In the wake of changing marriage amendments, immigration laws, and anti-bullying policies in schools, your Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) may be looking for ways to make an impact on the feelings and actions of students at your school.
Reports of harassment and violence in our nation’s schools towards students and teachers who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT), non-English speaking, of color, and students with disabilities, are as common as proms and pep rallies. According to the 2005 National School Climate Survey, nearly 20% African American and Latino students felt unsafe at school because of their race and nearly 60% of African American and Latino students felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation. (GLSEN 2005 NSCS, pg. 60) Thus, it is clear that bullying and harassment is not only still prevalent in many schools, but these factors are compounded by race, sexual orientation, and other factors.
GSA’s and other student clubs are composed of a variety of students of varying races, ethnicities, gender identities and expressions, socio-economic statuses, and religions. The work to end anti-LGBT bias in schools is one that is connected to the experiences and realities of many communities. Thus the importance of allies is paramount.
GLSEN has many resources for GSAs on these issues and we have compiled additional information here on Five Ways to Be an Ally. Let us know what you are already doing or plan to do.
Five Ways to Be an Ally and Fight Hate and Harassment in Our Schools
1. Know your rights!
The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) enforces five Federal statutes that prohibit discrimination in education programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance. These laws prohibit discrimination on the bases of race, color, and national origin, on the basis of sex, on the basis of disability, and on the basis of age. While not officially protected, federal resources include information and suggestions on preventing and responding to discrimination based on sexual orientation.
- 2. Document and report harassment and hate crimes! Using federal, state, and local school district laws that protect students you and your gay-straight alliances (GSAs) can document and report harassment, discrimination, and/or hate crimes.
Hate crime Network. Survivors who contact the Hate-Crime Network receive support from a victim advocate who offers advice and refers them to local resources. In addition, survivors can also choose to receive anonymous messages of support and hope from network volunteers.
The U.S. Department of Education has resources to help in following established procedures and creating a policy if your school district does not already have one.
The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee also has a template for reporting discrimination.
- 3. Educate yourself! You and your GSA can learn about hate and the experiences of other communities.
Amnesty International USA has developed LGBT-specific resources for the USA and worldwide.
The GSA Network in California has developed some resources in addition to an outline for discussing media and stereotypes.
Teaching Tolerance has many resources to examine hate and bias.
- 4. Make connections! Whether you have students involved in your GSA that come from working class backgrounds or from wealthy families, or students that are Asian, White, or African American, take the opportunity to invite all students to talk about their experiences and participate in your group. Discussions about multiple identities can also be useful for the work that GSAs plan to do. Remember there is beauty in our differences and strength where we overlap.
- 5. Be visible! You and your GSA can show your stance against all hate and discrimination by wearing stickers, buttons, or t-shirts with anti-hate and anti-violence messages. Your GSA can also make posters or show in other ways your support for bias-free education for every student. Be creative!