>Sirdeaner Walker, who testified last month on Capitol Hill in favor of the Safe Schools Improvement Act, appeared on NPR's Here and Now yesterday to talk about a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics that encourages pediatricians to play a more active role in bullying prevention.
Walker's 11-year-old son, Carl Walker-Hoover, died by suicide in April after enduring constant bullying at school, including being called "gay" and "fag" by his peers despite the fact that Carl did not identify as gay. Carl would have turned 12 on the National Day of Silence on April 17 when hundreds of thousands of students took a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender bullying.
The AAP's new policy statement debunks the ridiculous claim made by opponents of anti-bullying policies that kids will be kids and bullying is somehow beneficial for students like Carl to experience.
It is clear that in this country, it must first be accepted that bullying behaviors cannot be considered a normative rite of passage and that they can be precursors for more serious downstream consequences. In terms of primary prevention, early parenting behaviors such as cognitive stimulation and emotional support have been shown to confer resilience against the future development of bullying behaviors in elementary-aged schoolchildren. Promotion and reinforcement of such parenting skills plus recognition, screening, and appropriate referral as secondary prevention strategies are essential ways that pediatricians can collectively contribute to this aspect of youth violence prevention.
Last weekend GLSEN brought together for the first time a group of students who will be part of GLSEN's Ambassaadors program. This Media Summit was a huge success with 15 youth traveling from far-flung locations such as Alaska, Alabama, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, as well as representatives from Brooklyn and the Bronx.
Throughout the weekend students learned key messages and storytelling techniques to help advance GLSEN’s awareness-building goals.
Workshop topics included Social Media, Telling Your Story through the Media, Public Policy and the Safe Schools Improvement Act, Media Coverage of LGBT People of Color Communities, and more intimate coaching and practice sessions on writing letters to the editor, action planning, and interview and presentation skills using video.
We also took field trips on the Staten Island Ferry and an LGBT history walking tour of the West Village.
Here are some select quotes from the students on the weekend:
“I loved it here. I’ve never felt so open about anything before.”
“OMG. It was amazing—one of the best experiences of my life.”
“An opportunity for me to become inspired and learn how to utilize the media as a tool for advocacy.”
“Aside from the tools and advice that were given to me in order to deal with the media, I have built wonderful relationships with wonderful people.”
>After testifying at the July 8th hearings, Sirdeaner Walker met with key sponsors and cosponsors of the Safe Schools Improvement Act and members of the U.S. Department of Education.
Rep. Linda T. Sanchez (D-CA); Eliza Byard, GLSEN Executive Director; Eric Masten, GLSEN Public Policy Associate; Sirdeaner Walker; Congressman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) who represents Sirdeaner's home district in Springfield, Mass.
Sirdeaner Walker; Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Chair of the Healthy Families and Communities Subcommittee; Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI), Chair of the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcomittee; and witnesses Cassady Tetsworth, Dr. Scott Poland and Kenneth Trump
Show your support for the Safe Schools Improvement Act by signing an online petition HERE.
>This morning Sirdeaner Walker was on Capital Hill testifying about bullying and in support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act. Here are two photos:
We expect to have video later in the day.
>Sirdeaner Walker, mother of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, testified before two congressional subcommittees this morning in Washington D.C..
"I did everything that a parent is supposed to: I chose a "good" school; I joined the PTO; I went to every parent-teacher conference; I called the school regularly and brought the bullying problem to the staff's attention. And the school did not act. The teachers did not know how to respond."
And the most important thing I've learned is that bullying is not an inevitable part of growing up. It can be prevented. And there isn't a moment to lose. "
Read Sirdeaner's full testimony here.
>As shocking as it is that the anti-gay industry would make stuff up or take things out of context to smear GLSEN Founder Kevin Jennings, deception is the basis for its campaign to derail Kevin's appointment as Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education for the Department’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.
Think Progress has a great post debunking attack after attack on Kevin. Think Progress even went so far to actually speak to education leaders who have worked with Kevin. As proud as we are of all that Kevin has accomplished in his more than 20 years as an educator and advocate for students, don't take our word for it. From Think Progress:
ThinkProgress spoke with Molly Spearman, executive director of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators. Spearman first heard Jennings speak at the 2007 convention of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). Spearman said that she was so impressed with Jennings, she decided to invite him to speak at her organization’s October 2007 summit on bullying:
"I was a little nervous, being in South Carolina, a very conservative state. But once again, he handled it extremely professionally. He did a agnificent job, and it was a huge success. We had a waiting list of people who wanted to come. … We had several hundred people there. … He was very very well-received — absolutely rave views. And that was in conservative South Carolina. So he handled what could have been a very sensitive topic in a very professional way that was accepted by everyone."
Good As You, a fantastic LGBT-themed blog, also had a great post earlier this week debunking the slander.
As you may expect, the anti-gay industry has called on its minions to call, write and email Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to use these falsehoods to try to get Kevin fired. Help us respond by showing Duncan how many support exists for appointments like Kevin's that will actually make schools safer and better. Sign our petition of support.
>Talking Points Memo, one of the most-read online news sources, has a story up about the anti-gay smear campaign against GLSEN Founder Kevin Jennings, who was appointed to Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education for the Department’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.
GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard's quote says it all:
"Up until today, I had been simply saying this is the same old stuff we've been dealing with for years, and we here at GLSEN have become very practiced at ignoring this kind of effort to slander us," said Byard, "And so we really hadn't taken action before this time. And it got to a point where there was so much energy online and in our own constituency to say we can't let this stand."
Sign the petition to support Kevin Jennings here.
>A message from GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard:
Kevin Jennings, GLSEN's Founder and former Executive Director, begins his post at the Department of Education next week. The anti-gay industry is trying to discredit Kevin's remarkable record of achievement in order to thwart crucial progress on school safety. Don't let them!
Please raise your voice in support and share this action with others.
Thank you very much!
Eliza Byard, PhD