enumerate categories report less bullying and harassment, less absenteeism due to feeling unsafe, more teacher intervention, and greater reporting of incidents when they do occur. Enumeration provides teachers and other educators the tools they need to implement anti-bullying and harassment policies, which makes it easier for them to prevent bullying and intervene when incidents occur. So research shows its necessary, educators agree its necessary, and common sense demonstrates it’s necessary to name the behavior that you wish to prevent.

So why is it controversial to provide specific protection? The answer is simple: Because it might benefit LGBT students. Certain lawmakers would rather provide completely ineffective protections than specifically articulate that LGBT students should not be bullied.

Never has this been demonstrated so clearly as this week when the Michigan Senate passed SB 137, cruelly named “Matt’s Safe Schools Law.” While we had been expecting them to move forward with a generic, nonenumerated bill for some time, the bill the Michigan Senate actually passed is far worse. It actually creates an exception to the prohibitions based on “sincerely held religious belief(s) or moral conviction(s).” In other words, bullying is not allowed, unless you have a “religious” reason for doing so.

Let me ask you this: What possible religious reason could you have for tormenting another student?

A “religious” right to torture other students is not only unacceptable, it is absurd. Lawmakers, educators, even the father whose son this bill was named for have spoken out against this measure. Now Michigan House of Representatives needs to hear from you—Please, if you live in Michigan, call your representative and tell them not to support this terrible bill.

October 26, 2011

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Gossip blogger Perez Hilton recently held an amazing concert with 100% of the proceeds benefiting GLSEN.

On September 20, the "One Night In...New York City" event featured performances including Mary J. Blige, Boyz II Men, Iggy Azalea, Anjulie and Karmin throughout the night. You can watch a recap below:


But Perez Hilton has taken his generosity a step further and announced a new endeavor to once again benefit GLSEN.

Perez partnered up with ShoeDazzle to design two shoes as part of the company's "Celebrity Shoe Design Program for Charity."

Perez Hilton's first shoe named "Sparkle," is a black faux suede pump with silver stud detailing. The second one called "Shine" is a casual all gender metallic sneaker with stud embellishments and zipper detailing.

Both shoes will be available for purchase on November 11 exclusively at ShoeDazzle.

Perez has designated GLSEN as his charity of choice to receive 100% of the profits from both shoes.

"I'm especially thrilled that we are going to be able to raise money for my charity of choice this year, GLSEN - the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network. Their vital work is helping youth all over America! Buying some fierce shoes can do a lot of good too, and that's gonna make this holiday season truly faboosh!"

In addition, ShoeDazzle is presenting a further fundraising opportunity to first time clients, Perez Hilton fans and GLSEN supporters: $5 from any first time purchase on ShoeDazzle.com using the code PEREZ at checkout, beginning October 24 – November 15, will be donated to GLSEN as well.

ShoeDazzle is a leading online fashion brand delivering personalized monthly shoe, handbag and jewelry selections to members by its team of top celebrity stylists. The company, which was founded by Brian Lee, Robert Shapiro, MJ Eng, and Kim Kardashian, who serves as the site’s Chief Fashion Stylist, was launched in March 2009 and now boasts over one and a half million Facebook fans.

October 25, 2011

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Sixteen-year-old Chase Stein is a GLSEN Student Ambassador recently profiled for leading safer schools organizing efforts in Southeast Michigan. Chase is noted for spearheading an exciting new project in the region.

The Breaking the Silence Initiative focuses on the following:

The Breaking the Silence Initiative is a service learning project that will target the reduction of bullying and the improvement of school climate for K - 12 students by training a core group of youth representatives to develop and implement experiential anti-bullying lessons. We will not only be visiting schools in person, we will also create multimedia and social media campaigns that provide opportunities for student advocacy and leadership within our region while making our message available nationwide.

The initiative is a part of the local GLSEN chapter in Southeast Michigan. Chase serves as the chapter's youth coordinator responsible for coordinating training and workshops for other student leaders.
Chase co-wrote the grant that earned the GLSEN chapter $28,000 in funding from the State Farm Youth Advisory to underwrite the initiative's activities. The Board was established in 2006 and has funded more than $16.9 Million to youth-led service-learning projects. State Farm estimates its funding has affected an estimated 10.1 million people.
In addition to co-organizing a 1-day summit, the GLSEN chapter will select 12 local high-school students to serve in leadership roles. These student leaders will then lead local teams to conduct anti-bullying workshops throughout the area.
Congratulations to Chase and everyone a part of these organizing efforts in Southeast Michigan!

October 13, 2011

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This morning, The Star Ledger reported that school officials in Union Township were investigating allegations that a Union High School teacher posted disparaging remarks on her Facebook page about a school display recognizing LGBT History Month.

Garden State Equality obtained a copy of the Facebook thread where the teacher allegedly stated, "Homosexuality is a perverted spirit that has existed from the beginning of creation."

You can read the full text here.

GLSEN in collaboration with The Anti-Defamation League and StoryCorps developed Unheard Voices, a LGBT History Resource for schools to use throughout the month. You can view the complete resource containing oral history clips and lesson plans here.

The teacher's posts on her Facebook page have drawn criticism from the local community.

The ACLU of New Jersey issued a statement:

"Although we do not agree with the sentiments expressed on Ms. Knox's personal Facebook page, her comments are protected by the First Amendment. The ACLU believes that the response to offensive speech is not the restriction of speech, but more speech."

Events like LGBT History Month serve as valuable learning opportunities for students and they have shown to reduce bullying.
Findings from the GLSEN 2009 National School Climate Survey have confirmed the positive impact of inclusive curriculum and supportive educators.

GLSEN compiled a New Jersey Research Brief on the specific experiences of LGBT students in the Garden State.

Students in schools with LGBT-inclusive curriculum or resources in place heard fewer homophobic epithets (e.g., "faggot" or "dyke") than those without an inclusive curriculum.

Additionally, close to three-fourths (73.7%) of students with no supportive staff felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, but only 51.5% of students who had many supportive staff at their school felt unsafe.

Further research indicated that students with many supportive staff had a greater sense of being a part of their school community and resulted in higher grade point averages than other students (3.1 vs 2.7).


Resources exist to assist school staff in building a safer and respectful learning environment. The GLSEN Safe Space Kit and the GLSEN Lunchbox are two easy-to-use resources that are readily available to educators, administrators and staff.

Teachers serve as everyday role models for students to look to for help throughout their time in school. Every student should feel valued and safe regardless of their difference.

October 12, 2011

>With less than 2 weeks to go, GLSEN is busy preparing for the Respect Awards - Los Angeles taking place on Friday, October 21. This special evening will raise crucial funds to support our life-changing work to create safer schools for every student regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

In anticipation of the event, Entertainment Tonight ran a segment about our honorees on this evening's broadcast.
The entertainment news show also featured information about our charityBUZZ online auction where individuals can bid on amazing experiences to support our efforts nationwide. A complete listing of auction items can be found here.
Our 2011 honorees include:
  • Michele and Rob Reiner will accept the Lifetime Achievement Award;
  • Wells Fargo (on behalf of Patricia Callahan) will accept the Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion Award;
  • Rick Welts will accept the Inspiration Award;
  • Chaz Bono will accept the Hero Award and;
  • GLSEN will soon be announcing our Student Advocate of the Year!
To read complete bios of all the honorees visit our website here.

Stay tuned for more exciting details about this event as we quickly approach October 21. Information about our Student Advocate of the Year and a complete list of celebrities will be available soon.

Do you follow @GLSEN on Twitter? We will be tweeting throughout the Respect Awards so make sure to join us! Don't forget to use our hashtag #RespectLA throughout the night.


October 12, 2011

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Guest blog post by Noel Gordon, Michigan student and former GLSEN Public Policy Intern

The Michigan Senate is poised to take a vote on legislation intended to curb school bullying and harassment. Just last week, it was reported that lawmakers laughingly refused to even consider anti-bullying protections. Elected officials, students, and advocates remained in the Capitol all night to protest this outrageous behavior. The fact that an anti-bullying bill (SB 137) is being considered at all would be reason to celebrate, especially during National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month. But only if the bill in question were actually worth supporting.

Here's why: SB 45, in its current form, lacks important reporting requirements and fails to provide clear, unambiguous protections to student populations most often targeted for bullying and harassment. This includes students of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, two communities who struggles I know all too well.

A reporting requirement would be extremely helpful to capture the real experiences of LGBT students. Findings from the 2009 GLSEN National School Climate Survey revealed the kind of bullying Michigan’s LGBT students endure on a daily basis. You can read the GLSEN Michigan Research Brief here.

As a Michigan student, I am embarrassed by the fact that our legislature has yet to get a comprehensive anti-bullying bill through the legislature and to the Governor’s desk. This debate has been going on for 13 years. That’s 13 years too long for many students who continue to have their lives ruined because of our inaction.

It’s time for Michigan legislators to get serious and pass a bill that would actually address these two issues. Our state is in need of legislation that will protect students from harassment and discrimination. Michigan is one of only three states without any sort of anti-bullying law on the books.

You can learn more about what states currently have passed safer schools legislation inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity by clicking here.

Including enumerated categories of protection – such as race, class, religion, disability and sex – should be a point of consensus among Michigan senators, not contention. Comprehensive anti-bullying policies ensure that all Michigan students are protected equally in school. In fact, students in school with enumerated anti-bullying policies report less incidents of bullying and harassment overall. They also report feeling safer at school. You can read more about these findings in the 2009 GLSEN National School Climate Survey.

Michigan legislators should be doing everything they can to help make schools a safer place for all students regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. We should be setting an example for our students, not lagging so far behind.

This isn’t a Republican issue. Nor is it a Democratic issue. It’s about education and the future success of every Michigan student, which is quite frankly, no laughing matter.

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