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December 15, 2009

>Fantastic news out of Oklahoma: the Oklahoma City School Board voted 5-2 yesterday to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of categories protected in the Oklahom City Public Schools anti-bullying policy.

Oklahoma is one of 38 states that does not protect students from bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression (see the states here and a handy map below), so this news is particularly important for students in Oklahoma City schools.

It's also important to remember that these protections extend beyond LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students because bullying based on perceived sexual orientation is also rampant in schools. You don't have to be gay to be called a fag.

December 03, 2009

>$5 million is being given away to the organizations and charities that receive the most votes through the "Chase Community Giving Program" on Facebook.

GLSEN is in the running. And we need your help to win!

Here's how it works:

Round 1 - ends December 11th (Vote now!)
DECEMBER 15 - The top 100 will be announced. Each will receive $25,000.
These 100 organizations or charities will also advance to the final stage of voting.

Round 2 - Second voting cycle is January 15-22, 2010.
FEBRUARY 1 - Announcement for the finalist with the most votes will win $1 million. The first five runner-ups will receive $100,000 each.

But you have to hurry. The first round of voting ends Friday, December 11th!

So, please, click the Chase button or any link in this article and vote for GLSEN now! And, after you’ve voted, you can find buttons at the bottom of the Chase voting page to help you spread the word on Facebook, Twitter. Or you can get an embeddable button for your blog or web site.

Remember you only have until Friday, December 11th to vote and to help GLSEN be in the first round of winners.

December 03, 2009

>GLSEN is the beneficiary of a performance Tuesday of the upcoming Off Broadway show Santa Claus is Coming Out as a fundraiser to help support our programs that work to make schools safe for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

Focus on the Family is not happy:

"Yet more evidence revealing the dark side of GLSEN–the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network—has surfaced. ... At issue this time is a GLSEN fundraiser featuring a theatrical play called Santa Claus is Coming Out!"

Please join us if you're able to make it to New York City on Tuesday. If you can't make it, you can show your support for GLSEN by voting in the Chase Community Giving campaign on Facebook. Top 100 charities get $25K.

Deadline is December 11th for the first round of voting!

As an aside, Focus on the Family has a tag counter on their blog. "GLSEN" is tagged more times than "President Obama" and "religious freedom." Things that make you go ... hmmm.

November 24, 2009

>Brendan Burke is a student manager for the Miami of Ohio hockey team, one of the top programs in the country, and the son of Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke. He's also an out gay man. ESPN tells his coming out story and provides a hopeful look at what should happen some day: the players, coach and community accept and respect Brendan and are even attempting to think before they speak.

From Miami Coach Enrico Blasi:

I think having Brendan as part of our program has been a blessing. We are much more aware of what you say and how we say it. I am guilty as anyone. We need to be reminded that respect is not a label, but something you earn by the way you live your life.

November 23, 2009

>According to a recently released FBI report, the number of reported hate crimes in 2008 increased since the previous year, from 7,624 incidents to 7,783. Of these cases, 51.3% were motivated by a racial bias, 19.5% by religious prejudice, and 16.7% by bias against sexual orientation. Hate crimes motivated by the victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation increased 11% since 2007.

These data are not perfect indicators of the number of hate crimes committed in the U.S., since they only reflect the incidents reported to authorities. Hate crimes often go unreported--especially if the victims lack the resources or knowledge to respond to hate crimes, or fear retaliation if they draw attention to themselves--and thus the actual number of hate crimes is likely significantly higher than what the FBI claims. Nevertheless, the FBI's report demonstrates the disturbing number of crimes motivated by anti-LGBT bias or other forms of prejudice or bigotry.
It is fortunate that Congress and President Obama passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act this fall, which expands previous federal hate crime laws to include crimes motivated by bias against sexual orientation and gender/gender identity. With law enforcement officials (hopefully!) exercising this new legislation against biased-motivated crimes--and organizations like GLSEN working to eliminate anti-LGBT violence in schools and beyond--we hope to see these rising numbers of hate crimes fall in the years to come.
November 20, 2009

>You may have already heard about Will Phillips, the 10-year-old from Arkansas who refuses to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance because he feels LGBT people aren't treated equally in this country. Will has to be one of the most principled and courageous 10-year-olds I've ever seen (not to mention articulate! When I was his age, one of every five words that I spoke probably had something to do with Pokemon).

Unfortunately, his classmates have resorted to harassing Will for his conviction, calling him a "gaywad." Will argues that this is a "discriminatory term" against LGBT people. Bravo!
In support of Will and his actions, Jon Stewart brought professional wrestler Mick Foley on The Daily Show, "advising" students and faculty at Will's school not to pick on him for his defense of LGBT rights:

[Facebook folks, click here to watch]

Of course, we at GLSEN would never condone any actual violence against anybody, because we've seen how anti-LGBT violence affects the lives of LGBT people and non-LGBT people alike. Recognizing that this is nothing more than humor, however, we're glad to see such an unexpected alliance--grade-school students, satirical-but-still-exceptionally-accurate news anchors, and 250-pound professional wrestlers--speaking in favor of equality, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
November 19, 2009

>A 16-year-old student at Langham Creek High in Houston was assaulted last Thursday because of his sexual orientation. What's even more shocking: He reported the threats earlier in the day to two aministrators who did nothing. The student also asked his bus driver for help. Same result; the driver did nothing. After the student left the bus, his attackers chased him and beat him.

According to the GLSEN report Inside Texas Schools: The Experiences of LGBT Students, 90% of Texas LGBT students experienced verbal harassment in school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, 50% experienced physical harassment and 26% experienced physical assault.

The boy's mother said it best:

"When the child does what they’re supposed to do and the adult doesn’t, what are you supposed to say then? How do you make him feel comfortable? How do you give him back that sense of security."


November 18, 2009

>GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is outraged after hearing that a Clayton County, Ga., teacher allegedly put out a hit on one of his students a few days after questioning the student’s sexual orientation.

The Mundy’s Mill High School teacher has since been charged with making terrorist threats.

“Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the student and the student's family,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. “This incident is deeply troubling on many levels. The charges, if true, are horrifying. Anti-LGBT bias and behavior among students is troubling and damaging enough without the added danger of irresponsible actions on the part of the adults responsible for their education and care.”

While much of what happened and was said remain unclear, many LGBT youth report hearing teachers make inappropriate comments. According to GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey, 63% of LGBT students said they had heard teachers or other school staff make homophobic remarks such as "faggot" or "dyke."

Read more about the incident here in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

November 10, 2009

>Tharptown High School in Alabama has denied the request of lesbian student Cynthia Stewart to bring her girlfriend to prom later this school year. It appears the school may have even gone so far as to cancel prom altogether to ensure that that nasty federal Constitution doesn't get in the way.

The ACLU has sent a letter to the school district on behalf of the student and her guardian to ask the school to do the right thing and reverse the school decision. Federal law and considerable case law (including a recent decision in Alabama) prohibit schools from discriminating against students based on the sex of their date to a school event.

Says Stewart very poignantly in the ACLU's release:

"I can't believe my school is doing all of this just to keep me from bringing my girlfriend to the prom," said Stewart, a 17-year-old student who, as a member of the prom planning committee, has personally raised over $200 for the prom and created the theme her classmates chose for the dance. "All I want is to be able to be myself and go to my prom with the person I love, just like any other student wants to do."

But why stop the discrimination at prom? The principal also allegedly told Stewart that she had to remove a sticker she was wearing that said, "I am a lesbian."

Stewart said that when she told the principal she had a First Amendment right to wear the sticker, he replied, "You don't have that much freedom of speech at school."

Uh, yeah, she does.

November 06, 2009

>13-year-old Lane is an 8th grader from Columbia, S.C., who has decided to tell his heartbreaking story of experiencing anti-LGBT bullying in school. Kudos to local TV station WIS News 10 for helping to raise awareness about one of the most common forms of bullying in school.

How Lane identifies is unclear, though the mother says he is not gay. His identity, of course, is besides the point and completely irrelevant. Anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in school is a pervasive problem that affects LGBT and straight students.

Lane says he's always been different. In the last year, putdowns from other students have become more hostile and much more personal.

"I've been called gay, queer." When he's called the F-word that ends with the letter G, "It can really affect someone in how you look at yourself in the mirror every morning."

Watch the news segment here.