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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 14, 2015
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
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.
#MySexEd erased my existence as a queer person, made teachers avoid eye contact, made my classmates laugh at me when I showed distress.
— Aiden Ramirez-Tatum (@aidenskr) December 2, 2015
#mysexed preached abstinence, abstinence, abstinence, pregnancy, pregnancy, pregnancy. I was gay and closeted and had 1000 questions...
— Dr. Sean Boileau (@sboileau1) December 2, 2015
#MySexEd was taught by a pastor in a public school - not a teacher or medical professional.
— thegaypk (@thegaypk) December 2, 2015
#MySexEd was nonexistent. Let's fix this.
— Lindsay Duede (@whatislyfeman) December 2, 2015
#MySexEd teacher had us play a game in which we literally rolled dice to see if we contracted an STD. I ended up “dying” of AIDS.
— Tim R. Johnston (@johnstontimr) December 2, 2015
#MySexEd teacher shut me down in class discussion for asking about condoms and PrEP
— Mars Hallman (@hallmanmars) December 2, 2015
#MySexEd was wicked hetero.
— Jamie J. Hagen (@Jamiejhagen) December 2, 2015
#mysexed Getting scolded and humiliated by my teacher for suggesting trans friendly replacements/rewordings
— Ollie Kelly (@queercatpunk) December 2, 2015
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.
November 23, 2015
November 17, 2015
For decades, laws have mandated that public bathrooms be accessible; they must contain specific features, like larger stalls or lower sinks, to accommodate those whose needs aren’t met by standard bathrooms, like people who use wheel chairs. Sometimes, public places also have a bathroom that is larger than a standard stall, usually with a changing station for very young children, in order to accommodate families.
In our K-12 schools, bathrooms typically are sex-segregated and made up of multiple stalls. Unfortunately, that means that these bathrooms fail to accommodate all students. Some students may suffer from certain psychological conditions, like paruresis and parcopresis, which make use of these bathrooms impossible. Various other medical conditions prevent use of these types of bathrooms as well.
These bathrooms in schools also pose difficulty to transgender and gender nonconforming students. GLSEN research shows that nearly two thirds of transgender students avoid school bathrooms because of feeling unsafe or uncomfortable. They risk verbal and physical harassment, no matter which of the two, sex-segregated bathrooms they enter.
Also, over half of transgender students report that they were required to use the bathroom of their legal sex rather than the one that they feel most comfortable using. The U.S. Department of Justice has deemed this requirement illegal under Title IX.
Feeling unsafe, uncomfortable, and at risk of illegal disciplinary action, these students might “hold it” or restrict intake of fluids, risking pain and dehydration. Some of these students even leave school altogether. These outcomes are not positive in any way, for any one.
The solution here is not a new or radical concept: all schools should have private, gender-neutral bathrooms for any students to use, in the same, normal way that homes have bathrooms for guests to use and many restaurants have bathrooms that are not labeled for the sexes. This is not to suggest, however, that there be a separate bathroom for transgender students, like presidential candidate Ben Carson recently proposed, because separate is never equal.
While this solution is not new, what is in fact new is the notion that the needs of all students deserve to be met. And while this solution is not radical, what is in fact radical is the positive impact that this solution has on transgender, gender nonconforming, and all students for whom privacy in bathrooms benefits their wellbeing.
GLSEN Oregon stands as a strong advocate for gender-neutral bathrooms in schools. In a rural part of the state, we recently helped a high school GSA create change. Although our advocacy was a tough fight, we used GLSEN’s resources in our efforts, ultimately changing all single-stall bathrooms in the school to gender-neutral bathrooms accessible to all students during class time.
We all want success for all students. Whether you are a student, educator, or ally, you can use GLSEN’s model policy to advocate for gender-neutral bathrooms in schools. This advocacy can help create learning environments that are safe and affirming, which all students need to reach success.
Danni/y Rosen is Chair of GLSEN Oregon.