>Teaching Tolerance Magazine, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, published a great article in its Spring issue on the thoughtful arguments for and against creating more and bigger LGBT-friendly schools. Two exist currently, Harvey Milk High School in New York and The Alliance School in Milwaukee.
On the one hand, do LGBT-friendly schools segregate LGBT students and their allies? On the other hand, do they offer LGBT students and their allies a better opportunity to feel safe while getting an education?
Put another way, are LGBT-friendly schools a short-term fix to a long-term problem that lets other schools off the hook when it comes to addressing anti-LGBT bullying and harassment? But even if they are a quick fix, should students have to endure constant bullying and harassment when there's an alternative?
The discussion also begs another question - shouldn't every school be LGBT-friendly?
Said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard in the article:
Given the inequalities in the existing system, these schools are essential resources of last resort for students who may otherwise not graduate. They fill a pressing need.
Full discloser: Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet Alliance's lead teacher, Tina Owen, and several Alliance students. Five minutes with Tina and the students and you can tell Alliance is not only necessary, but that other public schools could learn a thing or two from the school.
Take the story of Jahqur, a non-LGBT-identified student, who spoke to Teaching Tolerance:
Jahqur Ammons, now a junior, failed seventh grade. “I spent more time chasing girls than chasing grades,” he says. Jahqur’s brother, already at Alliance, told him about the open campus, the small classes, the helpful teachers. Jahqur enrolled at start of his freshman year.
“When I came here,” he says, “I thought all gay people were nasty. I used to say snide things. But I got to know them instead of judging them. Now I realize they’re just like me.”
Last year, when a conservative Christian group picketed the campus, it was Jaqhur who led the response. “The protesters were saying this school was teaching us to be gay and that we were all going to hell,” Jahqur recalls. “I didn’t think that was very a Christian thing to say. So we got all the students to go outside and show them: Gay, straight, trans, goth, emo — we’re all one.”
What do you all think about LGBT-friendly schools?
>We tweeted last week about a horrifying story out of Chelmsford, Mass., in which a Facebook event was created to "kill all gay people yea" at Chelmsford High School.
Thankfully no acts of violence have been reported and it turned out to be "the senseless act by an individual who failed to recognize the serious consequences that may result from such a post," according to police.
The hopeful news is that the community seemed to rally in opposition, with the principal denouncing the hateful action over the school intercom. Said one commenter on the Facebook event:
This is truly disgusting. Everybody should be trying to embrace each others differences and learn from them instead of instilling fear in people who would never think about doing anything to hurt you.
Even though the police and school were able to stop anything from happening, the fact remains that at least one person at the school (5 signed up as attendees) wanted to send a message to LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT that they are not welcome and could face violence simply because of who they are or are perceived to be.
GLSEN's 2007 National School Climate Survey found that 86.2% of LGBT students experienced harassment in school in the past year because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, 60.8% of LGBT students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.
This has got to stop. If students do not feel safe, they cannot learn.
GLSEN is one of 100 finalists in a campaign on Facebook to award $1 million to a charity. We want to use the grant to send a Safe Space Kit to every middle and high school in the country.
Please consider voting for us at http://tinyurl.com/voteGLSEN.
It's a vote for GLSEN and a vote for respect and hope and acceptance.
>Voting has begun in Chase Community Giving on Facebook. GLSEN is among the 100 finalists vying for $1 million.
Vote, vote, vote. (You may have to refresh a few times to get it to work)
And please vote for our partners:
You can also help by tweeting http://tinyurl.com/voteGLSEN and #voteGLSEN
>Cross posted at blog.dayofsilence.org
We're only a few hours away from the start of voting (Friday, Jan. 15-Friday, Jan. 22) in Chase Community Giving, a campaign through Facebook to award $1 million to the charity with the most votes out of the 100 finalists. Five runners-up will receive $100,000.
We need your help to make sure our Big Idea for $1 million (to send a GLSEN Safe Space Kit to every middle and high school, public and private, in the country) is realized.
Because every LGBT student deserves a safe space in school, here's how you can help:
- Vote: This is the easy part. Vote at this link: http://tinyurl.com/voteGLSEN (you will need to accept the Chase Community Giving app first). And while you're at it, vote for our partners http://tinyurl.com/voteMSF and http://bit.ly/voteTrevor.
- Change Your Facebook Profile Picture: Show your pride and support with this button. You can also download other images for your website or profiles here.
- Tell Your Friends: Make sure you update your status to say you've voted. Tweet, message, call, text, email, yell at your friends to vote for GLSEN and our partners Matthew Shepard Foundation and The Trevor Project.
- Join the Facebook "Vote for GLSEN" Event: A good way to show your support before voting even begins.
- Post to other Facebook Pages, Groups, Users: Make sure your pages, groups and friends all know about the chance to vote for GLSEN and help send a Safe Space Kit to every middle school in America.
- Comment on Blogs and Message Boards: Every mention helps.
- Hashtag: Use #VoteGLSEN and #ChaseGiving in all of your tweets.
- Change Twitter Website or Bio: Add http://tinyurl.com/voteGLSEN to your Twitter accounts.
- @Tweet Celebs: Ask celebrities and people with lots of followers to mention @GLSEN, @MSFerasehatenow and @TrevorProject
- Share Your Thoughts: Comment on this blog post about why you are voting for GLSEN and any other ideas you have to help spread the word.
>We're getting closer and closer to the first day of voting for the Chase Community Giving campaign on Facebook, which begins on Friday, January 15! Help GLSEN spread the word about our Big Idea, and encourage others to vote for us, by using the images below on your Facebook profiles, on personal blogs, and anywhere else you wish!
To download an image to your computer...
PC Users: right-click the image and select "Save image as..."
Mac Users: click on the image while holding the Control key and select "Save Image As..."
<a href="http://tinyurl.com/voteglsen" "target=blank"><img src="http://www.glsen.org/images/data/GLSEN_IMG/img/000/000/670-1.JPG"></a>
Use these images on blogs, on MySpace or anywhere else you can spread the word. (You can also copy and paste the HTML code below each image into blog posts, blog sidebars, or MySpace profiles!)
<a href="http://tinyurl.com/voteglsen" "target=blank"><img src="http://www.glsen.org/images/data/GLSEN_IMG/img/000/000/671-2.JPG"></a>
<a href="http://tinyurl.com/voteglsen" "target=blank"><img src="http://www.glsen.org/images/data/GLSEN_IMG/img/000/000/672-2.JPG"></a>
This was the task handed to the Top 100 charities in Chase Community Giving. We at GLSEN had one goal in mind when contemplating that question: Make the biggest impact for the most students possible. Then we thought, why stop there? Why not come up with something that could potentially benefit every student in the country?
GLSEN's Big Idea is to send our newly updated Safe Space Kit to every middle and high school in the country, public and private.
We want every school in the country to have a guide to help educators create safe spaces for LGBT youth in school that also provides concrete strategies for supporting LGBT students, educating about anti-LGBT bullying and advocating for changes in schools.
So if you help us win $1 million by voting for us Friday, Jan15-22, we will provide every middle and high school in the country with a resource to make schools safer for every student.
Because every student deserves a safe space. And safe spaces save lives.
GLSEN is one of 100 finalists in Chase Community Giving, a project with Facebook to award $10 million to charities. Top vote-getter in the final round of voting (Jan. 15-22) is awarded $1 million. The next five vote-getters will be awarded $100,000 each.
We are proud to say that two of our partners working to make the world a safer place for LGBT youth, Matthew Shepard Foundation and The Trevor Project, are also finalists. Luckily, every Facebook user is given five votes starting Jan. 15. We hope you'll use three of your five on us.
More to come later this week.
From our joint press release:
In a joint statement, GLSEN executive director Eliza Byard, Matthew Shepard Foundation executive director Jason Marsden and The Trevor Project executive director Charles Robbins said:
"We are grateful for the overwhelming support Facebook users have already shown GLSEN, the Matthew Shepard Foundation and The Trevor Project in the first round of the Chase Community Giving program. Our three organizations have worked together for years to create a safer and better world for LGBT youth. Because of this partnership and the scarcity of resources available to fund crucial support for LGBT youth, we have decided to work together to ensure that each organization has the best chance to further our important work through the grants awarded as part of the Chase program. We ask our supporters to use three of their five votes for GLSEN, the Matthew Shepard Foundation and The Trevor Project."
>You did it! GLSEN finished in the Top 100 in the first round of the Chase Community Giving campaign on Facebook.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who voted for GLSEN. We are extremely humbled by the support of so many who believe in our mission to ensure safe schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
By placing in the Top 100, GLSEN will receive a $25,000 donation toward our work to create a world where all students are valued and respected, a world where words like "fag" and "dyke" are no longer considered acceptable phrases in some schools and classrooms, a world where nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students no longer experience harassment in school each year because of their sexual orientation, a world where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes in creating a more vibrant and diverse community.
A world where young people like Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover no longer make the choice that not living is easier than enduring constant bullying and harassment at school.
Voting in Round 2 starts Jan. 15. Please consider voting for GLSEN again, or for the first time. The overall winner receives a donation of $1 million.
See the full list of the Top 100 here.
And thank you again.
>Fantastic news out of Oklahoma: the Oklahoma City School Board voted 5-2 yesterday to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of categories protected in the Oklahom City Public Schools anti-bullying policy.
Oklahoma is one of 38 states that does not protect students from bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression (see the states here and a handy map below), so this news is particularly important for students in Oklahoma City schools.
It's also important to remember that these protections extend beyond LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students because bullying based on perceived sexual orientation is also rampant in schools. You don't have to be gay to be called a fag.