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January 28, 2010

>A proposed law to prohibit discussion of any sexual orientation in Tennessee schools other than heterosexuality, sometimes called "No Promo Homo" laws, was essentially killed for another year yesterday. GLSEN Public Policy Associate Alison Gill talks about how GLSEN supporters like you can make a difference in defeating bad policies like this.

Last week the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) told us about a scary bill moving through the K-12 Education Subcommittee of the Tennessee House. HB0821, also called the "Don’t Say Gay" bill, would prevent Tennessee teachers and schools from discussing sexual orientation other than heterosexuality. A law like this can make LGBT students feel invisible and could cut them off from resources they need, such as supportive teachers.

When TTPC told us that the K-12 Subcommittee was to consider the bill this Wednesday, we emailed an Action Alert to our networks in Tennessee, warning them about the bill. Fortunately, we have very strong networks in Tennessee thanks to a lot of great local organizing by GLSEN supporters and student leaders such as Conrad Honicker.

Combined with local efforts such as TTPC's, we were able to apply significant pressure on the subcommittee to drop the bill. And we were successful! On Wednesday, the Tennessee K-12 Subcommittee decided not to take up the bill, which should kill the "Don’t Say Gay" bill for at least another year.

Sign up to receive GLSEN's Action Alerts here.

January 28, 2010


From GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard:

Last night, President Obama spoke eloquently of the need to “expand the promise of education in America.” The massive investments he has directed toward our nation’s schools are essential, but the way in which those investments are structured leaves room for concern.
President Obama is rightly concerned about the fact that we lead the industrial world in high school dropout rates. He is right to call out the fact that the level of achievement currently reflected by a U.S. high school diploma lags far behind what’s necessary for true individual – and societal – success. But his prescriptions for change, to date, do not reflect a balanced approach to the root causes.
The President and Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, have been very clear about what states and districts must do to benefit from the buckets of cash currently allocated for education in various pieces of the federal budget. They will require from states what they have termed the “four assurances” –
  1. progress on raising standards,
  2. improving teacher effectiveness,
  3. tracking and assessing student and teacher performance,
  4. and turning around failing schools.
They favor a free-market approach to achieving those goals, with an emphasis on competition, choice (primarily through an expanded commitment to charter schools) and incentives. Whether or not one agrees with this approach, it clearly only describes one element of the thorough-going culture change required to truly transform education in the United States so that all children leave high school prepared for success in college and life.

Last night the President called for reform to ensure that every American student has “access to a complete and competitive education” that is the “pre-requisite” for success in today’s world. This vision will not be a reality until the President and the U.S. Department of Education do all in their power to ensure that schools across the country remove the barriers to learning created by societal inequities and bias. Students will have a true shot at that success only if schools are strong partners with parents in guiding the social and emotional development of young people through their school years. By and large, schools are not living up to this aspect of their responsibility to the young people in their care. We need the President’s leadership on this front as well.
January 25, 2010

Today is the first day of No Name-Calling Week. The following is a statement from Sirdeaner Walker, a mother from Springfield, Mass., about the importance of No Name-Calling Week and its message of respect.
Dear Educators:

My name is Sirdeaner Walker, and last spring, my eleven-year-old son, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, took his own life after enduring months of relentless name-calling and bullying at school.

As my family and I struggle to find peace, I have determined to do everything in my power to eliminate name-calling and bullying of all kinds from schools so that other boys and girls do not suffer as Carl did. I am writing now to ask you to join me in this effort by participating in No Name-Calling Week (January 25-29, 2010), an event designed to help K-12 schools engage their students in the important work of building respect for all.

My son was only in middle school, but he heard all the names that I’m sure you have all heard at some point in some hallway. This problem begins early, before students even understand the terms they use, or have any sense of their consequences. There are No Name-Calling Week resources tailored for all classroom levels from elementary through high school, to spark discussion and reflection appropriate for students of various ages.

There is more information about this event and the free lesson plans and resources available to you for use in your school on the No Name-Calling Week website, at

No Name-Calling Week has reached tens of thousands of classrooms since its inception seven years ago. I am very grateful for the No Name-Calling Week Coalition Members for their leadership, and hope that you will add to that legacy of leadership by being part of No Name-Calling Week 2010.I thank you for all of your efforts on behalf of your students.

Sirdeaner Walker

P.S. Please register as a No Name-Calling Week participant when you visit the website, so that it is possible to continue measuring the nation-wide reach and impact of this important program. It means a lot to me to know that there are allies out there in this crucial work. Thank you.

January 24, 2010

>GLSEN's No Name-Calling Week officially has begun on the East Coast (and in other countries that participate).

Thanks to all of our partners who help make this week possible.

January 22, 2010

Only a couple of days until one of our favorite weeks of the year begins. Learn all about how teachers are preparing over at the new No Name-Calling Week Facebook page.

Don't forget to get your last-minute NNCW resources at in our downloads section.

January 22, 2010

>We mentioned a few weeks ago that the Girl Scout Research Institute released a report on teen beliefs and values. GLSEN Research Assistant Mark Barkiewicz looked a little deeper at some of the findings and wants to share a little about what he found. From Mark:

According to research findings in Good Intentions: The Beliefs and Values of Teens and Tweens Today [PDF], a recent report from the Girl Scout Research Institute, 59% of youth in grades 7-12 agree with the statement “Gay or lesbian relationships are okay, if that is a person’s choice,” in contrast to only 31% who agreed with this in a 1989 study.

Furthermore, the study also highlights that 48% of 7th to 12th graders today say that if they found out one of their same-sex friends was involved in a gay or lesbian relationship, the friendship would continue and not change at all, compared to only 12% in 1989.

These positive changes should not come as a surprise as the American public in general has grown more tolerant of gay and lesbian issues throughout the years.

In doing safe schools work, it is important to consider how attitudes can vary across different groups and populations. Gender plays an interesting role with regard to these findings. Girls are more likely than boys to accept gay or lesbian relationships (65% vs. 54%) and continue a friendship with a same-sex friend involved in a gay or lesbian relationship (59% vs. 38%).

In trying to understand these gender differences, it is worthwhile to consider the role that masculinity can play in boys’ development, such that being gay can be seen as contradictory to being ‘masculine’ and tolerance of gay people somehow can be seen as being less ‘masculine.’ Nevertheless, while these findings show that girls are, in general, more accepting of their gay and lesbian peers, the question remains as to why four-tenths of girls would end a friendship with a same-sex friend involved in a gay or lesbian relationship.

Given these findings, many LGBT students may have a difficult time finding allies among their peers. In the nearly 20 years since the initial study was done, GLSEN has been working to develop school communities in which every member is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Through GLSEN’s effort in providing professional development to educators, efforts to create policies that protect LGBT students, and support of Gay-Straight Alliances, an increasing number of students across the country have had the opportunity to experience a more positive school atmosphere.

In further developing a better learning environment for all students, it is important that youth become more tolerant of their peers, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or how they express their gender. Resources such as Gay-Straight Alliances can be helpful in fostering supportive peers for LGBT students and increasing tolerance and respect for diversity.

January 21, 2010

>Teaching Tolerance Magazine, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, published a great article in its Spring issue on the thoughtful arguments for and against creating more and bigger LGBT-friendly schools. Two exist currently, Harvey Milk High School in New York and The Alliance School in Milwaukee.

On the one hand, do LGBT-friendly schools segregate LGBT students and their allies? On the other hand, do they offer LGBT students and their allies a better opportunity to feel safe while getting an education?

Put another way, are LGBT-friendly schools a short-term fix to a long-term problem that lets other schools off the hook when it comes to addressing anti-LGBT bullying and harassment? But even if they are a quick fix, should students have to endure constant bullying and harassment when there's an alternative?

The discussion also begs another question - shouldn't every school be LGBT-friendly?

Said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard in the article:

Given the inequalities in the existing system, these schools are essential resources of last resort for students who may otherwise not graduate. They fill a pressing need.

Full discloser: Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet Alliance's lead teacher, Tina Owen, and several Alliance students. Five minutes with Tina and the students and you can tell Alliance is not only necessary, but that other public schools could learn a thing or two from the school.

Take the story of Jahqur, a non-LGBT-identified student, who spoke to Teaching Tolerance:

Jahqur Ammons, now a junior, failed seventh grade. “I spent more time chasing girls than chasing grades,” he says. Jahqur’s brother, already at Alliance, told him about the open campus, the small classes, the helpful teachers. Jahqur enrolled at start of his freshman year.

“When I came here,” he says, “I thought all gay people were nasty. I used to say snide things. But I got to know them instead of judging them. Now I realize they’re just like me.”

Last year, when a conservative Christian group picketed the campus, it was Jaqhur who led the response. “The protesters were saying this school was teaching us to be gay and that we were all going to hell,” Jahqur recalls. “I didn’t think that was very a Christian thing to say. So we got all the students to go outside and show them: Gay, straight, trans, goth, emo — we’re all one.”

What do you all think about LGBT-friendly schools?

January 20, 2010

>We tweeted last week about a horrifying story out of Chelmsford, Mass., in which a Facebook event was created to "kill all gay people yea" at Chelmsford High School.

Thankfully no acts of violence have been reported and it turned out to be "the senseless act by an individual who failed to recognize the serious consequences that may result from such a post," according to police.

The hopeful news is that the community seemed to rally in opposition, with the principal denouncing the hateful action over the school intercom. Said one commenter on the Facebook event:

This is truly disgusting. Everybody should be trying to embrace each others differences and learn from them instead of instilling fear in people who would never think about doing anything to hurt you.

Even though the police and school were able to stop anything from happening, the fact remains that at least one person at the school (5 signed up as attendees) wanted to send a message to LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT that they are not welcome and could face violence simply because of who they are or are perceived to be.

GLSEN's 2007 National School Climate Survey found that 86.2% of LGBT students experienced harassment in school in the past year because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, 60.8% of LGBT students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.

This has got to stop. If students do not feel safe, they cannot learn.

GLSEN is one of 100 finalists in a campaign on Facebook to award $1 million to a charity. We want to use the grant to send a Safe Space Kit to every middle and high school in the country.

Please consider voting for us at

It's a vote for GLSEN and a vote for respect and hope and acceptance.

January 15, 2010

>Voting has begun in Chase Community Giving on Facebook. GLSEN is among the 100 finalists vying for $1 million.

Vote, vote, vote. (You may have to refresh a few times to get it to work)

And please vote for our partners:

Matthew Shepard Foundation
The Trevor Project

You can also help by tweeting and #voteGLSEN

January 14, 2010

>Cross posted at

We're only a few hours away from the start of voting (Friday, Jan. 15-Friday, Jan. 22) in Chase Community Giving, a campaign through Facebook to award $1 million to the charity with the most votes out of the 100 finalists. Five runners-up will receive $100,000.

We need your help to make sure our Big Idea for $1 million (to send a GLSEN Safe Space Kit to every middle and high school, public and private, in the country) is realized.

Because every LGBT student deserves a safe space in school, here's how you can help:

  • Tell Your Friends: Make sure you update your status to say you've voted. Tweet, message, call, text, email, yell at your friends to vote for GLSEN and our partners Matthew Shepard Foundation and The Trevor Project.
  • Join the Facebook "Vote for GLSEN" Event: A good way to show your support before voting even begins.
  • Post to other Facebook Pages, Groups, Users: Make sure your pages, groups and friends all know about the chance to vote for GLSEN and help send a Safe Space Kit to every middle school in America.
  • Comment on Blogs and Message Boards: Every mention helps.
  • Hashtag: Use #VoteGLSEN and #ChaseGiving in all of your tweets.
  • Change Twitter Website or Bio: Add to your Twitter accounts.
  • @Tweet Celebs: Ask celebrities and people with lots of followers to mention @GLSEN, @MSFerasehatenow and @TrevorProject
  • Share Your Thoughts: Comment on this blog post about why you are voting for GLSEN and any other ideas you have to help spread the word.