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January 26, 2017

photo of author Madison MiszewskiPhoto by Wunmi Onibudo

The first Presidential election I can remember was in 2008. The day President Obama was elected, I was nine years old, and I remember watching him speak on TV that evening. Amidst patriotic balloons and feverish shouts, Barack Obama spoke to the hearts of a nation. For African Americans and everyone who advocated for civil rights, this moment had been a lifetime coming. Finally, real representation in our country’s highest office. And as a little kid, I didn’t really get the significance of it all, but now I definitely feel the impact of his election.

He told us, “Yes, we could!” and yes, we did. Looking over the past eight years, we can see that we’ve accomplished so much, especially in the realm of creating inclusive schools for LGBTQ students. On GLSEN’s Day of Silence in 2012, he endorsed the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Nondiscrimination Act  two pieces of legislation that are critical to making schools safe and affirming for all. His Administration also opened its doors to GLSEN leaders (again just last week!), and he even brought LGBTQ student issues to international discussions

I was nine when Barack Obama became our President, and I was thirteen when I came out as bisexual. As a young queer woman, I don’t know what life is like under a President who’s working to endanger my life. My memories are painted with rainbows gracing White House walls, and with the words of the President who put them there.

I am now seventeen, and the fear I felt when the new President was elected was a foreign feeling. And as someone who is white and middle-class and who benefits from that privilege, I’m sure that not having to fear my government was a luxury. LGBTQ youth of color experience higher rates of policing and criminalization, so maybe their feeling was an old fear returning.

But what I know for sure is that on that day, I lost count of the crying queer kids I held between class periods. All of us held one another. Meanwhile, conservatives and liberals, both fellow students and adults, called us oversensitive. But what they forgot that day is that we only know kindness. We don’t know an Administration whose campaign only waved a Pride flag once at a rally. I was hoping we would never have to.

Last week was GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week, a week where thousands of students and educators put kindness in action across the country to make schools inclusive for all. We could all learn a thing or two about kindness, the new President included.

Now that Inauguration Day has passed, it is even more critical that we all reach out to one another with love and support  the type of kindness modeled by Obama that I already miss so much. That’s why I’m asking you to share a message of kindness to all LGBTQ youth on social media using #KindnessInAction. The first 100 days of the new Administration, even without Obama in office, should be 100 days of kindness, so that our new memories can be as great as some of our old.

Madison Miszewski is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.

graphic about GLSEN's 100 Days of Kindness

January 24, 2017

Photo of classroom activity with a tweet overlay

During GLSEN's No Name-Calling Week, members of GLSEN's National Student Council, together with other students, educators, and community advocates, took to Twitter to discuss how to put #KindnessInAction and end bullying and name-calling at school. Here's 34 pieces of their best advice.

What does #KindnessInAction look like to you? Share a message of support to LGBTQ students and help us build a wall of kindness.

What does #KindnessInAction mean to you?

 

How do you work together to make your school safe and accepting for everyone?

 

Why might it be difficult to put kindness in action in schools?

 

How do you know when to speak up when others are being bullied?

 

What does kindness in action look like in your school?

 

I feel most supported by my school when _____.

 

How have you encouraged kindness in action to create a safe classroom?

 

What are ways you can promote kindness in action in your school after NNCW?

 

Graphic of 100 Days of Kindness

January 19, 2017

GLSEN Hudson Valley Co-Chair Rob Conlon with community leadersLocal youth created a “Garden of Kindness” featuring paper flowers inscribed with acts of kindness

This week is GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week, a week where teachers and students across the country focus on ending name-calling and bullying in their schools. Over the last several years, GLSEN Hudson Valley has worked to implement No Name-Calling Week each year, and we’ve learned three key ways that schools can put kindness in action and make schools safer and more affirming for all.

1. Use GLSEN’s top-notch resources

At GLSEN Hudson Valley, we found that many educators, given the depth of resources for the program, just didn’t know where to start. In response, we developed an “Activities Menu” and asked educators to choose just one activity to implement. The approach has been a success. Since 2010, hundreds of schools in the Hudson Valley have participated in No Name-Calling Week, and schools are growing in the numbers of activities they choose, this year implementing four on average.

Most inspiring are those schools that tell us they keep up No Name-Calling Week posters all year long. After all, it should be No Name-Calling Year in every school, every year.

GLSEN Hudson Valley No Name-Calling Week Activities Menu

2. Take No Name-Calling Week outside the classroom

We shared the exciting work schools were doing for No Name-Calling Week with a coalition of organizations concerned about school climate and safety. Members overwhelmingly agreed that we needed to reinforce the tenets of the week outside of school walls. With support from the coalition, GLSEN Hudson Valley began promoting No Name-Calling Week activities to youth-serving organizations, faith communities, and community libraries.

One of these organizations was a local YWCA, which initially signed up to implement activities in their after-school program. At the start of the week, the adult employees agreed to toss a quarter in a jar any time they heard colleagues (or themselves) engage in name-calling or disrespectful behavior. At the end of the week, there was enough money in the jar to buy lunch for the whole staff. They told us it was a wake-up call to everyone. If they witnessed each other engaging in name-calling so often throughout the week, surely the youth they work with were seeing the same thing. It taught them the importance of not only teaching respect, but modeling respect as well.

3. Let students express kindness through art

GLSEN Hudson Valley also worked with community partners to hold a student creative expression contest. Schools were encouraged to engage students in creative expression activities for No Name-Calling Week. This year, for the third year in a row, student’s No Name-Calling Week art will be on display at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, N.Y. Students and educators can still submit to GLSEN’s national creative expression exhibit and share how they are creating a culture of respect for all in their schools.

Make sure to register for GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week, and you can use GLSEN’s resources at any time during the year. How will you put #KindnessInAction in your school?

Rob Conlon is Co-Chair of GLSEN Hudson Valley.

January 17, 2017

GLSEN's No Name-Calling Week

According to a recent GLSEN research report, From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited, A Survey of U.S. Secondary School Students and Teachers, the vast majority (74 percent) of middle and high school students experienced some form of victimization at school in the past year.

In general, the frequency of bullying and harassment has trended downward over the past decade, but students still experience victimization far too often. And, as uncertainty about our country’s future has many school communities concerned, the need to stop bullying in our nation’s schools is as important as ever.

Verbal harassment, including name-calling, tends to be the most pervasive form of peer victimization in secondary schools across the country. In 2015, half of middle and high school students were verbally harassed about their appearance/body size, one in three due to their race/ethnicity, and about one in five because of their gender expression or their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

Further, biased remarks are still pervasive in schools. For example, almost half of secondary students reported hearing sexist remarks and homophobic remarks often or very often in school, and one-third reported hearing racist remarks and negative remarks about one’s ability just as frequently.

Prevalence of biased remarks in school

Previous GLSEN research shows that name-calling and biased remarks are pervasive in elementary schools, too. Three-quarters (75 percent) of elementary school students reported that students at their school were called names, made fun of, or bullied with at least some regularity (i.e., all the time, often, or sometimes), and this was true for over half (56 percent) of students that did not conform to traditional gender norms. Half of teachers (48 percent) reported that they heard students make sexist remarks at least sometimes at their school and a quarter (26 percent) of students heard homophobic remarks this frequently. Additionally, one in four students (26 percent) and one in five teachers (21 percent) heard students say bad or mean things about people because of their race or ethnic background at least sometimes.

Do words have power? Name-calling and other types of biased language are often dismissed as being harmless, but we know that this is not the case.

And we know how to help. This week is GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week, a week when educators and students come together to challenge bullying and name-calling in our communities. For over a decade, educators have used GLSEN’s lesson plans, class activities and other resources in elementary, middle, and high schools across the country. Developed for No Name-Calling Week, but applicable at any time of the year, these resources are rooted in the message of respecting differences – a message that is perhaps more important now than ever.

Evaluation studies indicate that GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week and other similar initiatives can help stop name-calling in schools. For example, one report showed that the percentage of students who reported witnessing name-calling and bullying decreased after their school participated in No Name-Calling Week.

It’s not too late to participate this year or use NNCW resources throughout the year. You can register now for more information and use GLSEN resources to take action to end name-calling in our schools.

David Danischewski is the Research Assistant at GLSEN. 

January 17, 2017

#HowWillDevosScore

Tonight, the 23 members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will begin confirmation hearings for President-Elect Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. These Senators need to hear from us right now.

With her family’s history of supporting anti-LGBTQ organizations and “school choice” initiatives that drain funds from public education, it is unclear how DeVos will help improve school climate for all students. As Secretary of Education, she would have the power to set priorities for the Department of Education. She may support the Office for Civil Rights in protecting the rights of trans students, or she could roll back the protections we have fought for and won over the past decade.

It is urgent that we let these 23 Senators know that they must ask DeVos these questions:

  • Given her family’s recurring support for anti-LGBTQ organizations, how will she ensure that LGBTQ students are safe and affirmed in all schools?
  • What is her plan to further protect the civil rights of students, especially those who are most at-risk, including students of color, students with disabilities, LGBTQ students, and English-language-learners? How will she ensure their academic and personal success?
  • How will she work to improve school climate for all students?

Tweet these Senators to keep all students healthy, safe, and thriving: 

1. Senator Alexander

Tweet now 

2. Senator Enzi

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3. Senator Burr

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4. Senator Isakson

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5. Senator Paul 

Tweet now

6. Senator Collins

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7. Senator Cassidy

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8. Senator Young

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9. Senator Hatch

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10. Senator Roberts

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11. Senator Murkowski

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12. Senator Scott

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13. Senator Murray

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14. Senator Sanders

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15. Senator Casey

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16. Senator Franken

Tweet now

17. Senator Bennet 

Tweet now

18. Senator Whitehouse

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19. Senator Baldwin

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20. Senator Murphy

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21. Senator Warren

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22. Senator Kaine

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23. Senator Hassan

Tweet now

These tweets contain data from GLSEN's 2015 National School Climate Survey and state snapshots for the states these Senators represent. 

#HowWillDeVosScore

December 24, 2016

Right after the election, school climates across the country took a turn for the worse, as there was a sharp uptick in the use of derogatory language and incidents of harassment, according to a recent survey of educators conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

In Collier County, Fla., at our GLSEN Chapter meeting the week after the election, students described some of these incidents. Hispanic and Latino students were told to pack their bags and leave the country. Hate speech was commonplace. And some teachers reported that school administrators told them not to discuss the results of the election and to move forward as if it were any normal day.

In response to the rise in incidents of bias and violence like those we heard at our meeting, GLSEN partnered with a number of national education organizations, including the National Parent Teacher Association and the National School Boards Association, to announce a call to action affirming the right of all students to attend safe schools. The call to action asked education leaders to have a conversation within their school communities about the values of respect and inclusion, and post these values throughout their schools.

These organizations issued a national call to action for safe schools

These leading national education organizations issued the call to action.

GLSEN Collier decided that we needed to meet with leaders in the school district as soon as possible. Days after our meeting, I met with the Assistant Superintendent, the Director of Elementary Guidance, the Director of Secondary Guidance, the Director of Psychologists and the Director of Secondary Education – people in positions to lead a conversation about the values of Collier County schools.

After sharing some of the findings from the recent SPLC survey and the stories of local students and teachers, I shared copies of the call to action. Without being defensive, the administrators said they knew of some incidents of violence and were working on solutions. It was obvious that they shared our interest in ensuring that all students are safe and respected and free from fear and violence at school.

The group made clear that they would be taking steps to move this conversation forward. And they wanted to do even more. One of the administrators said proudly that every school employee participates in a 30-minute anti-bullying workshop at the beginning of the school year. I told them that most teachers still don’t receive training on LGBTQ issues, even though most do learn about bullying and diversity, according to GLSEN research. Now, more teachers in Collier County will be trained on LGBTQ issues – a necessary step toward making our schools more inclusive, especially in the wake of the election and the violence that followed.

Teachers lack training on LGBTQ issues

As the Presidential inauguration quickly approaches, it is more urgent than ever that school communities clarify that they will accept nothing less than respect and inclusion in their schools, which is critical for all students to thrive. Students who are most vulnerable to the violence plaguing U.S. schools need our support, and if those at the top won’t be there for them, we most certainly will. Will you?

Thomas Jordan is Co-Chair of GLSEN Collier County.

December 21, 2016

For over a decade, GLSEN’s No-Name Calling Week has been a time each January for educators to focus the discussions in their classrooms on bullying prevention and celebrating kindness. GLSEN has always supported these conversations by providing lesson plans and planning tools, and sharing ways to promote kindness in schools.

This year, No Name-Calling Week ends on the day of the U.S. Presidential Inauguration. No Name-Calling Week classroom discussions around bullying and name-calling in schools may be amplified by the national conversation following this particularly harsh campaign season. There has been a range of mixed emotions for students, and many schools have had to refocus on respect and what that looks like among people with opposing viewpoints. Nine out of 10 educators saw negative impacts on student mood and behavior following the election, according to a survey by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Given this context, in which LGBTQ, Muslim, students of color, immigrant and other marginalized students may be feeling unsafe, the lessons of No Name-Calling Week are more relevant than ever.

From January 16-20, teachers and other adults in schools should be prepared for young people to feel similarly to how they felt right after the election. Educators like you can make a difference for students by providing space for conversations around the power of words, teaching actively about what kindness looks like in the classroom, and intervening when students need to feel protected and safe.

Of course, educators always have a never-ending list of things to do, and January is all too-short of a month after winter break. Only you know what discussions, activities and lessons will be right for your students, but we are here to help. We have resources, tools and lesson plans that address name-calling and bullying, and tons of ideas for celebrating kindness and discussing the power of words.

Register for GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week to receive more information and free classroom materials. Then, visit the No Name-Calling Week Facebook Page to connect with the thousands of educators across the country committed to putting kindness into action.

Together, we can ensure that all students feel safe in their school communities and know that their educators will be there for them when they need support most.

December 16, 2016

As 2016 comes to a close, we at GLSEN are thinking about the incredible progress we've made over the years to make schools safer and more inclusive of all students. And as we approach a transition in federal leadership, we know that this progress is at stake. 

Right now is a time to recognize the impact of positive school climates on students and teachers: Environments where diversity is celebrated and respect is valued can change lives for the better. It's also a time to remember that we cannot stop fighting for these safe and affirming learning environments for all students, including LGBTQ and other at-risk students.

Here are just ten stories that show this positive impact and remind us to keep fighting in 2017 and for many years to come. Help GLSEN keep fighting with a donation today.

Do you have a school story you want to tell? Share your story with GLSEN, and help us improve schools for all. 

1. Alex

Alex - #MySchoolStory

2. Elizabeth

Elizabeth - #MySchoolStory

3. Emet

Emet - #MySchoolStory

4. Kiana

Kiana - #MySchoolStory

5. Morgan

Morgan - #MySchoolStory

6. Oliver

Oliver - #MySchoolStory

7. Skylar

Skylar - #MySchoolStory

8. Spencer

Spencer - #MySchoolStory

9. Sydney

Spencer - #MySchoolStory

10. Todd

Todd - #MySchoolStory

 

Please consider a gift to GLSEN to help us continue our work with students, educators, and community leaders across the country.

 

December 14, 2016

This is the season of giving. Give the gift of safe and inclusive schools when you shop to support LGBTQ youth! In this moment of uncertainty and change in federal leadership, giving has never been more urgent.

Every product in the GLSEN Shop advances the mission of safe and affirming schools for all students, and every purchase funds GLSEN’s efforts to improve schools for LGBTQ youth, so that all students receive an inclusive and supportive education. Here are four of the best GLSEN Shop products for the student, teacher, parent and advocate in your life.

 

1. Be Yourself Tee

No matter how you identify, you are valid! Our research shows that LGBTQ youth who are out in school have higher self-esteem. Show your pride in the Be Yourself! Tee.


 

2. Lanyard

Supportive educators make a difference for LGBTQ youth. Say “thank you” to your child’s teacher, your GSA advisor, or an ally you know with this jewel-toned ally lanyard.

 

3. Hoodie

We’ve been fighting for LGBTQ youth since 1990. You’ve been supporting your child their whole life. Now you can wear your commitment to equality for everyone to see with this hoodie in GLSEN gray.

 

 

4. Sweatshirt

This limited edition sweatshirt is the perfect gift for any advocate. Know your purchase goes toward equality for all students when you buy this exclusive item!

All gifts help improve schools for LGBTQ youth. Take 20% off your purchase with the discount code DECEMBER when you shop to support LGBTQ youth this holiday season!


 
December 14, 2016

Cover of GLSEN's National School Climate Survey

Today, GLSEN released the newest edition of our National School Climate Survey, at a time of tremendous uncertainty. This report documents continued progress in improving the lives of LGBTQ students across the United States, continued increases in the availability of LGBTQ-affirming supports, and further reductions in rates of harassment and assault faced by LGBTQ youth.

Verbal harassment of LGBTQ students is on the decline.

In short: It works. Sustained investment in increasing the presence of school-based interventions that promote inclusive and affirming learning environments, backed by official commitment to root out the institutional discrimination that compounds the challenges faced by at-risk youth, can shift the tide. All of us at GLSEN are proud of the decades of focused hard work – in good times and bad – that have made this possible. We are also grateful for the partnership of individual and institutional allies that are similarly committed to the well-being of all students, and to the bedrock principle of respect for all in our K-12 schools.

School-based supports improve school climates for LGBTQ Students.

That being said, not all of the news is good. Overall rates of homophobic and transphobic harassment are still higher than anyone should be willing to accept. Institutional discrimination against LGBTQ people is widespread, with the majority of the students surveyed having faced such discrimination personally. Perhaps most troubling are the findings regarding adult behaviors in school. Reports of homophobic and transphobic remarks made by teachers increased in 2015, and reports of teacher intervention in response to anti-LGBTQ remarks were down. Furthermore, there has been a consistent decrease since 2011 in students’ assessments of teacher effectiveness in dealing with reports of anti-LGBTQ incidents. Our work is far from done.

Moreover, at this time of transition in our nation’s leadership, our challenge may well be greater than simply continuing to press to bring life-changing benefits to more schools across the United States. Today, we face the prospect of hostile official action at the federal level to abolish the governmental functions dedicated to advancing justice in K-12 education and to promote harmful and discredited practices, such as attempts to “cure” students of being LGBTQ. We are experiencing a deeply troubling wave of bias violence in schools nationwide in the wake of a divisive election, with no indication that the incoming administration is concerned about the trend.

At this unsettling moment, this report reminds us exactly what is possible, and what is at stake. As a network of educators, students, parents, and community leaders united on common ground, GLSEN has always managed to identify and seize opportunities for progress, even when confronting enormous opposition. We will mobilize around these findings to motivate all people of goodwill to act to defend LGBTQ youth from new attacks, to promote safe and healthy learning environments for all students, and advance the cause of equity and respect for all in our schools.

Eliza Byard is the Executive Director of GLSEN. This piece is adapted from the preface of GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey.

Register for the free webinar on the report’s findings, to be held on January 10.

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