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!
Nearly half a century ago, Alabama Governor George Wallace stood in a schoolhouse door and told U.S. Justice Department officials that his state Constitution forbade two black students from entering. With a little coaxing from the National Guard, Governor Wallace stood down and the students were admitted.
Today, Governor Robert Bentley symbolically stands in front of school doors across the state telling thousands of students that they, too, are unwelcome in Alabama schools, this time because of their immigration status.
Time and time again, courts have found that the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government final authority over immigration matters in this country. In 1982, the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot deny a free public education to undocumented immigrants.
Yet earlier this year, Alabama passed the so-called Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, ordering school officials to track the immigration status of students and their parents. On September 29, when a federal judge allowed the law to go into effect, over 2,000 Alabama students were pulled out of school overnight.
Parents feared that school administrators and employees would suddenly act as immigration agents resulting in the exodus.
Fortunately, a federal judge has temporarily enjoined the portion of the Beason-Hammon Act which would require public schools to determine the immigration status of students, but several other equally damaging aspects of the law remain in effect.
In the wake of the Beason-Hammon Act coming into effect, the U.S. Justice Department Justice Department officials are monitoring for bullying incidents linked to the law. According to Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez, the Department has heard a number of reports of increases in bullying across Alabama.
Ironically, efforts are currently being made to pass an enumerated anti-bullying bill in Alabama that would protect students from bullying, harassment, and intimidation based on race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. GLSEN strongly supports these efforts and commends Alabama state Rep. Patricia Todd on the introduction of this bill.
At the same time, it is very unfortunate that the Beason-Hammon Act is countering efforts to make Alabama schools safer.
What all children—regardless of immigration status—need to succeed is an education in a safe and supportive environment. Over time, this nation has made a great deal of progress toward making sure each child receives just that. It is unfortunate that Alabama lawmakers would try to impede that progress.
One can only hope that this president’s Justice Department has the same success that President Kennedy’s did forty-eight years ago, and that 2,000 children in Alabama will be able to return to school.
The second annual GSA is today, February 6th, 2013!
GSA Day is a day to encourage GSAs to be visible, celebrate their successes, and raise awareness in their school about how they are an effective tool in combating hostile and unsafe learning environments for all students. Use GSA Day as a mid year reminder to students about the amazing work your club is doing at your school! Check out more resources and ideas for participation here. Are you planning on participating? Let us know in the comments below! Get connected with other GSAs around the country by participating in a LIVE Tweet chat with GLSEN, GSA Network, Campus Pride and Iowa Pride Network at 3PM PST today! Join the conversation here!
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!
Though Hurricane Sandy hit GLSEN’s national headquarters hard last week, we’re happy to announce that all staff and chapter leaders are safe and sound. We’re ready to get back to work making schools safer, though we aren’t able to return to the New York City office just yet. It’s not clear when the New York office will reopen, but our DC office is ready for business. That’s good news, because GLSEN will be tackling several big issues in the next few weeks, including:
- Partnering with the DC and Baltimore public schools in support of the well-being and success of LGBT youth of color;
- Training members of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) on LGBT issues and gender nonconformity in grades K-5; and
- Furthering LGBT curricular inclusion with a presentation at the annual conference of the National Council for the Social Studies.
The response to the hurricane has been touching, and we are truly grateful for the overwhelming show of support. Not only from our friends at the Ad Council, who kindly offered us workspace in Manhattan, but also from countless friends of GLSEN reached out through email and social networking sites to express support. Here’s a selection of your tweets wishing us well. Thanks again for your support; it truly makes our work possible.
Check out a featured poem from the “What Does the Day of Silence Mean to You?” call for submissions. This poem was submitted by Ilana K. of Rockville, MD.
I have never stopped talking Not even for one second Even when I am silent I am speaking so many words So one day a year my silence speaks more Than I ever could out loud My silence speaks for those who do stop talking Those who are forced to stop talking By a world that can’t accept them for who they are Or who they love Some people who have so much to say Can’t find the voice to say it Not because they don’t want to But because other people won’t let them Why is it that in this time With a black president Two women can’t get married in 42 states Transgender individuals can get fired People are discriminated against For things they can’t change They can’t make the change if they can’t find their voice And they can’t find their voice if people won’t let them Even if they find their voice There is no change that will happen Unless people are willing to listen So because I can’t stop talking I put away my voice for a day To bring attention to all the people Who are forced into the silence Not necessarily because they don’t have anything to say But because people won’t listen People won’t listen Thanks for your submission, Ilana! Have last minute planning to do for the Day of Silence? Visit our resources here, and have an awesome day tomorrow! Please note, the views expressed in the submission are those of the author, and are not necessarily shared by 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