Today is the culmination of GLSEN's Safe Schools Advocacy Summit, a weekend of learning and lobbying in Washington, DC. Right now, more than 40 GLSEN activists are urging their representatives in Congress to make safer schools for all students. If you're sad that you can't be at the Capitol today - don't be! We've got live updates and videos to transport you from the halls of your school to the halls of power. Here's what's happened so far today: 10:38 am After breakfast, Emma and César filmed a message as they got ready for their first meetings:
11:45 am Emma had a great meeting with the office of Senator Dick Durbin:
12 pm César might have been super nervous before his meeting with Senator Kay Hagan's office, but it went perfectly!
1:15 pm Emma met with the office of one of the co-sponsors of the Safe Schools Improvement Act, Senator Mark Kirk. What a great chance to say, "Thanks!"
2:30 pm That's a full day for Emma! Three meetings down, three great opportunities to discuss safer schools. Check out her video:
3 pm César is heading into his next meeting...
3:30 pm ... and leaving the meeting:
5 pm César rounded out the day with a late visit to Senator Burr's office:
"Why silence? Aren’t we trying to fight against silence?” Saad, a 2010-2011 GLSEN Student Ambassador, shares how silence on the Day of Silence is used as a powerful tool for direct action and social change:
Are you participating? Make sure you’re registered so that we can support you and your school. Register today and join the movement!
Wear any color
Tweet the Silence
Silence your tweets
Blog the silence
Silence your blog
Whatever you do, be respectful, especially of others who are observing the Day of Silence, but bring attention to the issues of anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harrasment in schools.
Here at GLSEN, we're always looking for the next big way to get the word out about the amazing work we do. Our newest tool is called a Spark, and it looks like this:
The Spark is an awesome way for us to highlight our work in a way that compels people to take action, which is always super important! GLSEN couldn't make such a big difference without an energized supporter base working hard across the country. This could not have come at a better time, as GLSEN is now in the running to win $1 million in the Chase American Giving Awards! Through the widget, you can watch a video where Eliza describes GLSEN's important work, follow our Twitter feed, sign up for our email list, and vote for us in the Chase American Giving Awards. There are a ton of easy ways you can help make schools safer for LGBT students by using this Spark! You can embed the player on your personal website, blog or Tumblr by clicking on the "Share" button on the Spark and copying the embed code. You can also add the Spark to your Facebook or Twitter by clicking on their respective buttons. If you haven't yet, you can always vote for GLSEN on Chase's Facebook page, and Chase card holders can vote a second time at ChaseGiving.com. This last part is super exciting: you only have to embed the Spark once to get constantly updated content from GLSEN. After the Chase Awards end, we'll be updated the Spark with new content and new calls to action on a regular basis, without you having to do a thing! Please share this cool new tool with your friends, and let's keeping working to make safe schools for ALL students in America.
GLSEN is one of 25 charities competing for a chance to win $1 million in the Chase Community Giving Awards. Our hope of winning and expanding our work to create a world in which every child learns to value and respect all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression depends on your votes! Voting is now open, so don’t waste any time helping create safe schools for all students!
- Vote! November 27 marks the first day of the competition, so make sure you vote! You can vote once on Facebook and once more at ChaseGiving.com if you are a Chase account holder. The contest ends December 4 at 11:59 p.m.
- Sign up for our mailing list: Visit glsen.org/chase to sign up. By signing up to receive emails, you can stay informed of the great work your support enables GLSEN to do. Hopefully, we’ll be able to email you on December 8 with $1 million to help make safe schools.
- Show your support on Facebook. After you vote, you can let the world know that you chose GLSEN by “liking” us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GLSEN. Let you friends know you voted, and ask them to show their support as well.
- Tell your friends about the contest. Let your friends and family know that you support making school safe for all students. After you vote for GLSEN, make sure your friends know about the amazing work GLSEN could do with $1 million.
- Donate a tweet a day at http://justcoz.org/glsen. Looking for an easy way to let your followers know that you support GLSEN? Donate a tweet a day and join a network of students, educators, parents, administrators, and supporters who are working to make schools safer. Your tweets will help spread the word about ways we can all make a difference!
Thank you for your support of GLSEN!
The Day of Silence is tomorrow, April 20th, be prepared!
Being a student and an organizer can be a lot! Frequently we hear from organizers who have been planning for the Day of Silence for weeks only to find themselves unprepared on the morning of their event. So, take the time this afternoon/evening to double check your to-do list with your advisor and/or fellow organizers. Make sure you haven’t put anything off until the last minute because once you get to school you will want to be able to hit the ground running in order to make the biggest impact. Here are some things to remember as you finalize your arrangements for your Day of Silence event:
- LIST: Make a to-do list of final tasks and think of people who could take on some of those tasks for you. Get started with the items on this list!
- REGISTER: If you haven’t already, be sure to CLICK HERE to register your participation in the Day of Silence and be counted among the hundreds of thousands of other students nationwide participating in the Day of Silence.
- CONNECT: The night before your event call, email or text all of the people helping you organize to make sure everyone is on the same page. Also make sure to stay connected on social media, like facebook and Twitter!
- PRINT: Be sure you have all the materials you need, and extras to hand out, such as:Speaking Cards, Lambda Legal: Freedom to Speak (Or Not) 2012, ACLU: Letter to Principal or Educator, Stickers, and cut, fold, or label these materials as needed.
- GATHER: Get all Day of Silence items and materials in one place to ensure that they are clean and organized (shirts, buttons, stickers, pamphlets, speaking cards, posters, etc.)
- CHARGE: You want to take pictures, right? Text? Tweet? Make sure your camera, phone and computer batteries are all charged up and ready to go in the morning!
- DOUBLE CHECK your to-do list: It never hurts to be extra careful!
- REST: You’re gonna need it for your exciting day of taking action!
Ready, set, go!
On February 13, the U.S. Department of Education released a draft of its strategic plan for improving the nation’s education system over the next four years. This plan describes the key policy priorities and goals for the agency and highlights data related to the President’s goal for America to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the year 2020. When this draft was released, GLSEN was disappointed to find that the plan did not include any strategic goals designed to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. As we know, students across the country encounter adversity and discrimination due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the Department of Education have taken a leadership role in combatting bullying and discrimination against LGBT students in the past, and we were concerned about the notable absence of goals to further this work. GLSEN partnered with thirty-three other education and civil rights organizations—including the National Association of School Psychologists, National Education Association, National Black Justice Coalition, National Center for Transgender Equality, Japanese American Citizens League, and Family Equality Council—to send a letter to Secretary Duncan and his leadership team. We urged them to continue their commitment to providing LGBT students with safe and supportive school environments by including specific goals related to such efforts in their strategic plan for the next four years. On April 2, the Department of Education responded to our requests and released its final strategic plan, which included new commitments to LGBT students. Specifically, the Department updated the list of characteristics in its goal to “ensure and promote effective educational opportunities and safe and healthy learning environments for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, age, sex, disability, language, and socioeconomic status” to also include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” This is important because we know that students are often placed at a disadvantage in school because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. In addition, the Department updated its goal for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to enforce federal civil rights protections in schools to include “gender-based harassment and sex-stereotyping.” Under Assistant Secretary Russlynn Ali’s leadership, OCR has used existing federal protections to combat harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and it is crucial that the Department remain committed to doing so. All students, regardless of individual characteristics, deserve to feel safe and secure at school. Such security often plays a critical role in determining students’ classroom success, and far too often LGBT students are not afforded the same protections that other students enjoy. We are very happy that Secretary Duncan and the Department of Education recognized the challenge we face and committed to work toward creating safe and supportive environments for all students in the United States. Find the strategic plan here: http://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/strat/plan2011-14/plan-2011.pdf
The following is a guest post by Sam Alavi of Aragon High School's Gay-Straight Alliance. Aragon High School's GSA was a finalist for GLSEN's 2012 Gay-Straight Alliance of the Year Award. It was the ever so brilliant Harvey Milk who said, “Gotta give ‘em hope.” Aragon High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance strives to do exactly that; give students who are faced with discrimination, harassment, and insecurity, hope for a better future. While Milk hoped that the future would offer acceptance for LGBT youth, we believe the future begins today. Aragon’s GSA works to make the community a more respectful, safe, and informed place. With a GSA of 65 members and a student body and administration open to new ideas and improvement, Aragon’s GSA has spent the last three years improving the school’s environment, educating students about the importance of fighting for the rights of LGBT people, and encouraging straight allies to make themselves visible. Of the many events the GSA holds throughout the year, Ally Week is one of the most successful. The event's purpose is to stress the importance of being an ally to LGBT people. Teachers are given resources on what to do when they witness bullying in classrooms, and students are asked to sign pledges saying that they will not use anti-LGBT slurs, and will intervene when others do the same. This year, almost 400 students participated in Ally Week. The GSA firmly believes that straight- and cisgender-identified students need to know that this is not a fight that LGBT students need to fight alone. It will take the whole community to create change. Aragon’s GSA also hosts a bi-annual summit run by BAYS, a non-profit organization started by a former Aragon GSA president. The summit is geared towards youth who want to strengthen their leadership skills and contribute to the fight for LGBT equality and safer schools. In 2011, BAYS held its first summit at Aragon with over 200 attendees and guest speakers such as gay rights activist Cleve Jones, San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, teen activist Graeme Taylor, and RuPaul’s Drag Race’s Delta Work. Workshops that were presented include suicide prevention, faith and homosexuality, and a screening of Joe Wilson’s movie Out in the Silence with a Q&A with Wilson afterwards. After the summit, one attendee sent a note saying:
“It was a total eye opener to me. It was super fun, informative, and I loved meeting a community that supports me that I didn't even know I had. It was an AMAZING event and I cannot stress how much I appreciate all the hard work you put into creating it. It must have taken months and I am truly grateful for your work because it changed my life. BAYS helped me come to terms with myself about my sexuality, which I had been silently struggling with and avoiding. Now I'm comfortable being openly bisexual and I even came out to my best friend! Thank you so much for inspiring me.”
Along with these events, the GSA also holds its annual GSA Castro Fieldtrip, Harvey Milk Week, Safe Space Poster campaign, and Day of Silence. This year, the GSA set a commitment to collaborate and reach out to middle schools, talking to them about the importance of tolerance and respect. In March, two GSA representatives went and presented to a local middle school about Aragon’s GSA and accepting people in the LGBT community. After successfully implementing gender neutral bathrooms on campus, the GSA decided to work on passing a gender nonconforming policy to support transgender and gender nonconforming students. This policy would make the San Mateo- Foster City School District the third district in California to implement such policy. Aragon’s GSA is honored to be recognized by GLSEN, and is looking forward to an exciting future in LGBT activism. -Sam Alavi
This post was written by guest blogger Emma P., president of GLOW Lakeside School’s Gay-Straight Alliance (known as GLOW — “Gay, Lesbian or Whatever”), runs a dual-pronged program that aims to provide a safe space for queer and questioning students while simultaneously reaching out to straight allies and encouraging awareness of LGBTQ issues in the school community and beyond. GLOW holds weekly meetings open to all interested students which serve as a planning space for events like the Day of Silence or Ally Week, as well as forums for discussions of current events, education on LGBTQ topics and a way to connect with others who are passionate about queer issues. GLOW also sponsors monthly meetings of a group known as “the Bunker,” which is a student-run, confidential support system for students who identify as LGBTQ or are questioning their own sexual or gender identities. Our GLOW group performs a wide range of functions, all focused on increasing awareness of LGBTQ issues and encouraging discussion and activism among the student body. At the high school, GLOW has brought in queer sex-ed speakers and held discussion forums on issues such as gay marriage. Our annual GLOW Dance, where participants are encouraged to wear white in order to “glow” under black lights on the dance floor, is frequently the most popular school dance of the year. GLOW has partnered with other local GSAs to sponsor meet-and-greet events and movie nights. Working with the middle school division of Lakeside, students from GLOW have spoken to eighth-grade classes to supplement their Gender and Sexuality education unit. GLOW also hosted a state-wide “GSA Summit” for students and educators in 2005, and was honored as “GSA of the Year” by GLSEN-Washington State in 2006. GLOW believes that while the activism and ally-driven side of GSA work is important, it is equally vital to provide a way for LGBTQ students to connect with each other away from the pressures that they may experience every day at school or at home. The Bunker is held in a secret location, which interested students may learn by contacting one of the GLOW leaders or faculty advisors. The group is facilitated by an adult who is otherwise unaffiliated with the school (i.e. not a teacher or counselor) in order to maintain student confidentiality. Student-led and informal, the Bunker is an opportunity for LGBT and questioning students to share their experiences, to meet each other and to be supported in a safe and confidential environment.
When tolerance isn’t enough, activism must happen
This year, that phrase transformed University School into a school that accepts all students, regardless of their sexual orientation, race, religion, socio-economic background, or gender. From the founding of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, to the theater department’s interpretation of The Laramie Project, to the inaugural Summit on Human Dignity, the school’s administration, students, and faculty have proven to be active supporters of the LGBTQ communities and equal rights. The Summit on Human Dignity takes place during the last week of October and emphasizes acceptance of all people. This year’s inaugural Summit focused on respect and acceptance of the LGBTQ community. We hosted several guest speakers for the student population, including Kevin Jennings (he founded the first GSA at the school in which he taught in Massachusetts; he was the first executive director of GLSEN; he was the Assistant Deputy Secretary for Safe and Drug-Free Schools in the Department of Education under Barack Obama), Judy Shepard (she was the mother of Matthew Shepard, the boy on whom the Laramie Project was based), Jessica Lam (one of the most prominent transgender individuals in the country, she has been on the Larry King show and on 20/20), Jessica Herthel (a hate-crime legislation attorney), and Jenny Betz (Education Manager at GLSEN). In addition to having guest speakers, teachers also geared their curricula toward focusing on LGBTQ rights (English teachers would focus on LGBTQ literature, social studies classes focused on the history of gay rights, and science and math classes learned of gay mathematicians and scientists such as Alan Turing). There were question-and-answer booths set up during lunch to educate students on LGBTQ issues. Several students also made presentations about LGBTQ rights and displayed their presentations during their classes. The effects of the Summit have been evident throughout the year. Many students (including those who are not involved with the GSA) have been correcting others students who utter homophobic slurs—such as “faggot”— or ignorant comments—such as “no homo.” Significantly fewer students have been making sexually ignorant comments since the Summit, and many students have joined the GSA out of support for equal rights. Along with the Summit on Human Dignity, the GSA hosted various fund-raisers for LGBTQ causes—we had a bake sale to fund-raiser for SunServe (a local, non-profit charitable LGBTQ organization), donated a laptop computer to SunServe’s computer drive to benefit its LGBTQ youth center, and sold wristbands to benefit the Human Rights Campaign, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and SunServe. The GSA’s efforts have contributed to University School’s improved environment of acceptance. It has inspired students to take a stand for equal rights and respect for all. Being a finalist in GLSEN’s contest has given us more motivation to continue our efforts in years to come. Based on our success this year, I have tremendous hope and expectations for our GSA. Mason Roth GSA president and founder University School of Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, Florida