January 20, 2016

1. Stick up for middle schoolers being bullied. It’s older students’ job to watch out for that stuff.

2. Work with teachers and students in your old middle school to start a GSA or general safe space!

3. Help your local middle school register for GLSEN’s No Name-­Calling Week and together, show the world that you’re dedicated to celebrating kindness.

4. Be a visible ally! Tell all the middle schoolers you know that if anything ever comes up in school or if they have any questions about their experiences, you’re a supportive person they can talk to.

5. Get your GSA to work with a local middle school and organize a Celebrate Kindness workshop. Print out these awesome posters and talk to middle schoolers about what kindness means to them.

6. Ask for and offer your pronouns to younger peers. Let middle schoolers know it’s OK to choose for themselves which, if any, pronouns they want to be referred to by.

7. Be your awesome self!

8. Younger students need community, too! Host LGBT­-inclusive events that cater to middle or elementary school students.

9. Check out the books listed on GLSEN’s No Name-­Calling Week page and offer to read one to an elementary or middle school class.

10. Educate younger peers on why certain words shouldn’t be used as slurs. So what if someone’s gay? That shouldn’t be considered a bad word and shouldn’t be used to hurt anyone.

Bonus!

11. Use the hashtag #NNCW16 to share insights and resources for middle schoolers on social media.

Celebrate Kindness!

This post was written by GLSEN’s National Student Council.

January 20, 2016

I know what it feels like to have people call you names. Coming out as queer in the seventh grade and being an activist since the sixth, I have always had a barrage of derogatory terms targeted at me. I didn’t feel safe anywhere at my school, and attending class each day was an anxiety-inducing and terrifying process.

Now, I’m 15 years old and in my sophomore year of high school, and name-calling isn’t as big of an issue in my life. I wish I could go back in time to give advice to my middle-school self, because there are so many things I’ve learned that would have helped me so much back then. It’s important to know that there isn’t a “quick fix” guide to ending name-calling altogether, but there are certainly things that can make the situation easier.  

1. Practice self-care.

Being bullied and called names can really drain you and stress you out. When there’s so much negativity targeted at you, it’s important to fight back with positivity towards yourself. When I was having a rough time with people at school, I took an afternoon to focus on my own mental and emotional needs. For me, that usually involved brewing tea and writing in a journal, but self-care comes in all different forms. Remember, you deserve to have something that feeds positivity into your life.

2. Ask for help.

A lot of the time, when we’re being bullied and called names, we think that asking for help will either a) make things worse, or b) mean that we’re weak. When I was dealing with name-calling in middle school, I didn’t want to ask for help because I thought it would mean I wasn’t strong. In reality, asking for help is one of the bravest things you can do for yourself. Absolutely no one in this world should feel unsafe going to school, and if you do feel unsafe, it’s so important to speak up and tell someone about it.

One way to do this is through joining your school’s GSA. If your school doesn’t have a GSA or something like it, GLSEN has some great resources for starting one! Another way to speak up is by reaching out  to a counselor. I did this after seeing a GLSEN Safe Space sticker; educators with Safe Space stickers are great people to confide in when you’re dealing with name-calling. If there aren’t any Safe Space stickers at your school, talk to a teacher or counselor about getting a Safe Space Kit, which helps educators be allies to LGBT students. (You can purchase one here!)

3. Know this won’t last forever.

When you’re being called names every day in school, it’s really easy to feel like it will never end, but I promise that it does. As you grow older, you’ll start to gain more independence and control in your life, and as that happens, you can begin to choose the people you’re surrounded by.

And with movements like GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week, your school, community, and peers will get the skills they need to combat name calling at all levels. Suddenly, you won’t be forced to be around immature bullies, and your life will improve exponentially. Although things might be really hard right now, better days are coming and you deserve to see them.

4. Remember that you are a valuable person.

When I was in middle school, I was called a “freak.” But I think the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that someone else’s words don’t have to dictate the way I think about myself, and they don’t define who I am. When other people are trying to make you feel small, the best thing you can do is continue to grow. You’re so much more than the hateful words that other people call you. Above all else, you are worthy, loved and valuable, and nothing that anyone says can take that away from you.

GLSEN’s No Name Calling Week is this week. How will you join the movement?

Katie Regittko is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.

January 14, 2016

After returning from winter break with a renewed commitment to my students, my school, and my community, I’m back and ready for GLSEN’s No Name Calling Week, which this year is January 18-22! The week is meant to encourage dialogue in school communities about ways to eliminate bullying and name-calling. Here are four tips for educators to make the most of the week:

1. Let the students take the wheel

GSA sponsors can assign club leadership to draft a proposal for how to celebrate GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week. Students can get together to plan a few school-wide events, building their leadership and organizational skills.

At McKinley High, our GSA student leadership team will be meeting to plan local activities for No Name-Calling Week.  I give the students a list of suggested events from the GLSEN website, and they pick and choose what they want to do and place it on a weekly calendar. I have a special student position, publicity coordinator, who makes fliers, which saves me time while building a student’s skills!

2. Choose quality over quantity

For a small class or GSA, or with a difficult administration, it may be best to focus on hosting one or two meaningful events for students rather than trying to coordinate an activity every day. Using GLSEN’s comprehensive document on planning for No Name-Calling Week is a great way for educators to pick quality events.  

At our school, students write creative poetry and short stories about their experiences with bullying and name-calling. The event, which started out a few years ago as a low-key meeting, has now evolved into a coffee-shop style production and is the signature event of our week.

3. Organize a social media campaign

Students love social media. This week, students can make something meaningful out of it. A class or club can develop a Twitter or Instagram account, where they can post photos throughout the week. Here at McKinley, I have the students meet after school, take photos with their anti-bullying fliers and signs, and then post them on social media using the hashtags #celebratekindness and #nncw16.

Organizing a social media campaign is one of the best ways to gain visibility and take a stand against bullying.  Last year, our GSA even partnered with the mass media department to create their own Public Service Announcement.

4. Connect to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is the first day of GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week, and the lesson plan We’re All Different But We’re All Alike is easily aligned to discussions on how we treat people of different races, religions, languages, sexual orientations, and gender expressions.

I personally developed a lesson focusing on the work of Bayard Rustin, a gay man who served as Dr. King’s advisor. Unfortunately, most students are not taught about who he was or what he accomplished.  As an educator of a diverse student body, I find great importance in celebrating and teaching about these historical figures.

However you plan to celebrate GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week this year, remember that all students will benefit from the message of acceptance. Whether you’re a teacher, student, guidance counselor, coach, librarian or bus driver, show you care by organizing a week of activities at your school aimed at ending name-calling once and for all.

Desiree Raught was GLSEN’s 2015 Educator of the Year and is an educator at McKinley Tech High School in Washington, D.C.

January 12, 2016

In 2008, I joined GLSEN Phoenix and had no idea about the incredible journey I was about to take. I was able to finally be a part of an organization that truly aligned with my passions and really valued me as an individual. Little did I know that during my time with GLSEN Phoenix, I would have such incredible opportunities to ensure safe, affirming environments for all students in the K-12 education system. 

In 2014, I moved from sunny Arizona to Los Angeles. I was sad to leave my GLSEN Phoenix family, but I was very excited to see where my journey would take me in L.A. Los Angeles brings to mind images of glitz, glamour and a laid-back mentality, but behind all those images is a sad truth. The truth is that schools in California are not safe for most lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) secondary-school students.

After learning about these statistics, I realized how it important it was to found GLSEN Los Angeles and be there as a source of support and a resource for students who do not feel safe and affirmed at school. GLSEN Los Angeles is committed to ensuring that all students feel safe, welcomed and affirmed in their schools regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. We accomplish this by reaching out to educators and GSA leaders and providing that support wherever it is needed.

Now, in the beginning of 2016, we at GLSEN Los Angeles have some resolutions in mind. We resolve to offer support to all students, educators, and community organizations that seek our help. We resolve to do our best to ensure that schools implement the policies that are already in place to ensure an improved school climate. Lastly, we resolve to continue educating ourselves as members of this organization, in order to fully understand students’ needs and how we can best meet them.

As Chair of GLSEN Los Angeles, I resolve to become a better leader to my team, and I resolve that Los Angeles will glisten as a beacon of hope and light for all students. What’s your resolution?

Anthony Eftimeo is Chair of GLSEN Los Angeles.

December 11, 2015

Yesterday marked the end of the #PurpleMySchool campaign, an effort by UNESCO, UNDP, and Being LGBTI in Asia to end bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools across Asia-Pacific. Supporters took part in the campaign by taking a stand against bullying through public displays of purple.

Recently, GLSEN went purple and joined in on the campaign. Here are three reasons why:

1. Because education is a human right.

The #PurpleMySchool campaign ended on International Human Rights Day, recognized every year on December 10 since 1948, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that set out fundamental rights to be universally protected. Among those rights is the right to an education, and bullying infringes upon that right. GLSEN went purple to reassert that youth in Asia-Pacific have the right to an education free of harassment.

2. Because school climates need to change—not just in the U.S.

GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey shows that for many LGBT youth in the United States, school remains a hostile place. Similarly, UNESCO Bangkok released From Insult to Inclusion, a report that shows that school climate in the Asia-Pacific region is hostile for many LGBTI youth. In some countries in the region, as many as four out of five LGBTI students are affected by some form of violence or bullying. GLSEN went purple to amplify the voices of these youth.

3. Because there is power in unity.

By going purple, GLSEN stood in solidarity with our LGBTI friends in Asia-Pacific. We can best effect change when we work together as allies. 

Although the campaign is over, the issues persist. School climates remain overwhelmingly hostile for many youth, but students, educators, and allies in any nation can learn more about school climate for LGBTI youth in Asia-Pacific and demand that change be made.

 

December 10, 2015

Everyone has the right to education… Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship… (Article 26, Universal Declaration of Human Rights) 

I always remember the feeling in my gut on the first day of school. Heart pounding. Sweaty palms. The anxiety and excitement of a new classroom and new people. This excitement would give way to sheer dread as I realized that once again I would have to explain the origin of my name and answer the complicated question “Where are you from?” As a young refugee whose family moved a lot, I was familiar with the feeling of standing in front of a classroom and trying to explain to all the other 7, or 9, or 13-year-olds what it meant to be a refugee and why I was here instead of where I was from. We were all usually too young to understand international affairs or how politics impacted the day-to-day lives of families across the globe, but I was still ready to give an in-depth explanation of how and what we survived to get to the United States.

Some of these classrooms were easier to transition in to; some I didn’t stay long enough to complete the full transition. Wherever I was, I found comfort in the truth that I deserved to be in that classroom and that it was my right to live in an environment that was free of prejudice and discrimination. While I faced ignorance and intolerance from children who repeated racist and xenophobic epithets that they heard at home, school was the stable and affirming space where I could become my full and true self. It was my safe space.

Conventionally, safe spaces are known as environments where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students can find adult or peer allies. I think safe spaces and our schools can (and do) function as much more. The classroom is a place where I was exposed to new people and new ideas. It was where I was allowed to grow and make mistakes. It was where I found friends and community.

It was also where I was told I should “go back to my own country” and where I was bullied for not being “American enough.” It was where I was afraid to disclose my background and faith.

On this International Human Rights Day, I hold space for the young people across this country and the globe who look forward to the routine of going to school and sitting down to learn about a new topic. I hold space for the students who dread entering that same classroom and having to explain or justify their existence because of their origin or sexuality or gender or disability. I hold space for the black and brown students who have been unjustly pushed out of their school and who have been sequestered to a life bound by the criminal justice system. I hold space for all the refugees whose lives have been uprooted and who spend their nights wishing they could be doing homework instead of fearing for their lives and futures.

Today, I challenge you to evaluate how you create and support safe spaces in your communities. How have you combatted hatred and increased the love and empathy in your life? What are you going to do to make sure the next generation is more affirmed and empathetic than the one you are currently a part of? Schools were not my safe space by virtue of their existence; they were built up by caring educators and administrators who intentionally challenged themselves and were accountable to my success and growth as a citizen of this planet. 

I hope you’ll join me in the continued struggle for human rights and social justice, in our communities and beyond our borders.

Tea Sefer is the Organizing Associate at GLSEN. To find out more about what GLSEN is doing to change school climate and to stay informed about policy initiatives on the state and federal level, join GLSEN UP.

December 09, 2015
Dear GLSEN family:
 
Today, the U.S. Senate passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) by a vote of 85-12, which will usher in a new era in K-12 education and punctuate a shift in GLSEN’s strategic direction that has been underway for some months now. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is heading to the President’s desk. When President Obama signs the bill, it will mark a drastic shift of federal engagement in education reform, pushing significant power back to states and school districts. 
 
Over the past six years, we have made incredible inroads under our strategic commitment to “make sure that LGBT issues are included in all national education reform efforts.” At a time when the federal Department of Education had significant authority to defend students’ civil rights and educational equity, we worked closely with them to achieve a remarkable range of victories. Working with national partners, we laid a foundation of policy and understanding to advance our central purpose – to get every K-12 school in the country to do right by every single student, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
 
Now we must continue our shift toward an even greater focus on the state and local level. This is where the battles will be won moving forward. It is where we see the biggest threats to LGBT youth and the best opportunities to improve K-12 schools.
 
ESSA is a complex bill that limits the power of the Secretary of Education to direct state action. It also does not include language necessary to protect LGBT youth, though it does include some important civil rights reporting measures.
 
Some of our key allies in Congress worked long and hard to win this compromise. They prevented numerous measures that would have rolled back many of the gains we have made. We look forward to continuing our work with them to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act, improve students’ lives, and protect civil rights under this new federal funding framework.
 
You can find our public statement on ESSA here:
 
For all of us at GLSEN, this new national framework is an urgent call to action. There are building blocks to work with to keep making progress. But we must redouble our efforts at the state and local level, where most of the goal setting for our schools and accountability for progress against them will now reside. 
 
In the near term, three critical goals are crystal clear:
 
1)     Get LGBT youth included in state-level measurements for school improvement and quality:
Under ESSA, states will be required to design the ways they will report to the federal government on their schools’ quality and effectiveness. There is a window of opportunity to influence how states measure their success, making sure that LGBT youth are part of the equation. Then we will have to keep working to make sure states are held accountable for continued progress.
 
2)     Redouble our efforts to get LGBT youth counted in every government survey on youth health, school experience, and academic achievement:
ESSA requires states to report data on all categories of students currently protected by federal civil rights law. LGBT students are not (yet) protected. But if we continue to make LGBT youth visible in these studies by getting them included in all data collection, the LGBT achievement and experience gap will be visible in ways that will fuel future debates and spur new action.
 
3)     Continue to show educators, policymakers, and the public what works for LGBT students and for schools:
As we continue to bring LGBT-supportive programs, policies, and resources to schools everywhere, we show the world what works to support students and improve school climate for all. GLSEN exists to help schools do their best by every student, and to overcome the barriers of fear, prejudice, and ignorance that keep schools from doing the right thing. Each time we achieve that in a new school, we can carry that experience and the evidence of success on to the next.
We will continue to work with all of you to identify opportunities under ESSA and invest in work that improves the lives of LGBT youth. Don’t hesitate to let me, Juan Martinez or Nathan Smith know if you have questions or would like further information. For now, thank you so much for all that you do to make GLSEN the force for change that we are.
 
Warmly,
 
 
Dr. Eliza Byard
Executive Director
 
December 03, 2015

Recently, GLSEN joined a number of organizations in demanding that all students' sexuality education be LGBT-inclusive. On Twitter, people across the country shared their stories about sex ed in their schools, making clear that we need to create change. Here's some of what they had to say. 

What was your sex ed like? Join the conversation by clicking here to tweet using the hashtag #MySexEd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

December 01, 2015

“Class, here is what chlamydia can do to the body,” said my 11th grade health teacher as he moved through a slideshow. “These are genital warts.” Moments later, he said, “If left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), causing infertility in women.”

In my head, I said to my 16-year-old self, “Pelvic inflammatory disease? Oh. No. That’s what I have. It must be. It has to be.”

There I was, sitting in health class discussing sexual health for the first time since the puberty talk in sixth grade. Well, it wasn’t so much discussing; our teacher was scrolling through a slideshow of worst-case scenarios of sexually transmitted infections.

A couple days prior, I had my first sexual encounter—with my girlfriend—and now all I could think about was how chlamydia was taking over my fallopian tubes*. And there was nothing in the lesson that day or in the entire unit that offered me any answers.

A little dramatic, huh? But it’s the absolute honest truth.

I came out as queer early on in high school, and I remember yearning to talk about it. On some days, it felt like I alone had discovered an alternative to being heterosexual. My crushing on girls made me feel like I had somehow broken my gender and the expectations that came with it, and I had very few spaces to discuss any of this.

These memories inform my everyday work now as a sexuality educator working to ensure that all young people have factual, age- and stage-appropriate information. I also work to ensure that young people see themselves reflected in their curriculum and are affirmed—their whole selves—including their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. 

Sex education in the United States, where you can find it, falls flat on its face. According to GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey, less than 5% of LGBT students report that their health classes included positive representations of LGBT topics. Also, sex education typically utilizes fear-based tactics, offers abstinence as the only prevention tool, fails to teach negotiation skills, and rarely is holistic, despite that research shows that comprehensive sex ed is effective and abstinence-only education is not.

Health teachers, sexuality educators, and faculty charged with teaching sex ed at their schools often find themselves stuck between the limitations on what can and cannot be taught, fear of backlash by parents and families, and more than that, an uncertainty about what is truly inclusive sexuality education. Over the last 13 years, working in the field of both sexuality education and LGBTQIA issues, I’ve learned that inclusive sex ed requires a comprehensive, sex-positive, LGBTQI-affirming curriculum that takes into consideration the full cultural contexts of each student.

I encourage educators to follow suit by teaching and advocating for truly inclusive sex ed in their classrooms. Educators can learn more from this call to action, released today by GLSEN and a number of partner organizations dedicated to providing inclusive sex education in schools.

I don’t know exactly how my life path would’ve been different if I had been affirmed in health class that day. What I do know is that I can make every effort now to make sure all of the young people who enter my classroom are able to be their full selves.

*it was probably just gas.

Wazina Zondon is a sexuality educator at the Urban Assembly Institute for Math & Science for Young Women.

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