With all the attention to preventing bullying in schools, many of us should (and do) wonder how effective these programs are. A recent national study assessed relationships between rates of 6th-10th grade student victimization and various individual and school-level characteristics. The study is valuable in that it provides information on numerous factors that may be related to increased victimization. However, this study has garnered attention for one particular finding: students in schools with bullying prevention programs had higher rates of victimization than students in schools without programs, leading some to wonder if bullying prevention programs actually increase bullying. It is important for us (researchers, scholars, educators, and advocates) to take a step back to consider what these findings really tell us – and don’t tell us – about the effectiveness of bullying prevention programs.
The authors, who admittedly did not expect this finding, suggest one possible explanation – students who engage in bullying behaviors learned, but chose not to use, the lessons of the program. Yet, surprisingly, the authors did not entertain one of the more likely explanations: correlation is not causality. In other words, just because students in schools with bullying prevention programs had higher rates of peer victimization does not mean that bullying prevention programs caused the victimization. It is just as likely that schools with higher levels of victimization are the exact schools that choose to implement bullying prevention programs. So it may very well be that the bullying prevention program is not causing high victimization, but that high victimization necessitated the program.
We also do not know what types of bullying prevention programs were assessed for this study. School administrators were simply asked to respond “yes/no" whether their school had a bullying prevention program. Each administrator may have a different interpretation of what qualifies as a bullying prevention program – some may consider anything that addresses peer relationships; others may adhere to a strict definition of bullying (victimization that is repeated, occurring over time, and committed by someone with greater power) that may or may not address broader peer victimization behaviors like those assessed in this study. Yet, as the authors themselves note, there is no information about the programs’ type, content, or scope. Were these programs in-depth or just a one-time assembly? Did they reach all members of the school community or were they focused solely on students? All these factors would influence the effectiveness of a program.
Undoubtedly, there are good bullying prevention programs and some not-so-good programs. Schools often have few staff resources or financial resources to devote to program selection or implementation; they also may have little information on what programs would work best, and thus may resort to selecting a program of convenience (i.e., the one adopted by their neighboring school or one requiring less investment) rather than the one most effective for their school community. Therefore, this study might be demonstrating that bad programs are ineffective at best, or potentially damaging at worst. It likely tells us nothing about the effects of a well-designed and properly implemented program.
One question we have about bullying programs is whether they address bias-based bullying (i.e., bullying that is motivated by bias or prejudice against a group of people), a type of bullying found to have greater negative effects than other types of bullying. Specifically, programs need to explicitly address bias and prejudice, including bias against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Programs that do not may fail to effectively make schools safer for LGBT youth (a population who suffer from disproportionately high rates of school victimization). Any assessment of bullying programs should examine LGBT-inclusion. Unfortunately, this study does not help shed any light on these questions. Like most research on peer victimization, the data used for this study did not include sexual orientation or transgender status in student demographics, nor did it ask about experiences of anti-LGBT victimization. And given that most bullying programs do not explicitly address anti-LGBT bullying, it is unlikely that the programs implemented by the schools would have a real impact on the victimization of LGBT youth.
So, what does this study tell us about the types of programs we believe schools should have in place - high in quality, designed to address a broad array of peer victimization (including bias-based bullying), matched to schools’ needs, and implemented with fidelity? Most likely, not much. More research is needed to better understand which programs are effective and for which types of victimization. What we already know is that schools cannot wait to take action – they need to thoughtfully assess and select an approach to combat peer victimization, and ensure that it explicitly addresses bias and prejudice, including anti-LGBT bias. And we all should strive to ensure that schools have the financial support and public will to do so.
As a new person here in the national office, I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself to you! I’m Kimmie, and I’m an intern with GLSEN’s Education & Youth Programs department. I’m a Social Work grad student at NYU, and people like you are the reason I am in this particular program and why I came up here all the way from North Carolina. Last year, my beloved home state of NC passed an amendment to our state constitution banning same-sex marriage. I had a multitude of thoughts leading up to voting day, but when the news came out that the law passed, my thoughts immediately went towards youth and I had many questions surrounding the message that this law was going to send to them. I thought “How are some youth who are struggling with their identities going to internalize this message from their government?” and then I thought, “I need them to know there is nothing wrong with who they are!”
There were many great things going on in my rural town growing up, but cultural, religious, or racial diversity was not one of them. In my family we had discussions about things and people that were different from us, but I never really saw these people first hand. I wondered, what does a lesbian look like? (Note: I now know there is no one way for any “kind” of person to present themselves or to feel). I thought all gay men looked like and acted like Jack on Will and Grace. Transgender folks? What did that even mean? My school didn’t have a GSA. If it did, I think things for me would have been a whole lot easier a whole lot sooner. I’m 25 now, and it took me until I was 22 to realize and embrace my sexual orientation. And to be honest, I’m still working on figuring out how I feel comfortable identifying in terms of gender. And that’s okay. What is amazing is that I feel like I’m now in a place where there is so much wiggle room to explore who I am. I found this room in the people I surrounded myself with, the books I read, the conversations I had with all kinds of people. And I want every single youth to have that room to dance around as they explore their identities. That is why I am here. I want to make sure every student sees a reflection of themselves in the world. I want you to know you’re not alone, and that your unique identities are totally legit and awesome and I want you to be connected to people who are so excited to be there with you on your journey.
This past weekend I had the privilege of participating in GLSEN’s TOT (Training of Trainers) program. GLSEN chapter members from the surrounding area were joined by our friends all the way from the Hawai’i chapter for a training that was designed to teach us how to facilitate workshops for K-12 educators to encourage and support their efforts in creating a safe space in their classroom and schools. I was so moved by the overwhelming feeling of motivation and love in the room this weekend. 20 people from across the United States were all gathered in this one room because we each care so much about making a difference in the lives of LGBT youth. A sense of community is really powerful. And a sense of community that exists because everyone feels so passionate about changing the world feels even more powerful. The big masterpiece painting wouldn’t be that big masterpiece without all the brushstrokes it took along the way. This movement is a process and it needs us all. I’m doing my part here. Hawai’i is doing what’s needed there. You’re doing what your school and community needs there. I think it’s amazing the difference you all are making in each other’s lives and I know you are making the world a better, brighter place for the future. Together we’re getting through this. We’re taking on something really big, but collectively we are even bigger.
"There is no LGBT material allowed in the library. There were two books in there last year and the school board had them banned and removed."
Like so many others, this student's statement (from GLSEN's 2011 National School Climate Survey) speaks to the paucity of LGBT-positive resources that students find in school classrooms and libraries across the country. September 22-28 is Banned Books Week, an annual event organized by the American Library Association that celebrates the freedom to read. For GLSEN, this includes the freedom to access LGBT-relevant texts in schools. In recognition of this this week, we asked GLSEN's friend and Young Adult author Tim Federle to share his experiences and thoughts on the subject of banned books. We hope you enjoy Tim's blog post, "When the Book That's Banned is Your Own."
When I was a kid, I turned to books like Bridge to Terabithia and James and the Giant Peach and A Wrinkle in Time to keep me company and keep me sane. These novels featured contemplative kids who didn’t quite fit in—just like me. They shared another distinction, too: each spent time as a banned book.
A couple decades out of middle school, I wrote my own novel for young readers. Told from the perspective of a boy auditioning for a Broadway show, I wanted Better Nate Than Ever to inspire kids to dream big, and to laugh while doing so. And though Nate isn’t a “gay” book—how can a book be attracted to another book?—it does feature a subplot about a teenager who’s starting to notice other boys, and beginning to wonder why.
A refrain kept popping up after Better Nate Than Ever was released this year: librarians who had loved the book, and invited me to visit their students, were suddenly backing out for fear of parental backlash. My own middle school even canceled a long-in-the-works trip, a week before my visit. And I recently read a blog post by a concerned parent who gave Better Nate Than Ever an “Extreme Caution” rating because “homosexuality is presented as normal and natural in this book.”
You bet it is.
All kinds of people deserve all kinds of stories. When you support books that feature diverse kids, you’re telling those kids that you support them, too—that they are, more than anything, okay. The opposite is true when you shut those kinds of books down.
I still think about that canceled trip home. There had to have been at least one kid at my old school who, like me, wondered if there was anyone else like him on earth. Maybe he would have even picked up my book, and read so for himself.
For guidance on creating LGBT-Inclusive Lessons, See GLSEN's Guide to Developing LGBT-Inclusive Classroom Resources
This is the second in a series of GLSEN Blog posts examining the impact of oppression in our schools and communities.
Talk About It—that’s the first suggestion in Considerations When Working With LGBT Students of Color, a resource for educators developed by GLSEN and the Hetrick-Martin Institute. Recognizing the impact of multiple forms of oppression that impact students, it goes on to state,
“Challenging all forms of oppression and empowering students and staff begins with recognizing existing issues of bias and facilitating open dialogue about how these biases affect others. Bringing these topics out into the open allows for healthy and productive opportunities for students and colleagues to ask questions, share their own personal feelings and experiences, and learn from each other.”
In this GLSEN Blog series, Examining Oppression, we are taking our own advice and bringing these issues “out into the open”. GLSEN’s work isn’t just about GSAs, policy, research and Safe Space Stickers but addressing the underlying bias and oppression that create such hostile school climates in the first place; it’s about education, conversation and collaboration.
Following the death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman, our students were eager to talk, to ask questions and to share their stories. More than that, they saw the great value in dialogue and action, and even saw dialogue as action.
Cesar Rodriguez, a student from North Carolina, has seen an important increase in dialogue around racism lately that has also uncovered bias amongst some of his friends. He writes,
“People are beginning to talk about white privilege, racism, and prejudice for the first time. In a way, the verdict of Zimmerman has produced active discussion that is important, but it does show us another thing: privilege still exists and is very apparent. [Many people of color] are furious (I am furious) and my white friends all offer the same response on social media, ‘This is not about race at all.’”
Along the same lines, speaking to the many messages she’s received claiming that racism had nothing to do with Trayvon Martin’s death, Sabrina Lee, from Michigan, writes,
“I know that the George Zimmerman trial has elicited many strong responses, but I want to take a moment to examine other aspects that bred the verdict, beyond the emotions of loss. It’s well-known that Trayvon was just 17 and unarmed when he was murdered. This makes me wonder what kind of perceived threat provoked the fatal shooting, and each time I am less inclined to flee the touchy idea that Trayvon being black had everything to do with it. Same goes for the verdict. I wish it were otherwise. I wish it were possible to swiftly obliterate the institutionalized white supremacy in our society, but it isn’t.”
She goes on to say that, “the refusal to acknowledge the racism that runs rampant in our society perpetuates the very systematic oppression that facilitated Trayvon’s murder and the infuriating verdict”. For Cesar and Sabrina, we aren’t just talking about Trayvon Martin but all people who are oppressed in our schools and communities.
We must continue talking. And we must act. As Cesar puts it, “the world has a tendency to repeat mistakes and as a society we can choose to ignore or acknowledge these instances of error”.
Talk About It
Discuss racism, heterosexism and other forms of oppression with your friends, family and peers. How does it impact your life?
Defenders are still in the Florida Capitol bringing attention to the need to repeal the “Stand Your Ground” Law, ban racial profiling and end the school-to-prison pipeline! Learn more about the issues and take action.
If someone told me three years ago that I would be a pansexual LGBT activist, I would have never believed it. I remember the times when I would sit in my room and just seethe at the fact that I wasn’t entirely sure about my sexuality. I didn’t like a particular set of people, and even if I had a “type” I was attracted to, it wasn’t enough to make a decision. I had never come out as any sexuality up until a year ago when I learned about the other sexualities that didn’t quite make it to the ever-growing acronym. Ever since that day, I can only remember positive thoughts about my sexuality and how it really suits me.
I just started my senior year in high school and the time has flown by faster than I can even fathom.
When I started school as a freshman, I was excited to join my school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. It was one the main reasons I chose to attend the school that I will be graduating from in just a few months. This year is a very big year for me and my GSA because I’m finally stepping up and taking the reins on the club. Ever since I started high school, I have talked to many different teachers and other youth coordinators about how to make the GSA more active, but now that I have years of experience, I know exactly what we’re going to do to make our club known at school.
All summer I’ve been planning monthly events to do with the GSA and trying to get club members’ feedback on how to make my plans work for everyone. So far I have a calendar full of themed months based on Days of Action, remembrance days, and LGBT topics in general. Once clubs start up for the year, I hope to add some kind of educational component to the GSA to teach students about LGBT issues and what the club means. My school is a very liberal school that allows free gender expression and sexual orientation, so I have no doubt that once this is implemented, people will be more interested in being a part of the GSA.
I think it’s important for students to actually learn about human sexuality outside of the standard health class lectures. I would love to see teachers including LGBT figures in their lesson plans no matter what subject they teach. I remember when my ninth-grade English teacher had my class read the story “Am I Blue?” from the book of the same title. That was my first real experience of talking about being LGBT in an open environment and I will never forget it. It would mean so much to me if there were more people able to experience that.
While it’s a bittersweet feeling to be a senior, I can only enjoy everything that comes my way this year and hope that all my memories of being a high school student can help inspire other people.
Jada Gossett is a GLSEN Student Ambassador.
GLSEN has been conducting groundbreaking research on LGBT issues in K-12 education since 1999. Over these years, we’ve provided advocates and scholars with many publications about the experiences of students, educators, and parents. With so much information, how do you know where to start?
It’s easy to find our publications at glsen.org/research! Research that we publish ourselves is available to download for free. Here’s an overview of the reports and briefs you’ll find:
- Conducted every two years, it’s the only national survey of LGBT secondary student experiences at school.
- The full report contains detailed information about LGBT student experiences. Executive summaries are available in both English and Spanish.
- We’ve published reports and briefs on a wide range of topics related to creating safe and supportive schools, including: LGBT student experiences online; safety and diversity in elementary schools; students’ and teachers’ perspectives on school safety; LGBT parents’ experiences with schools; what school is like for specific populations like transgender youth and youth of color; the impact of GSAs; and much more.
- Tip: Use the search box on the left side of the page to find the research on the topic you’re looking for!
- Our State Snapshots pull state-level findings from the most recent National School Climate Survey to provide information about what school is like
for LGBT youth in dozens of different states.
- If there’s no State Snapshot available for your state, or if you would like to examine secondary students’ experiences in your school or community, you can conduct your own research with our Local School Climate Survey. The tool makes selected questions from The National School Climate Survey available for advocates to administer in their local communities.
- What are effective strategies for improving school climate? Our evaluation reports examine the impact of programs and resources recommended by GLSEN, and also discuss what safe schools and LGBT advocates can learn from our efforts.
- Researchers at GLSEN also publish our findings in peer-reviewed journals and in books, where we often take a more in-depth, technical approach to our research.
- Although we are unable to make many articles and book chapters available for free, we do provide links to where you may find the publications.
- Our webinar recordings cover a variety of topics including overviews of major reports like the National School Climate Survey or our report on elementary schools, and also dive into more-specific topics like gender identity and expression at school.
- Webinars are about 45-60 minutes, and can be great to watch as part of GSA meetings or for educators looking for more information on each topic.
Now that you know what’s already available, why not make sure you’re the first to know what’s next from GLSEN's Research Department? Click here to sign up for our email list and receive updates when we release new research findings or hosts events like webinars. You can also follow us on Twitter: @GLSENResearch.
¡Ayer comenzó el Mes de la Herencia Hispana!
Este mes es sumamente importante y emocionante para celebrar la herencia latina mientras reconocemos las muchas maneras en que la gente hispana del mundo ha añadido a la cultura colectiva de los Estados Unidos. A través de este mes pedimos que comiences una conversación con tus compañeros de clase sobre lo que significa llevar las dos identidades en la escuela. ¿Has aprendido acerca de nuestros héroes destacados en la escuela?
¡Utilizalos en tu proxima reunión para provocar discursos con tus compañeros de clase sobre los heroes de la comunidad y momentos importantes en la historia Hispana/LGBT!
Yesterday kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month!
This is an exciting time to celebrate Latino heritage as we recognize the many ways that people of Hispanic descent from all over the world have added to the collective culture of the United States. Take this next month to have thoughtful conversations with your classmates and GSA members about what it means to bring both these identities at school. Have you or your peers learned about any of the featured heroes in your class?
Use them at your next GSA meeting to spark dialogue among your peers about moments in history, and heroes of the community!
Today GLSEN starts its Spot the Sticker campaign! This campaign is meant to highlight spaces in your school that are safe for LGBT students to find educator allies. Whether it’s an office, a classroom or even on an educator’s water bottle, it’s vital to have visual representation their space is safe!
Here's a story on why it’s important.
Before we had Safe Space stickers we were like:
When I found out there were educator allies at our school.
When my teacher agreed to put up a Safe Space sticker and show their classroom was a safe space for LGBT students.
Now my friends and I come to school like:
Sometimes people say things like, “that’s so gay” to which makes us feel like:
What I want to say is:
But we know where the school’s safe spaces are. We can go there, tell our educator ally, and ensure bullying & harassment has no place in our school.
Knowing we have a space that’s safe for LGBT students can go is important. Even though it’s only one step in the process of creating safer schools for all, one step in the right direction makes a difference.
But don't take our word for it...
School started a month ago in my district. Students’ alarms started ringing sooner than they did during the summer, bringing life and smiles to lonely bathroom mirrors. Toaster pastries and cereal began to fill bellies once again in the familiar morning routine as students began their days.
However, I wasn’t so thrilled about school because I was all too familiar with the unsafe feeling of being openly gay in a rural area. I knew that this would be my last year and my community has a lot of growing to do through policies, community involvement, and setting up and maintaining safe zones within my school. With that thought in mind, I also know that I am leaving behind a changed school and an improved atmosphere because of my GSA and through allies I have gained, who will advocate on behalf of all of my LGBTQ peers.
The GLSEN Middle Tennessee chapter has already started planning and hosting events around days of action such as Ally Week. To kick things off, GLSEN Middle TN co-hosted an Ally Week Photo Shoot Campaign on September 11 with the Music City Sisters and Out & About Nashville, which celebrates 11 years in October as Middle Tennessee's leader in LGBT news. The event was for supportive community members to show their support for Tennessee students and proclaim their commitment to being an ally!
Those who couldn’t make it to the event don’t have to miss out on the fun, though. GLSEN Middle TN also encourages everyone who wants to participate to print off an Ally Week sign and post it on the GLSEN Middle TN Facebook page, post it on Instagram with the hashtag #AllyWeek2013, tweet their photo to @OutandAboutNash and @GLSENMiddleTN, or email it directly to email@example.com.
The photos from the campaign will be featured in the October 2013 edition of Out and About Nashville and support our next Ally Week event, which will be held during Ally Week on October 24! GLSEN Middle TN will be co-hosting their next event with the Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce.
GLSEN Middle TN is thankful for all of its sponsors and co-hosts, without whom events like these would be nearly impossible. There will be more events on the agenda for the coming year, which I am looking forward to participating in and helping to organize! By engaging the public in initiatives like Ally Week and other days of action, GLSEN Middle TN is able to make an impact on the greater community and change schools in Tennessee.
Though I am leaving for college in the coming year, opening myself to new opportunities, and gaining more knowledge alongside GLSEN, I couldn’t be happier to look around and see the community that I will be leaving progressing in the right direction. Middle Tennessee is on a path to safer and more inclusive schools and I am happy to be a part of the great work GLSEN is doing in my area.
Andrew Lawless is a GLSEN Student Ambassador and GLSEN Middle Tennessee leader.
Students and educators across the country are checking their schools to Spot the Sticker, but do Safe Space stickers and posters make a difference? Can these stickers and posters really help make schools better for LGBT students?
Here in GLSEN’s research department, we’ve been asking both educators and LGBT students about the Safe Space stickers and posters. Our 2011 National School Climate Survey compared the experiences of LGBT students who had seen a Safe Space sticker or poster at school to those who had not. LGBT students with Safe Space sticker or poster at school were…
- Able to identify more supportive school staff members.
- More comfortable talking with their teachers about LGBT issues.
- More likely to have positive conversations about LGBT issues with their teachers.
Educators can do many things to make schools safer for LGBT students: serving as GSA advisors, incorporating LGBT-related issues into their classes, and intervening when they see anti-LGBT behavior at school. Even an action as simple as displaying a Safe Space sticker or poster can send a strong message to LGBT students about where to find caring adult allies at school.
After I posted the posters and stickers, my students started to ask me about it. It also made a statement to them that my classroom promotes respect.
Middle school teacher, California
As part of our ongoing evaluation of the Safe Space Kit, we asked educators across the country about how they used their Safe Space Kits, and if they thought displaying the posters and stickers made a difference in their classrooms. Many educators told us that they thought that Safe Space stickers and posters were useful tools for encouraging respect in their classrooms and opening dialogue about LGBT issues with their students. (See above and below for educator quotes.)
A majority of teachers at my school put the stickers on their doors, showing that the staff is unified in making out school an open and accepting place.
High school teacher, Colorado