Early Years are Key for Learning Respect

Media Contact:

Andy Marra Public Relations Manager 646-388-6575amarra@glsen.org 


Apr 23, 2012

NEW YORK (April 23, 2012) – Months after releasing groundbreaking research and a toolkit designed to assist early childhood educators in efforts to teach children about respect and create respectful classrooms and schools, GLSEN again joins with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in celebration of the Week of the Young Child.

"The early childhood years are critical to the development of positive attitudes and respect for individual, family and cultural differences, including diversity related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression," said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard, "GLSEN is proud to partner with NAEYC in supporting children's healthy development and early educational success."

NAEYC, an early childhood education association of almost 90,000 members and a network of more than 300 local, state, and regional affiliates sponsor the Week of the Young Child. Now in its 41st year, NAEYC's Week of the Young Child focuses public attention on the needs of young children and their families.

"Embracing Diversity" is among the sub-themes established by NAEYC for the 2012 celebration of the Week of the Young Child. In January, GLSEN, NAEYC and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) released Ready, Set, Respect! GLSEN's Elementary School Toolkit. The toolkit helps early childhood educators embrace this theme in their work with standards-aligned lesson plans and activities, to ensure that all students feel safe and respected every week and develop a sense of respectful community that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Unfortunately, many children do not experience respectful and inclusive school environments in the early grades. Earlier this year GLSEN released Playgrounds and Prejudice: Elementary School Climate in the United States, a new report on elementary school climate, biased remarks and bullying. The study, based on national surveys of 1,065 elementary school students in 3rd to 6th grade and 1,099 elementary school teachers of K-6th grade, examines students' and teachers' experiences with biased remarks and bullying, and their attitudes about gender expression and family diversity.

Key findings include:
  • The most common form of biased language in elementary schools, heard regularly (i.e., sometimes, often or all the time) by both students and teachers, is the use of the word "gay" in a negative way, such as "that's so gay," (students: 45%, teachers: 49%).
  • Gender nonconforming students are less likely than other students to feel very safe at school (42% vs. 61%), and are more likely than others to be called names, made fun of or bullied at school (56% vs. 33%).
  • Seven in ten students (72%) say they have been taught that there are many different kinds of families. However, less than 2 in 10 (18%) have learned about families with gay or lesbian parents (families that have two dads or two moms)

We're proud to have NAEYC as a partner in this work," said Robert McGarry, GLSEN's Director of Education, "and to provide resources for educators that respond to everyday reality in the classroom in practical ways while supporting our common goal of healthy development and educational success from the early years."



GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.