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Ally Week Educator Guide
Thank you for taking the time to learn more about GLSEN’s Ally Week and how you, as an educator, can participate. Launched in 2005, Ally Week is a student-powered campaign dedicated to encouraging LGBTQ students and LGBTQ educators to share what actions they need from their allies.
From GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey, we know that schools nationwide are hostile environments for a distressing number of LGBTQ students – many of whom commonly hear anti-LGBTQ remarks and face verbal and physical harassment and even physical assault because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
- 67.4% of LGBTQ students heard "gay" used in a negative way (e.g., "that's so gay") and 58.8% heard other homophobic remarks (e.g., "dyke" or "faggot") at school.
- 70.8% of LGBTQ students reported being verbally harassed based on their sexual orientation, 27.0% reported being physically harassed for this reason, and 13.0% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
- 54.5% of LGBTQ students reported being verbally harassed based on their gender expression, 20.3% reported being physically harassed for this reason, and 9.4% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of how they express their gender.
In addition, we know that many LGBTQ students miss classes or entire days of school rather than face a hostile environment.
- Nearly one-third of LGBTQ students (31.8%) missed at least one entire day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.
- Students with greater numbers of supportive staff had a greater sense of being a part of their school community than other students.
School-based victimization denies students their rights to an education. Ally Week serves to bring these issues to light, with particular attention on the actions that allies can take to combat anti-LGBTQ name-calling, bullying, and harassment in schools. Participating in Ally Week is an effective way for educators to show their support for their LGBTQ and gender-expansive students.
Free Streaming is available!
Organizing a film viewing, whether for students or colleagues, is a great way to celebrate Ally Week at your school. We’ve partnered with Groundspark and the Youth and Gender Media Project to offer free streaming for the last two weeks of September. All Ally Week registrants receive access to this free streaming.
GroundSpark’s award-winning documentary Straightlaced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Upincludes the perspectives of teens who self-identify as straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or questioning and represent all points of the gender spectrum. With courage and unexpected humor, they open up their lives to the camera: choosing between “male” and “female” deodorant; deciding whether to go along with anti-gay taunts in the locker room; having the courage to take ballet; avoiding the restroom so they won’t get beaten up; or mourning the suicide of a classmate.
The Youth and Gender Media Project is offering free streaming of The Family Journeyand Creating Gender Inclusive Schools. The Family Journey centers on the question, “What do you do when your child tells you they're questioning their gender?” The Family Journey: Raising Gender Nonconforming Children follows the journey of parents and siblings of kids who are questioning whether they're a boy, girl, or something in between. Creating Gender Inclusive Schools centers on the question, “What happens when you bring gender training to an elementary school?” In Creating Gender Inclusive Schools the Peralta Elementary School in Oakland, CA, demonstrates the power of an open and honest conversation about gender.
Ally Week Frequently Asked Questions
What is an ally?
An ally is a person who takes demonstrable action supporting members of a group with which they do not identify. GLSEN's Ally Week focuses on allyship for LGBTQ youth, who face disproportionate bullying, harassment, and discrimination in K-12 schools. All educators can be allies to LGBTQ youth, and LGBTQ youth can be allies to one another, as well as to members of groups whose identities they don't share. For example, cisgender LGB students can always learn more about being allies to transgender or gender nonconforming students, and white LGBTQ students can learn about being allies to LGBTQ students of color.
What is Ally Week?
Ally Week is a student-organized GLSEN program in which LGBTQ students and LGBTQ educators hold a national conversation about what they need from their allies. Ally Week is for everyone: straight and cisgender allies to LGBTQ youth are encouraged to learn about what actions they can take to support their LGBTQ peers, educator allies use Ally Week as an opportunity to teach lessons about compassion and diversity, and LGBTQ youth can learn about how to support one another's overlapping, intersecting identities.
What Happens During Ally Week?
During Ally Week, students organize activities at school that focus on encouraging and enhancing allyship toward LGBTQ youth. GLSEN recommends holding an Ally 101 workshop, which outlines the basics of being an ally to LGBTQ youth. In addition, GLSEN has provided a list of actions anyone can take to support LGBTQ youth, including LGBTQ youth of color, trans and gender nonconforming youth, and LGBTQ youth with disabilities.
Who started Ally Week?
In 2005, members of GLSEN's Jump-Start National Student Leadership Team came up with an idea to celebrate allies committed to ensuring safe and affirming schools for all, and to encourage students to take action to support LGBTQ students. The idea turned into the first Ally Week celebrated in schools nationwide in September.
What is GLSEN?
GLSEN is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe and inclusive schools for all students. Established nationally in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
Ally Week Actions for Educators
As an educator you have the opportunity to bring Ally Week into your classroom and focus on the LGBTQ students, educators, and family members in your school community. Having knowledge of the school’s policies and procedures, you can offer suggestions on how students can develop effective Ally Week activities. You can also help students negotiate with administrators and other students who may oppose or need a better understanding of Ally Week.
- Be a visible ally to LGBTQ students: Whether you are LGBTQ-identified or not, you can be an ally and advocate for your LGBTQ students. One simple way you can be an ally is to create a safe and inclusive space in your classroom or office. To learn how to be an ally to LGBTQ students, read GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit.
- Support students’ Ally Week efforts: Attend your school’s GSA or organizational meetings leading up to Ally Week. Offer to take on tasks and help students with their organizing efforts. Work with other educators to secure space for students to display Ally Week information as well as securing time and space for an auditorium or staff presentation. During Ally Week, students will be interacting with their peers. In some instances, students’ peers could respond with name-calling and bullying. Use these as teachable moments to model support for LGBTQ students and allies by intervening and insisting that your school be a safe space for ALL.
- Connect with GLSEN and other educators like you: Connect with other educators supporting students’ Ally Week efforts. You can join the Educator Forum on Facebook as well as the Educator Network to discover more resources and ideas from like-minded educators. Connect with GLSEN as well on Facebook and Twitter and follow #AllyWeek. If you are LGBTQ-identified, join the conversation and share what you need from your allies with #MyAllies.
- Discuss Ally Week with students: Dedicate some class time during Ally Week to discuss LGBTQ people and identities and the concept of allyship/advocating for others. Engage your students in discussion using the following questions:
- What do the letters LGBTQ stand for, and who do we know that is in this community? (school, community, or media)
- How affirming do you think our school is for LGBTQ students? How do you know?
- Why do you think it’s important to be an ally to LGBTQ students?
- If you’re LGBTQ-identified, what do you need from your allies?
- Talk about Ally Week with colleagues: As an educator, you have the unique opportunity to engage other school staff. If possible, invite a student leader or GSA to make a presentation on the importance of supporting LGBTQ students. Provide your colleagues with the Educators’ Guide to Ally Week and information about GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit and discuss with them the need for allies in the school. Use the “Engage School Staff” section of the Safe Space Kit for more details on staff presentations. Arrange for a screening of one of our free-streaming films and a discussion to begin the year with LGBTQ students, families, and educators in mind.
- Read a picture book: Reading books with LGBTQ and gender-expansive characters to students can engage a discussion around allyship and action. Try My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis, I am Jazz by Jesica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, or Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall. Ask students how they could be allies or advocates for the characters in the book: what could you do or say?
- Continue the conversation: Ally Week should not be the only time we discuss LGBTQ individuals in the classroom. Incorporate LGBTQ history, themes, and events into lesson plans you are already teaching. Get started with GLSEN's LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum Guide and know that LGBTQ History Month begins in October!
- Shop pronoun buttons and use GLSEN’s pronoun guide! Normalizing sharing your pronouns, regardless of your gender, is an important way to support trans and gender non-conforming students.