NEW YORK - As communities across the country hold vigils in memory of Lawrence King, a 15-year-old from California whom classmates say was killed because of his sexual orientation and gender expression, GLSEN is calling on schools to honor King’s memory by using this as an opportunity to address violence and harassment directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students.
“While we are all still numb to the reality of this horrible tragedy, it is important that we begin to look at ways we can make sure something like this never happens again,” said GLSEN Executive Director Kevin Jennings. “Schools can take steps to ensure that all their students are safer, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression/identity.”
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, recommends four approaches that schools can begin implementing now to address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.
Adopt a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that enumerates categories such as race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender expression/identity. Enumeration is crucial to ensure that anti-bullying policies are effective for LGBT students. Policies without enumeration are no more effective than having no policy at all when it comes to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment, according to GLSEN’s 2005 National School Climate Survey.
Require staff trainings to enable school staff to identify and address anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment effectively and in a timely manner.
Support student efforts to address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment on campus, such as the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance or participation in the National Day of Silence on April 25.
Institute age-appropriate, inclusive curricula to help students understand and respect difference within the school community and society as a whole.
While lethal violence like Lawrence’s murder is rare, anti-LGBT bullying and harassment are pervasive problems in our schools, and effective responses are crucial to prevent escalation.
In the 2005 National School Climate Survey, nearly a fifth (17.6%) of LGBT students reported being physically assaulted at school in the past school year because of their sexual orientation and over a tenth (11.8%) because of their gender expression.
Nearly two-thirds of LGBT students (64.3%) said they feel unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation and two-fifths (40.7%) because of their gender expression
“Only 10 states and the District of Columbia protect students from bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation, and only five and the District of Columbia protect students based on gender identity/expression,” Jennings said. “We can make our schools safer, and every child deserves to know that we care enough about them to try.”
GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. For more information on GLSEN's educational resources, public policy agenda, student organizing programs, research, public education or development initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.