NEW YORK, Oct. 16
– GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is sponsoring the second-annual Ally Week from October 15-21, a weeklong celebration of the important role allies play in creating safe schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression/identity.
GLSEN’s student leaders created GLSEN’s Ally Week last year as a national youth-led effort empowering students to be allies against anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) bullying, harassment and name-calling in K-12 schools.
“Allies have been integral in the effort to make schools safe for all students,” said GLSEN Founder and Executive Director Kevin Jennings. “When I helped establish the first Gay-Straight Alliance almost 20 years ago, one of my straight students came up with the idea. It’s only fitting that LGBT students likewise came up with the idea to recognize allies.
“As a teacher, I saw firsthand the positive and powerful impact associated when one student tells another something is not cool.”
An ally is any non-LGBT student who supports ending anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.
During Ally Week, students will hold events appropriate to the their school community across the country. The most common activity will be students handing out stickers to allies who sign a pledge card to not use anti-LGBT language and slurs and to intervene when others do.
Three out of four LGBT students (75.4 percent) report hearing “faggot” or “dyke” frequently or often in schools, and nearly nine out of 10 report hearing “that’s so gay” referring to something stupid, according to the 2005 National School Climate Survey assessing the experiences of LGBT students in school.
Over a third of LGBT students (37.8 percent) experienced physical harassment at school on the basis of sexual orientation and more than a quarter (26.1 percent) on the basis of their gender expression. Nearly one-fifth (17.6 percent) of students had been physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation, and over a ninth (11.8 percent) because of their gender expression.
“I’m an ally because I know what a difference it makes to have just one person stand up for you,” said Hannah Brown, a 15-year-old straight student from Doherty Memorial High School in Worcester, Mass, who is hosting a summit with four area Gay-Straight Alliances at her public library. “The presence of allies shows that there are legitimate problems with teasing and harassment that need to be addressed.”
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.