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July 09, 2009

>After testifying at the July 8th hearings, Sirdeaner Walker met with key sponsors and cosponsors of the Safe Schools Improvement Act and members of the U.S. Department of Education.

Sirdeaner Walker; Russlyn Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Department of Education; Eliza Byard, GLSEN Executive Director.

Rep. Linda T. Sanchez (D-CA); Eliza Byard, GLSEN Executive Director; Eric Masten, GLSEN Public Policy Associate; Sirdeaner Walker; Congressman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) who represents Sirdeaner's home district in Springfield, Mass.

Sirdeaner Walker; Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Chair of the Healthy Families and Communities Subcommittee; Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI), Chair of the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcomittee; and witnesses Cassady Tetsworth, Dr. Scott Poland and Kenneth Trump

July 08, 2009



Show your support for the Safe Schools Improvement Act by signing an online petition HERE.

July 08, 2009

>This morning Sirdeaner Walker was on Capital Hill testifying about bullying and in support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act. Here are two photos:

Sirdeaner Walker prepares before her testimony.

Sirdeaner Walker and Eliza Byard, GLSEN Executive Director.

We expect to have video later in the day.

July 08, 2009

>Sirdeaner Walker, mother of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, testified before two congressional subcommittees this morning in Washington D.C..

"I did everything that a parent is supposed to: I chose a "good" school; I joined the PTO; I went to every parent-teacher conference; I called the school regularly and brought the bullying problem to the staff's attention. And the school did not act. The teachers did not know how to respond."

"After Carl died, I could have stayed at home and mourned him, but instead, I've chosen to get involved, to speak out about school bullying - and I have learned a lot in a short time.

And the most important thing I've learned is that bullying is not an inevitable part of growing up. It can be prevented. And there isn't a moment to lose. "

Read Sirdeaner's full testimony here.

July 03, 2009

>As shocking as it is that the anti-gay industry would make stuff up or take things out of context to smear GLSEN Founder Kevin Jennings, deception is the basis for its campaign to derail Kevin's appointment as Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education for the Department’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.

Think Progress has a great post debunking attack after attack on Kevin. Think Progress even went so far to actually speak to education leaders who have worked with Kevin. As proud as we are of all that Kevin has accomplished in his more than 20 years as an educator and advocate for students, don't take our word for it. From Think Progress:

ThinkProgress spoke with Molly Spearman, executive director of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators. Spearman first heard Jennings speak at the 2007 convention of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). Spearman said that she was so impressed with Jennings, she decided to invite him to speak at her organization’s October 2007 summit on bullying:

"I was a little nervous, being in South Carolina, a very conservative state. But once again, he handled it extremely professionally. He did a agnificent job, and it was a huge success. We had a waiting list of people who wanted to come. … We had several hundred people there. … He was very very well-received — absolutely rave views. And that was in conservative South Carolina. So he handled what could have been a very sensitive topic in a very professional way that was accepted by everyone."

Good As You, a fantastic LGBT-themed blog, also had a great post earlier this week debunking the slander.

As you may expect, the anti-gay industry has called on its minions to call, write and email Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to use these falsehoods to try to get Kevin fired. Help us respond by showing Duncan how many support exists for appointments like Kevin's that will actually make schools safer and better. Sign our petition of support.

July 02, 2009

>Talking Points Memo, one of the most-read online news sources, has a story up about the anti-gay smear campaign against GLSEN Founder Kevin Jennings, who was appointed to Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education for the Department’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.

GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard's quote says it all:

"Up until today, I had been simply saying this is the same old stuff we've been dealing with for years, and we here at GLSEN have become very practiced at ignoring this kind of effort to slander us," said Byard, "And so we really hadn't taken action before this time. And it got to a point where there was so much energy online and in our own constituency to say we can't let this stand."

Sign the petition to support Kevin Jennings here.

July 02, 2009

>A message from GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard:

Kevin Jennings, GLSEN's Founder and former Executive Director, begins his post at the Department of Education next week. The anti-gay industry is trying to discredit Kevin's remarkable record of achievement in order to thwart crucial progress on school safety. Don't let them!

Please raise your voice in support and share this action with others.

Thank you very much!

Best regards,

Eliza Byard, PhD
Executive Director

July 01, 2009

>As we've mentioned in previous posts (here and here), President Obama told GLSEN student leader Conrad Honicker that Conrad's shoes were the "coolest shoes to ever set foot in the White House" when Conrad and his parents got a chance to meet with Obama and Michelle Obama before Monday's LGBT Pride reception at the White House.


Behold, Conrad's shoes:


June 30, 2009

>GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard on attending Monday's LGBT Pride reception at the White House, before which GLSEN student leader Conrad Honicker and his parents got to meet President Obama and the First Lady ptivately:

The reception was clearly a watershed event, even as there remains so much to be done to advance full equality for LGBT people and safer schools for all. But there was something even more remarkable about the day, above and beyond the event itself. Yesterday, GLSEN student organizer Conrad Honicker and his family had an opportunity to meet privately with the President and Mrs. Obama for a few moments before the President entered to make his remarks.

Along with a small group of other organizations’ constituents (a PFLAG mother and her son, a pair of gay dads and their children with the Family Equality Council, and an older lesbian couple who are members of SAGE), Conrad and his parents were taken aside to meet with the President and Mrs. Obama. They had a few moments to tell their stories and ask for the President and First Lady’s help in making schools safer for all students affected by anti-LGBT bias and harassment in school. And, as Conrad told me afterwards, shaking slightly with excitement as he spoke, the President told Conrad that his pointy silver wingtips were, without a doubt, “The coolest shoes that have ever set foot in the White House.”

Shoes and all, Conrad and his parents were tremendous advocates for GLSEN. Over the course of the reception, they and I spoke with other key Administration representatives, including David Axelrod, Senior Advisor to the President, and various members of the Office of Public Engagement. I got to speak with Mrs. Obama immediately after the President’s remarks, to reinforce the ask that Conrad had made, and mention the Safe Schools Improvement Act once again.

June 30, 2009

>GLSEN student leader Conrad Honicker and his parents had an opportunity to speak with President Obama and the First Lady directly before Monday's LGBT Pride event at the White House.

Conrad blogged about his experience and was nice enough to vlog about it in the GLSEN office today.

Excerpts from his blog:

After lunch we casually walked to the White House with a group called [Senior Action] in a Gay Environment (SAGE), and met up with the rest of the reception outside the gates by the East Room. There we mingled in the heat with rich gay people and prominent gay rights activist. Notably, I was introduced to Gene Robinson - one my dearest heros. He was fabulous!

When in the White House we mingled some more before being ushered into the "Green Room" (which is green), and lined up to meet the President. At this point I was forcing myself to breathe; "I'm on a mission!" I kept thinking to myself. On entry into the room, I heard Obama's poignant and comforting voice greet me. His handshake was firm. Instantly, "Hello Mr. President! Thank you for being a visible ally for teens like me." No real response, and then:

"Those are THE coolest shoes that have ever been in the White House!"

No time to think about compliments from the President. He wasn't listening so I moved to Michelle who I feel I might have fallen into her embrace (which makes sense because this was called a "clutch"). I told her how important it was for her and her husband to stand up and be allies, and she commented that it was far more important that I keep doing the work I was doing, and I said, "Yes, but it makes the difference it you were visible!"

Snap. Picture taken. My clarion call to action was over in less than 45 seconds. My parents and I delivered our message and huddled outside the room giggling like children.


Finally, Michelle and Barack were off - no more mingling for them. I smiled and waves and mouthed, "Thank you!" to Michelle, and without missing a beat, she opened her arms for a hug, and beckoned me to her; I swiftly fell into her arms, and whispered one last time, "Thank you for being an ally - it means the world to me!"

Conrad's vlog: