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May 10, 2017

Becca Mui headshot

I’m Becca Mui, the Education Manager at GLSEN. As a queer biracial Asian, I know the importance of Asian Pacific Islander Heritage (API) Month. My father is a Chinese-Malaysian who came to America for graduate school. He stayed after he met my mother, a second-generation Polish Roman Catholic. I grew up in a small town off of Cape Cod in Massachusetts that was predominantly white. As the “Mui’s,” we were the most Chinese family in town.

Living as a proud queer adult and working at a national LGBTQ education organization didn’t just happen for me. There were no role models for me in my family or in movies or TV showing happy, successful queer Asian adults.

Becca Mui holding a sign: "#MyAllies amplify Queer Asian voices!"

We don't often talk about the intersection of queer and Asian identities in the media, let alone in our classrooms. As educators and community organizers, we can help shape our students’ understandings, even of their own potential futures, by teaching about LGBTQ Asians throughout history, and promoting proud Asian role models in the LGBTQ community.

This API Month, consider using this GLSEN resource highlighting LGBTQ Asian heroes. It’s so important to include these types of stories that are all too often erased. I know that seeing these stories at school would have made a difference for me.

Here are four additional resources that might be helpful this month and beyond:

Becca Mui is the Education Manager at GLSEN.

May 03, 2017

Donald Trump is reportedly on the cusp of signing another discriminatory executive order. Under the guise of religious freedom, it's really nothing more than a #LicenseToDiscriminate – and we need you to tell him that directly, right now.

Previously leaked drafts would have allowed religious-based discrimination against LGBTQ people, women, and minorities. 

For LGBTQ students and educators in K-12 schools, this is what that could look like:

  • School counselors could refuse to provide life-saving services to queer youth. 
  • Principals could fire trans teachers because of who they are.
  • Schools could make it structurally impossible for students to start GSAs – often the only spaces where LGBTQ students find safety in school.

Trump is poised to sign this executive order tomorrow. Together, with our partners, we are calling on you to tell Trump in no uncertain terms: Your #LicenseToDiscriminate hurts students.

Screenshot of sample tweet to President Trump

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Looking for more ways to stop this? Click on these share buttons, too, to send tweets that also show how this executive order could allow discrimination in schools – and why we stand so firmly in opposition.
 
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May 01, 2017

Photo of Alyssa Candelmo next to two supportive educators

High school is tough. Students like me are expected to juggle a social life and college readiness exams, while also completing various classes geared towards “creating effective leaders, ”and keep on smiling through it all. The luckiest of us have an intricate web of sideline cheerleaders, from great friends to caring family members and sympathetic teachers.

Some of us only get one of the three. Those of us who cling on to a special teacher, because we may be lacking in these other areas of support, know about the unique bond you can have with this particular cheerleader. Having your go-to person within walking distance while you trudge through the battleground of high school is empowering.

Patrick Diemert was my cheerleader. To this day we still talk, and I consult him on any major decision in my life. He’s talked me off the ledge more times than I can count and pushed me towards fulfilling my biggest aspirations. We developed our bond over a year of U.S. History where I continually excelled under his supervision. I say supervision, because he wasn’t one of those overbearing teachers who felt they truly knew everything. He was this easy to talk to, approachable dude who helped me through some tough battles.

I had just come out as a lesbian the year before, so my sexuality was still a buzzing topic for many of my classmates. I wanted to die when a former girlfriend of mine was in that class. I cried and complained to him more times than I bet he wished to hear, but my favorite thing about coming to him was that he didn’t pity me. He didn’t pat my back and tell me everything would be fine. He was straight up with me; he talked to me like I was his equal, and these types of straightforward, respectful interactions really shaped me as a person. Now, my biggest fear is losing this intense bond I’ve created with this incredibly empowering man.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Patrick’s younger brother, Nick Diemert, a brand-spanking new teacher at Gulf Coast High School who teaches the same class as his brother. He’s my go-to when I need a laugh. Though Patrick also has a direct line to my funny bone, Nick is like a 17-year-old trapped in a 27-year-old body.

Teachers like these two inspiring adults are what push students to excel, and they deserve special attention during Teacher Appreciation Week.

Alyssa Candelmo is a former student representative of GLSEN Collier County. 

Is there a supportive educator in your or your child’s life? Teacher Appreciation Week is May 8-12, and you can express your thanks by purchasing this bouquet – now 20% off with the code TEACH20. 10% of sales benefit GLSEN’s work to make schools LGBTQ-inclusive.

Photo of 3 youth holding up LGBTQ Pride flag, promoting Teacher Appreciation Week

May 01, 2017

Headshot of Ev Norsworthy of GLSEN Southern Maine

I’ve been incredibly lucky in high school. I’ve been punched in the eye, tripped into lockers, and told that because I was gay, I should kill myself. Most would hear my story and instantly disagree that I’ve been lucky.

It’s true that I have been both verbally and physically assaulted over the last four years, but I am incredibly lucky for two reasons. One, because I survived. Two, because of the people who supported me during those traumatic times.

I had many wonderful teachers who helped save my life and make our school more accepting for students like me. They did this by making simple, kind statements that validated my identity, by asking time and time again about pronouns to ensure they were “doing it right,” by creating classes with inclusive curricula, and of course by offering to listen to all of the teenage angst that comes with high school.

A few caring teachers stand out, and one of those supportive people is my amazing and kind-hearted Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) advisor.

I had just come out as genderqueer and made it through the first long period of time where I hadn’t been physically attacked due to my queer identity. When I decided I wanted to wear a suit to my prom, I was terrified what may happen. A teacher who I had only seen passing in halls came over to the table where I was sitting during the dance and made a kind comment about my suit. That one comment may seem incredibly insignificant to other people, but it was incredibly important to me because it gave me an instant ally in the room.

Even if I didn’t know this teacher personally, I knew that there was someone in the room who wasn’t judging my choice in prom attire and someone who could be a friendly face if I started to panic. I made it through my prom night, incredibly thankful for those short, kind words that made the anxiety surrounding the night bearable, and I still remember that kind gesture over a year later. 

A few months later, after summer break, I came back to school to find that the three supportive adults who were GSA advisors the year before had all left the school district. It was an instant sinking feeling in my stomach. Would this be the end of my short-lived safe feeling?

It wasn’t that I couldn’t find supportive teachers. By the time senior year had come around, I had a list of the people I knew were safe and caring people. The problem was that many teachers have no free time, no matter how much they cared for the cause, and they were unable to help the GSA. But our new GSA advisor took us in, no questions asked.  

Every meeting, I would have an agenda prepared, and I would constantly end the meetings stressed that we hadn’t completed enough or that our goals would never be achievable. More than once, our GSA advisor would take an extra moment from her afternoon, after all the other club members had left, and she promised me, “It was going to be okay.” While providing us with much needed guidance at times, she was always amazingly honest with us when she wasn’t sure of a certain term, and I was always so honored that she was okay with learning from her students at times. She was always the first to correct herself and apologize when messing up my pronouns. And I’m not positive, but I have a feeling she was one of the people who helped some of my other teachers begin to catch on to “they” pronouns.

She provided not only me, but a dozen other students the idea that we had a safe room to go to at the end of a Monday afternoon, somewhere we could simply be whoever we needed to be, somewhere we knew we wouldn’t be able to escape without one good laugh. Even if our jokes are terrible, her laugh is infectious.

When explaining who our club advisor was, more than once, I got the instant response, “Oh, I love her! She’s so nice to everyone!” She is not only a great teacher who makes her LGBTQ students feel safe, but she is also loved and respected by most students in our school. Even if it’s through the smallest interactions, she is an amazing ally.

High school is never easy, and sometimes we get lucky to have one or two “life-altering” conversations that inspire us to get our lives on track, save us, or even just help us make sense of who we are. Those teachers who have those conversations still don’t get the recognition they deserve. However, I feel that at times the real under-sung heroes are those like my GSA advisor who act in “small” ways.

I was lucky enough to find multiple amazing teachers and even have a few “life-altering” and, at times, “life-saving” conversations, but one of the things I really appreciate is having someone who is so incredibly considerate, compassionate, and inspiring to continuously give me encouragement and hope along the way, to keep me from needing another one of those life-saving conversations.

Even the most basic, kind words can make a huge difference in someone’s life, and because of my teacher’s kind words starting at prom and continuing to this very day, I am inspired to try and be as impactful, helpful, and kind-hearted as she is.

Ev Norsworthy is a student with GLSEN Southern Maine.

Is there a supportive educator in your or your child’s life? Teacher Appreciation Week is May 8-12, and you can express your thanks by purchasing this bouquet – now 20% off with the code TEACH20. 10% of sales benefit GLSEN’s work to make schools LGBTQ-inclusive, including by providing educators like Ev’s GSA advisor the resources they need.

Photo of 3 youth holding up LGBTQ Pride flag, promoting Teacher Appreciation Week

May 01, 2017

Student Voice, Artistic Expression, and Art as Activism

At the start of the year, students from kindergarten through high school shared their experiences and called attention to bullying and name-calling through creative expressions. From poems to posters to promises, students across the country called on their communities to put kindness into action. Check out some of this year's submissions.

1.

Image of We All Go To The Same School poster
Freehold TWP High School, Freehold, NY

2.

Image of Our Words Can't Hurt Us poster
Freehold TWP High School, Freehold, NY

3.

Untitled 
School is very hard
but it could be much better
let's be bully free
School Without Name-Calling

Freehold TWP High School, Freehold, NY 

4.

 
School Without Name-Calling Haiku
No harsh words are said
And no student feels upset
All would be blissful 

Freehold TWP High School, Freehold, NY

5. 

Image of A School Without Name-Calling poster
Freehold TWP High School, Freehold, NY

6.  

Image of No-Naming Calling Week bulletin board.
Grace Church School, K-12, New York, NY

7. 

 Image of Love Everyone poster
Waupaca High School, Waupaca, WI

"I drew a picture of two interlocking hands. I am trying to raise awareness, but in a small town with little diversity it is difficult. Last year I tried to get people to do the Day of Silence, as well as No Name-Calling Week, but my efforts ultimately proved unsuccessful. I will continue working until my school finally reaches higher acceptance levels."

8. 

Image of Little Slips Drawing

Southeast High School, Wichita, KS

9.

Image of No-Naming Calling Week poster Wall

Image of poster "I Don't Say That's So Gay."Image of 'I Don't Say Rape' Poster

Image of I Don't Say Retarded poserImage of I Don't Say Triggered poster
Elkhorn High School, Elkhorn, NE

"No Name-Calling Week did not go quite as we had planned...it simply shows that there is always more work to be done. We hung the posters Thursday morning and within a half hour, several posters had been torn down and several more defaced with anti-Semitic and homophobic symbols or offensive epithets. Another poster, regarding sexual assault, was also desecrated. Those students were however reprimanded and, in looking through the security cameras to discover the vandalists, administration commented on the number of people who stopped in their tracks to read our posters. At the very least, we have created an active dialogue, made people think more about what they say and the implications it can have, and shown that there's still more work to be done in regards to our mission of driving out hate."

10. 

The Key To This World
Guard Well Within You
That Gold. That Secret
Keep it Safe. Keep it Secure
And don’t forget
That this Gold. This Secret
Is the Key
To Spreading Hope
Spreading Laughter
Spreading Joy
Spreading dreams
Spreading Love
And…
Most Importantly
Spreading Kindness
All Around the World

Mt. Olive Middle School, Budd Lake, NJ

11.  

The Bully
I ran through the hall,
To her locker.
I couldn't believe her.
I was so jealous.
I opened my locker.
But she slammed it shut.
Then it happened,
She said it.
"Petty Princess"
You think you're so great,
You use your family's money to your advantage
You only think of yourself.
It wasn't true,
but the more I thought about it,
The more I thought it was true.
I didn't care about anyone else
And I probably never would.
She looked mad,
Then upset.
I decided to stop,
besides I was just joking.
I ran
I ran home.
I opened the kitchen drawer,
And did the unthinkable

Mt. Olive Middle School, Budd Lake, NJ

12. 

Interpretation
Kindness can be mistaken for
Sarcasm
Knowledge can be mistaken for
Showing off
Friendliness can be mistaken for
Manipulation
Honesty can be mistaken for
Deceitfulness
Hatred cannot be mistaken for anything
Except Hatred

Mt. Olive Middle School, Budd Lake, NJ

13. 

I’m Sorry
I’m sorry
It wasn’t meant to be done,
Sorry is a word that should not be said freely to someone
It might be regretted,
You never know when the guilt may creep up on you to collect the price that must be
paid,
I’m sorry  
Hackettstown, NJ  

14.  

Bullying
Boys and girls teasing others
Unusual and unnecessary behaiors toward different people
Laughing at others faces
Lying and making rumors
Yelling for unknown reasons/ making a scene
Inappropriate acts embarrassing others
Nonsense unable to be tolerated
Gasps and cries being expressed by the victim
Mount Olive Middle School, Walsh, NJ

15.

You, Not Them
It's not about them
It's about you
The you that makes them smile
The you that's always to the rescue
Don't make them influence
You know you best
Don't have them run the show
When you're already set
When they try to look cool
They try to hurt you
But when they try to hurt you
Who is really the fool?
The dumpster may be far
But don't make that be it
Don't make them burden you
Just take a longshot, and that will be it.
Mount Olive Middle School, Walsh, NJ 

16. 

Was it Just a Joke?
The words we say
Won't fly away
But will hurt
We may not be alert
But inside
Victims cried
You may think it's funny
But tears are runny
Was it just a joke
Because you broke
Someone's heart
Because you weren't smart
Mount Olive Middle School, Walsh, NJ 

17. 

Photo of student Will Frederick
Madison High School, Vienna, VA

"With the use of headphones replacing the tape boxers normally use to protect themselves, it shows how technology can empower people to spread kindness and empower others. Those who I presented my Photo Diary thought that the photo was very thought-provoking and the photo gave the topic a very literal perspective."

18.

Image of Sarah L and Pleshette L.
SS Seward Institute, Florida, NY

"These students went to a number of different classrooms in the middle school and high school and took pictures of what kindness and "No Name-Calling Week" means to them."

19.

Image of Desaree Vaughn
Inst Of Tech Medford Camp High School, Medford, NJ 

"Our submission is a spoken word performance dedicated to Kirk Andrew Murphy (a person whose life was cut short due to conversion therapy). We performed it in front of our entire school. We made students and teachers aware of some of the current issues LGBTQIA+ youth face every day."

20.

 Image of No-Name Calling Week Posters 
Washington, DC

"Students were encouraged to submit a poster spreading kindness for the chance to win cupcakes and a dodge-ball party with their friends in the gym. The GSA students then voted on their favorite entry at one of their meetings.The contest provided a conversation starter for No Name Calling week in classrooms and also among students in the halls. The fliers advertising the poster contest around school actually raised awareness towards the GSA sparking a lot of questions, especially from 5th and 6th graders as to what the club is. The club also had several first time attendees at the meeting following the poster contest. The posters themselves are now sparking conversations from students looking at them on display in the hallways now. Additionally, we announced the event and our winner in our weekly school newsletter, spreading awareness of No Name Calling week home to parents."

Looking for ways to spread kindness in your school?

April 29, 2017

April 29, 2017, marks the 100th day of the Trump administration — and the culmination of GLSEN's 100 Days of Kindness, our campaign to share messages of support to LGBTQ students and build a virtual wall of kindness from those messages.

Although 100 days have passed, the need for sharing support for LGBTQ students is as urgent as ever. Keep sharing these messages at glsen.org/100days and make our wall even bigger.

Here's a look back at these 100 days: what Trump, his administration, and others did, and what you and our supporters said through bricks in our wall of kindness.

100 Days of Kindness timeline

Transcription:

They spoke, and you responded. Together, we've reached millions of students with your messages of kindness. As we near the end of this administration's first 100 days in office, add another message of kindness today at glsen.org/100days.

Day 1:
What they did: Presidential Inauguration.

Day 18:
What they did: After refusing to protect the civil rights of LGBTQ students, Betsy DeVos is confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Education.
What you said: "What do we accomplish by making people feel unaccepted, marginalized and unworthy?"

Day 34:
What they did: A public-school teacher in Boise, ID, finds her classroom's Safe Space poster vandalized.
What you said: "We all have a struggle. Mine was mine and yours is yours. I am with you to help make it a bit more bearable." 

Day 46:
What they did: The U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear the case of trans student Gavin Grimm.
What you said: "To the trans kids who can't go to the bathroom without having an anxiety attack, I love you."

Day 47:
What they did: Yet another anti-trans student bathroom bill moves forward in Tennessee.
What you said: "As a kid who often like they were born in the wrong body, I fully support and stand by anyone who is being affected."

Day 53:
What they did: Texas lawmakers vote 21-10 to limit transgender people's access to bathrooms & school facilities.
What you said: "Things have changed since 'LEZ' was scratched into my locker in '83, but not enough."

Because of you, millions of students have seen your messages of support! 
Achieved: 100 million impressions! 

April 20, 2017

Headshot of the author, Drew Adams of GLSEN's National Student Council
Photo by Wunmi Onibudo

GLSEN’s Day of Silence is April 21! On that day, participants go silent to bring awareness to LGBTQ bullying and harassment in schools. It’s awesome, but obviously not everyone can participate. Some people want to go silent, but they HAVE to speak (for work, school, or other endeavors). And others can’t participate because they don’t want to get in trouble with unsupportive family or peers. Even if you can’t be silent on the Day of Silence, there are ways you can help support this movement!

1. Respect those who ARE silent on April 21.

Not speaking for an entire day is a lot harder than it sounds! If you know people who are trying to be silent that day, do your best to help. Tell them you think they’re awesome! Don’t ask them questions or put them in a position where they feel like they need to talk. A little respect goes a long way toward encouraging people to keep at it and not give up. When you tell someone how much you appreciate their silence, they might just make it through the whole day.

2. Stand up for the silent if others challenge or bully them.

There might be people at your school or in your community who don’t understand or respect those who are trying to be silent on Day of Silence. Some might tease them, try to force them to talk, or otherwise hassle them for what they’re doing. If you see any of that going down, step in and say something. Explain what Day of Silence is and how staying quiet is a way to speak for the voiceless LGBTQ students who get bullied. Point out that someone being silent isn’t hurting anybody. Make sure the silent person knows that they’re not alone and that someone supports them. If a bully is being particularly threatening or you don’t feel safe in the situation, get an authority figure (teacher, principal, etc.) for help. Bullying should never be tolerated for any reason.

3. Spread the word about Day of Silence!

Even if you can’t be silent, you can use your voice to spread the word! Start by signing up at glsen.org/dayofsilence to show your support. Tell your classmates, friends, teachers and anyone you can think of about Day of Silence and how to participate. Encourage those who might be a little hesitant to take part in the movement by signing up themselves! Every person who participates in Day of Silence is one more voice for justice for LGBTQ youth in schools. Be the change, in any way you can!

Drew Adams is a member of GLSEN's National Student Council.

April 18, 2017

Photo of 3 youth holding up fingers to indicate silence

Day of Silence is April 21! Here are 9 ways educators can get involved in the largest, student-led action against anti-LGBTQ bullying in schools.

1.

Use the new Educator Guide for the Day of Silence for lesson ideas before, during, and after the Day of Silence.

2.

Pause your teaching to join GLSEN for the national moment of silence and solidarity for 3 minutes at 3pm ET/2 pm CT/1pm PT.

3.

Structure your lessons with silent writing: Send a letter to your governor in support of LGBTQ students with GLSEN. 

4.

On April 21, tell your LGBTQ students to go to glsen.org/survey so they can share their school experiences for GLSEN's National School Climate Survey.

5.

Set up a Day of Silence table in your school lobby or hallway, and invite students to give away Day of Silence stickers, buttons, and info cards.

6.

Organize a Breaking the Silence assembly, rally, or open mic. Breaking the Silence is an important action on the Day of Silence. Prepare with your students beforehand how they want to take action and advocate for LGBTQ people at their school.

7.

Encourage your students to download the selfie sign, answer, “How are you ending the silence?” and tweet answers @ the Department of Education.

8.

Structure a letter-writing lesson where students write to their administrators, supervisors, or other school leaders to urge them to create policies that protect LGBTQ students.

9.

Preview and then host a screening of one of the films from the Youth and Gender Media Project, which is offering free streaming to Day of Silence registrants.

Looking for ways for students and GSAs to get involved? Check out our full guide, created in partnership with the National Education Association.

Are you participating in Day of Silence? Make sure to register!

Photo of three youth promoting Day of Silence registration

April 11, 2017

GLSEN's Day of Silence is April 21! It's the largest student-led national event in protest of anti-LGBTQ bullying in schools. Students take a vow of silence in an effort to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBTQ behavior by illustrating the silencing effect of bullying and harassment on LGBTQ students and those perceived to be LGBTQ.

Often, at the end of the day, participants "break the silence" with a rally, open mic, or other event where they plan how they'll work to address anti-LGBTQ bullying at school (Here's a guide with ideas!).

Student leaders from GLSEN's National Student Council created this playlist that you can use when you break the silence and commit to making your school LGBTQ-inclusive.

This piece appeared in the Day of Silence zine.

Are you participating in Day of Silence? Make sure to register!

Photo of three youth promoting Day of Silence registration

April 11, 2017

Illustrating of hands writing, organizing, and multi-tasking

As active members of your communities, you carry an immense amount of power. Through organizing, mobilizing, and speaking up for what you believe is right, you can advocate for LGBTQ-inclusive policies and the wellbeing of all students at your school. Remember, school administrators, school board members, and elected officials don’t know what it’s like to be a student, and they may not understand the changes they need to make for safer schools. But by sharing your stories and outlining specific changes, we can get their attention and encourage them to act. 

Here are 12 tips for meeting with decison-makers, like school administrators, district superintendents, and state legislators. For more information, check out this quick guide.

Prepare

  • Make an appointment: Decision-makers are often very busy and will most likely not have the time to meet with you on short notice. Scheduling a meeting in advance will help their staff prepare and ensure a more productive meeting.
  • Plan ahead: Have a clear idea of what your goals are for the meeting, what you are going to say, and who you will be meeting with. It is best to work out the logistics of who will be taking notes and who will do the talking beforehand. Practice your story and what you’re asking for. Planning ahead is the best way to ensure that you are able to make the most out of your meeting.
  • Authentic vs. professional clothes: They don’t always have to be at odds with each other. Wear the clothes that make you feel confident and powerful. You deserve respect, no matter what you’re wearing. However, don’t let your outfit overshadow your goals or message.
  • Be early: Plan to arrive at least 10 minutes before the meeting in order to avoid being late. Sometimes finding the office of decision-makers can be complicated if you have never been there before. Being early allows you extra time to calm your nerves before getting into your meeting.

Make it happen

  • Be flexible, and don’t be surprised if you meet with a staff member instead of the decision-maker. Often staffers are more knowledgeable on specific issue areas than the decision-maker and are better suited to meet you. They will inform the decision-maker of your views and requests after your meeting.
  • Keep your materials organized and on hand. Staff members and decision-makers meet with hundreds of people every week and deal with many different issues. Short handouts that explain the issues that you are discussing can be very helpful to the decision-maker to reflect on your meeting after you leave. They are also helpful resources for staff to follow up with your “ask” and issues.
  • Introduce yourself to the decision-maker and/or the staff members. Tell them a little bit about yourself and your background. Provide a personal narrative in order to make your message more engaging and memorable. Think about your narrative not as a full biography, but as a short story that illustrates a problem that needs to be solved. Your full introduction and ask should take about 3-5 minutes.
  • Make an “ask.” Ask them to do something real and measurable that solves a problem — and that you can hold them accountable for later. Clearly state your position on the issue you came to discuss, and describe how the ask will advance that position.
  • Be ready to answer questions and provide details on the issues that you are discussing. Knowing your issues inside and out gives you credibility and makes it a lot harder for you to be ignored. If you don’t know the answer, tell them that — but offer to follow up with an answer.
  • Take notes on what happened during the meeting, the decision-maker’s position on the issue, and what you were able to accomplish through the meeting.
  • If the decision-maker disagrees with you, stand up for yourself, but do not become overly argumentative. Try to share the issue from your personal perspective, emphasize the positives of your position, and keep the conversation on a constructive note.
  • Send a follow-up letter or email thanking your legislator and/or staff members. Include any information that you might have in support of your issue and your specific ask. The follow-up message is important because it confirms your dedication to your cause and helps build a valuable relationship between you and your decision-maker. It is also great to follow up on any details that were left unanswered during your meeting; this is one of the ways to keep your decision-maker accountable.

Keep in touch! Let GLSEN know about your community organizing by reaching out to students@glsen.org.

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