Jewlyes Gutierrez, an open transgender student in Contra Costa County, has been the center of constant harassment and bullying by her peers. Gutierrez has been charged with misdemeanor battery for defending herself against a physical attack by three girls at Hercules High School that took place on November 13. The dispute surrounding the incident has fueled national headlines and sparked an online petition in support of Gutierrez. Family members and supporters are encouraging the Contra Costa County Superior Court to drop the criminal charges against the transgender teen.
Whether the students targeted this girl because she is transgender or for some unknown reason, filing charges against her sends the wrong message to LGBTQ youth. Putting an already vulnerable person through criminal prosecution does not solve the problem. We must look into what the causation for the attack was and start there. Because the school administration did not properly address the situation and no necessary action was put in place to safeguard her, Gutierrez was forced to take matters into her own hands. No student should be in fear of their physical safety due to who they are.
Violence against LGBTQ youth is a serious problem. As a student who lives and attends school in Contra Costa County, I found it worrisome to hear the news of an individual being a victim of bullying and facing harsh penalties for standing up for herself, with no similar claim taken against the attackers. It is already difficult for any student to stand up against bullies. Tackling violence in schools is not a ‘first step’ that has the potential to launch more conversation; it is, right now, an eclipsing step, that has allowed us to overlook the core causes of harassment faced by LGBTQ youth.
No youth should feel the need to use brute force to protect themselves. School should be a safe and inclusive environment for every student. Hopefully Gutierrez will find justice, but sadly her situation is all too similar to the many struggles faced by LGBTQ youth across the nation. This incident serves as a teachable lesson to value and respect all individuals regardless of their sexuality or gender identity and expression.
Matthew Y. is a high school junior and a GLSEN Student Ambassador.
I can’t believe it. It’s been ten years since GLSEN's first No Name-Calling Week! It’s even longer – thirteen years! – since my friends and I came up with the idea of stopping name-calling in the middle school in our little town of Paintbrush Falls, New York. We were in the seventh grade when Addie (who is the most outspoken of the four of us) decided we should run for student council on a platform of ending name-calling and bullying. I came up with our slogan: “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but names will break our spirit.”
Our idea was modest: just one day a year of nobody calling anybody else a name.
This all happened in the book The Misfits. If you’ve read it, you may remember that I’m the one who tells the story, but it took all four of us – Addie, Skeezie, Joe, and me – to work together to bring about change. That’s how it is sometimes: One person can have an idea, but for the idea to translate into action, a whole community has to get behind it.
The first community to get behind our idea of stopping name-calling was the school community. Individual schools and teachers around the country took it upon themselves to teach The Misfits and find creative ways to get everyone talking about the issues we first raised in our “Forums.” (You’ll have to read the book to know what those are.) It was awesome. We couldn’t believe something that started in our little town was spreading all over the country.
And then something even more amazing happened!
This organization called GLSEN said, “Hey, we want to do something on a national level to bring attention to name-calling and remind people that kindness is much cooler than bullying.” That’s how another community came onboard, and with the creation of GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week in 2004, the community got really big.
Pretty soon, hundreds and then thousands of schools began to participate.
Sure, there were a few rough spots – like the time in 2005 when No Name-Calling Week, The Misfits, and GLSEN all came under attack for promoting the “gay agenda.” (My friend Joe, who is gay, says the “gay agenda” is to want the same rights as everybody else, including the right to be safe in school.) The good thing about that rough spot is that it brought a lot of attention to GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week and before you knew it, even more schools were taking part.
Name-calling and bullying haven’t gone away. And cyberbulling, which wasn’t even around when The Misfits was written, has become a real problem. But because of programs like No Name-Calling Week, communities are paying attention and more and more people think twice before they call someone a name.
And to think it all started with a group of four misfits in a little made-up town in upstate New York. Pretty cool.
A lot has changed in the past ten years, but my friends and I are still in the seventh grade. That’s fiction for you! The good news is that it’s now a better place to be.
James Howe, author of The Misfits, the book that inspired GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week, wrote the above piece in the voice of its main character, Bobby Goodspeed. He has since written three more books in the voices of Bobby's friends, Joe, Addie, and Skeezie: Totally Joe, Addie on the Inside, and Also Known as Elvis (April 2014). In 2006, James Howe was honored at the GLSEN Respect Awards.
We have a vision for Albuquerque schools where each LGBTQ student feels valued and supported in their community. We want each student to thrive in a culture of affirming language, to see themselves positively reflected in curriculum. We want teachers and administrators to intentionally work to develop a climate of possibility that nurtures the enhancement of sense-of-self. We strive to create an educational climate where no one, students, teachers and administrators alike, should ever feel they leave something of themselves behind when they enter an Albuquerque classroom.
Therefore, the creation of an active, thriving GLSEN Chapter seemed a natural and vital step toward the safety and success of students in the Albuquerque community. Our Chapter goal is transforming the current culture of silence in classrooms into a thriving culture of competence and accountability that creates a safe educational experience for all students. First year steps toward this primary goal are:
- Developing visibility and support in the schools via GLSEN National programs such as No Name Calling Week and Day of Silence
- Cultivating community support and strengthening partnerships via monthly community dialogue forums with the goal that some participants will take on an active role within our GLSEN Chapter
- Outreach to local educators, counselors & administrators by means of a Know Your Rights educational workshop and by the distribution of local LGBTQ Community Resources
We are so excited for our community chapter kick-off event this spring in which we will collaborate with our local PFLAG to offer a day of community centered panels, keynote speakers, & strategic planning break-out sessions titled: Advocacy: How Students, Educators, Families, & Allies Can Advocate for Safe Classrooms. The momentum and energy of this kick-off will make GLSEN Albuquerque a visible and accessible local resource and will inspire our community to engage, take action, and advocate for safe classrooms for LGBTQ students. To get involved or to learn more about GLSEN Albuquerque email Albuquerque@chapters.glsen.org
GLSEN is deeply disappointed to hear that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed Assembly Bill No. 4091, which would have eliminated an unjust barrier requiring transgender people to have undergone sexual reassignment surgery prior to receiving an updated birth certificate. GLSEN's Central New Jersey chapter worked actively with a coalition of advocates in support of this bill. Their testimony can be found here.
Despite this disappointment, GLSEN and GLSEN Central New Jersey chapter look forward to supporting the coalition efforts in support of AB 4091 and similar bills protecting and supporting youth in our schools.
View the testimony from GLSEN Central New Jersey here:
Last summer, I had the pleasure of attending a month-long program at a state university where I attended a few classes led by college professors and interacted with 400 artistic and beautiful other high school students from across the state. One of the classes offered was Peace & Conflict Resolution, which analyzed peace on the individual, small group, and societal levels. As an educational activity, the members of the class configured hundreds upon hundreds of notes that had sweet and kind messages and littered these bright rays of delight across the campus. They could be found on every door, every wall, every light pole and every step. The classmates carried with them pads of the adorable niceties and passed them out randomly to passing students, giving each of us a sense of fulfillment and joy as we unraveled the awaited exclamations ranging from “You make a difference- don’t forget it!” to “Are you America’s Next Top Model? I think so!”
Having witnessed the outburst of euphoria and increase in the level of politeness and good will in the human reactions around me that directly resulted from this experience, my GSA will be performing an equivalent action this year during No Name Calling Week. Everyone deserves to come to a school covered in positivity, love, and acceptance. Why not make that mission literal?! It is nice to be reminded that we are beautiful, funny, smart, creative, and maybe even the next President of the United States of America; we ought to recognize that it can only help our self-esteems to be told that we are worth it. At the bottom of each note, the GSA will post its logo and club information. Hopefully, we can not only spring a fountain of happiness and paying that happiness forward but a growth in the size and impact of our GSA, as well!
But why wait until No Name Calling Week to start being generous with your complimentary behavior? You can do it every day! It might even cause a chain reaction which may ultimately convince an endangered student that they are worth the affection and praise they may not be getting from peers or from home.
A simple action could make someone’s day, week, month, year, or lifetime.
Liam is a senior, and is a GLSEN media ambassador.
We recently put a call out to students, asking what their experience was like organizing and participating in No Name-Calling Week. Here’s what Kai had to share about that:
When I was in high school we hosted No Name-Calling Week twice (my junior and senior year). To prepare we would hang up informational posters about the week and artwork from members of our GSA. During the week we would challenge the students to see how long they could go without calling each other names.
My school had two lunches and we would table at both. We would provide information about our GSA, GLSEN and No Name-Calling Week, and other GLSEN programs such as the Day of Silence, Ally Week, and ThinkB4YouSpeak. We would also share information about other organizations such as The Trevor Project and local LGBT organizations.
On the last day of the week we would hold an assembly and show the film "Bullied" which is about Jamie Nabozny. Follow the film showing we would have a discussion based on the reference guide from the movie as well as questions we came up with in our previous GSA meetings. The film is about 48 minutes long and our classes were about 75 minutes long so it worked out beautifully.
With everything we did we definitely got both students and faculty more aware of the negative effects of name-calling. We would see students standing up for each other more and educating their friends about it too
Whether you’re in elementary, middle or high school, we have many ways for you to participate in No Name-Calling Week. Click through to find out more.
Kai is the former Jump-Start Student Coordinator of GLSEN Southern Maine. Since graduating, Kai is now living in Florida where Kai hopes to pursue a degree in psychology.
GLSEN student leaders all over the country continue to make a difference even after they graduate from high school. One former Ambassador has brought his story to a national public service campaign to help students across the country who have faced similar challenges.
Characters Unite is USA Network's public service program advocating for an end to social injustice and cultural intolerance. The campaign invites athletes, actors and other public figures to speak about causes that matter to them, such as religious tolerance, diversity, and ending violence and hate crimes.
In a recent video for the campaign, Joey Kemmerling, a former GLSEN Student Ambassador, sits down with NFL player Victor Cruz to talk about the bullying he faced for being gay. Kemmerling, 19, tells Cruz about coming out in middle school and facing harassment from his peers, particularly in locker rooms and in school sports, and how school administrators didn't take any actions to help him.
"When I was 13, I knew that I was gay and I told about five people, but overnight it went from five people to the entire school knowing. I didn't realize that until I walked into the locker room and everyone stopped and stared at me," he tells Cruz. "After I came out, the locker room was the last place I wanted to be."
Cruz, a wide receiver for the New York Giants, faced discrimination growing up for his mixed-race heritage. He gave Kemmerling a tour of the Giants' locker room, and the two talked about how it felt to grow up feeling cast aside from their peers -- and how speaking out has helped them overcome problems from their pasts.
"It means so much more to me now to know that I'm here and to know that I can share this moment, which makes it that much better," Kemmerling says. "I found a voice and I overcame it, and I'm taking the next step on my journey."
Cruz was clearly touched by Kemmerling's story.
"More and more players want to make a change and want to step out and be a voice," he tells Kemmerling. "Hearing your story honestly has changed my life and changed my outlook."
We're so proud to work with Joey and see how far he's come. Make sure to check out the video!
This post originally appeared on Spark Action
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) students are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system.
According to the Center for American Progress, approximately 300,000 LGBT students are arrested or detained each year. Of that figure, 60 percent are black and Latino youth. The numbers are even more devastating when you compare the percentage of LGBT youth to the overall youth population. Although LGBT youth represent 5-7 percent of the nation’s youth population, they represent 13-15 percent of those in the juvenile justice system.
According to a report put out by the Center for American Progress (CAP), increased levels of incarceration are a consequence of various issues; some of them interrelated, ranging from victimization in schools, to abandonment by families and communities.Others are caught in the vicious cycle of the juvenile justice system because they identify as LGBT. They find themselves in juvenile detention facilities as a result of discrimination, abuse, and harassment in their schools. These situations which LGBT students encounter in schools force them to skip class or school all together to escape harassment in schools or out of fear for their own safety.
GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey found that approximately one-third of LGBT students have skipped school over safety concerns related to bullying or harassment. As a result, CAP's report indicates that many LGBT youth end up in the courtroom on criminal charges because of being truant.
This is where the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) comes in as a critical piece of legislation. Youth of color and LGBT youth of color continue to receive disparate treatment throughout the juvenile justice system, from arrest to adjudication to confinement. The JJDPA will go a long way in ensuring that juveniles in the system are protected by federal standards for custody and for care, while also ensuring that the interests of community safety are met.
The JJDPA protects youth who have run away from home or skipped school from being detained in juvenile detention facilities. The JJDPA also has provisions designed to protect youth from psychological abuse, physical assault, and isolation by ensuring that youth are not detained in adult jails.
Finally, the JJDPA requires states to address the disproportionate contact of youth of color at all points in the juvenile justice system. With youth of color making up one-third of the total youth population but two-thirds of youth in contact with the juvenile justice systems, this provision requires states to gather information and assess the reason for disproportionate minority contact. All youth would benefit from the protections outlined in the JJDPA, particularly LGBT youth and LGBT youth of color.
“That’s not a problem at our school."
Sound familiar? It’s a reaction from adults that is all too common when it comes to name-calling, bullying, and harassment. Although there are many safe, supportive school communities, the reality is that most students regularly witness name-calling and other types of harassment from elementary school through high school. Here are the facts about name-calling in school.
- 75% say that students at their school are called names, made fun of, or bullied on a regular basis.
- 51% regularly hear other students make comments like “retard” or “spaz.”
- 46% regularly hear other students say things like “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay.”
It appears that the name-calling and teasing that happens in elementary schools serves as a foundation for how students treat each other in secondary school. Name-calling and harassment continue as students get older.
- 64% say that name-calling, bullying, or harassment is a serious problem at their school.
- 68% say that students are regularly called names, bullied, or harassed at school because of their appearance or body size.
- 60% regularly see their peers called names, bullied, or harassed because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.
So why do so many adults still think that name-calling isn’t a problem? Students say that name calling and using biased remarks usually happens when educators aren't around.
Fortunately, students and educators can work together to create a culture of kindness at school, and celebrating No Name-Calling Week is great place to start.
No Name-Calling Week is January 20-24. You can learn more at glsen.org/nonamecallingweek.
Today's No Name-Calling Week message comes from Elisa Waters, Teacher and GSA Advisor at Jericho Middle School in NY.
Here’s the challenge: Make GLSEN’s No Name Calling Week the kick-off to systemic change in language within your school community. Yes, No Name Calling Week is about drawing attention to the damage of negative, derogatory, and hurtful language, but it is also an opportunity to challenge people to use language in a way the builds up each individual within a school community.
No Name Calling Week provides a platform for open dialogue about appreciating diversity- ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, and even regional dialect. Often, demeaning language stems from a lack of understanding and awareness about what makes people worth celebrating, and the impact of a slur related to a group to which you belong can last a lifetime.
Consider your own life. Transport yourself back to elementary school or middle school. Close your eyes and envision a time you were bullied, harassed, or teased. Think hard about what was said or done. Walk yourself through the moments you remember as you continue to reflect and use that as your platform for educating the faces that you greet on a daily basis. It is amazing what stays in our memory bank and if we really want to make the power of No Name Calling Week last a month, a year, a lifetime, we must begin by doing our best to assure that our students don’t share the same negative moments many of us as adults can still recall.
Look and listen to what is going on around your building and, depending upon the age of your students, ask them what they hear and see. Everyone in every identity group at school is subject to being stereotyped and having judgments made against them based upon these stereotypes.
In recognition and celebration of what No Name Calling Week is about and how it can have a lasting impact for you and your students, think about the minor and major moments that embrace the ideals of this nationwide movement.
Start with “upstanders” posters that encourage curiosity and conversation. For example, consider the statement: “Don’t make fun of my religion; ask me about it.” Invite students to share aspects of their layered identities and use their experiences as a springboard for greater dialogue.
Have students create posters about daily positive behavior using upbeat language – encourage people to do what is right instead of discouraging them from doing what is wrong. Consider something simple like, “What did I do today to make someone’s day better?” or “Did you say something nice to someone today?”
Embrace a monthly theme in your classroom or building and create events that support those themes such a community, respect, responsibility, etc.
No Name Calling Week should be about enjoying and celebrating the challenge of changing memories and making a lifelong difference for our lifelong learners.