- Today is the last day of Russlynn H. Ali's tenure as U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. The following is a statement from Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard:
"I had the privilege of meeting with Russlynn Ali on one of her first days on the job, and now salute her on her last. Russlynn has been a remarkable ally and champion of at-risk and marginalized youth across the country, rigorously exercising the powers of her office to avert and address injustices in education. Partnering with the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, Russlynn and her colleagues won landmark settlements on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, and also began the urgent task of addressing the differential impact of school discipline on youth of color in K-12 schools nationwide. We look forward to continuing our work with Office for Civil Rights under her successor to further this powerful legacy."
Assistant Secretary Ali's commitment to equal educational access set the stage for a robust partnership between GLSEN and the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) during her tenure. A few highlights of that partnership include:
- At the beginning of her tenure, Assistant Secretary Ali personally met with Sirdeaner Walker, mother of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover and member of GLSEN's national Board of Directors, who shared her son's experiences with relentless anti-gay bullying and an urgent call to action for federal officials.
- In September 2010, GLSEN in partnership with Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), launched the "Claim Your Rights" campaign designed to empower students and their parents, guardians and allies to directly report incidences of bullying, harassment, or discrimination to OCR.
- In May 2012, Assistant Secretary Ali joined GLSEN Executive Director in Paris, France to address a United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conference on ways to develop effective policy, programming and practice to address homophobic bullying in educational institutions.
- GLSEN's Office of Public Policy has regularly met with Assistant Secretary Ali and her staff at the OCR to consult on a diverse range of safe schools issues including Title IX guidance to cover transgender and gender nonconforming students; investigations, lawsuits and settlements to prevent anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in school districts including cases in Tehachapi, CA and Anoka-Hennepin, MN; and the differential impact of school disciplinary action on LGBT youth, particularly LGBT youth of color.
GLSEN will continue to partner with the U.S. Department of Education and the OCR on vital issues of school safety, educational access, justice and equity.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.