January 17, 2014

GLSEN student leaders all over the country continue to make a difference even after they graduate from high school. One former Ambassador has brought his story to a national public service campaign to help students across the country who have faced similar challenges. 

Characters Unite is USA Network's public service program advocating for an end to social injustice and cultural intolerance. The campaign invites athletes, actors and other public figures to speak about causes that matter to them, such as religious tolerance, diversity, and ending violence and hate crimes. 

In a recent video for the campaign, Joey Kemmerling, a former GLSEN Student Ambassador, sits down with NFL player Victor Cruz to talk about the bullying he faced for being gay. Kemmerling, 19, tells Cruz about coming out in middle school and facing harassment from his peers, particularly in locker rooms and in school sports, and how school administrators didn't take any actions to help him. 

"When I was 13, I knew that I was gay and I told about five people, but overnight it went from five people to the entire school knowing. I didn't realize that until I walked into the locker room and everyone stopped and stared at me," he tells Cruz. "After I came out, the locker room was the last place I wanted to be."

Cruz, a wide receiver for the New York Giants, faced discrimination growing up for his mixed-race heritage. He gave Kemmerling a tour of the Giants' locker room, and the two talked about how it felt to grow up feeling cast aside from their peers -- and how speaking out has helped them overcome problems from their pasts. 

"It means so much more to me now to know that I'm here and to know that I can share this moment, which makes it that much better," Kemmerling says. "I found a voice and I overcame it, and I'm taking the next step on my journey."

Cruz was clearly touched by Kemmerling's story. 

"More and more players want to make a change and want to step out and be a voice," he tells Kemmerling. "Hearing your story honestly has changed my life and changed my outlook."

We're so proud to work with Joey and see how far he's come. Make sure to check out the video

January 09, 2014

This post originally appeared on Spark Action

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) students are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system.

According to the Center for American Progress, approximately 300,000 LGBT students are arrested or detained each year. Of that figure, 60 percent are black and Latino youth. The numbers are even more devastating when you compare the percentage of LGBT youth to the overall youth population. Although LGBT youth represent 5-7 percent of the nation’s youth population, they represent 13-15 percent of those in the juvenile justice system.

According to a report put out by the Center for American Progress (CAP), increased levels of incarceration are a consequence of various issues; some of them interrelated, ranging from victimization in schools, to abandonment by families and communities.Others are caught in the vicious cycle of the juvenile justice system because they identify as LGBT. They find themselves in juvenile detention facilities as a result of discrimination, abuse, and harassment in their schools. These situations which LGBT students encounter in schools force them to skip class or school all together to escape harassment in schools or out of fear for their own safety. 

GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey found that approximately one-third of LGBT students have skipped school over safety concerns related to bullying or harassment. As a result, CAP's report indicates that many LGBT youth end up in the courtroom on criminal charges because of being truant.

This is where the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) comes in as a critical piece of legislation. Youth of color and LGBT youth of color continue to receive disparate treatment throughout the juvenile justice system, from arrest to adjudication to confinement.  The JJDPA will go a long way in ensuring that juveniles in the system are protected by federal standards for custody and for care, while also ensuring that the interests of community safety are met.

The JJDPA protects youth who have run away from home or skipped school from being detained in juvenile detention facilities. The JJDPA also has provisions designed to protect youth from psychological abuse, physical assault, and isolation by ensuring that youth are not detained in adult jails.

Finally, the JJDPA requires states to address the disproportionate contact of youth of color at all points in the juvenile justice system. With youth of color making up one-third of the total youth population but two-thirds of youth in contact with the juvenile justice systems, this provision requires states to gather information and assess the reason for disproportionate minority contact. All youth would benefit from the protections outlined in the JJDPA, particularly LGBT youth and LGBT youth of color.

January 08, 2014

Celebrate Kindness with GLSEN's No Name-Calling Week


“That’s not a problem at our school."

Sound familiar? It’s a reaction from adults that is all too common when it comes to name-calling, bullying, and harassment. Although there are many safe, supportive school communities, the reality is that most students regularly witness name-calling and other types of harassment from elementary school through high school. Here are the facts about name-calling in school.

Among elementary school students… 

  • 75% say that students at their school are called names, made fun of, or bullied on a regular basis.
  • 51% regularly hear other students make comments like “retard” or “spaz.”
  • 46% regularly hear other students say things like “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay.”

It appears that the name-calling and teasing that happens in elementary schools serves as a foundation for how students treat each other in secondary school. Name-calling and harassment continue as students get older.

Among middle and high school students…

  • 64% say that name-calling, bullying, or harassment is a serious problem at their school.
  • 68% say that students are regularly called names, bullied, or harassed at school because of their appearance or body size.
  • 60% regularly see their peers called names, bullied, or harassed because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

So why do so many adults still think that name-calling isn’t a problem? Students say that name calling and using biased remarks usually happens when educators aren't around.

Fortunately, students and educators can work together to create a culture of kindness at school, and celebrating No Name-Calling Week is great place to start.

No Name-Calling Week is January 20-24. You can learn more at glsen.org/nonamecallingweek.

January 15, 2014

Today's No Name-Calling Week message comes from Elisa Waters, Teacher and GSA Advisor at Jericho Middle School in NY.

Here’s the challenge: Make GLSEN’s No Name Calling Week the kick-off to systemic change in language within your school community.  Yes, No Name Calling Week is about drawing attention to the damage of negative, derogatory, and hurtful language, but it is also an   opportunity to challenge people to use language in a way the builds up each individual within a school community. 

No Name Calling Week provides a platform for open dialogue about appreciating diversity- ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, and even regional dialect.  Often, demeaning language stems from a lack of understanding and awareness about what makes people worth celebrating, and the impact of a slur related to a group to which you belong can last a lifetime. 

Consider your own life.  Transport yourself back to elementary school or middle school. Close your eyes and envision a time you were bullied, harassed, or teased.  Think hard about what was said or done.  Walk yourself through the moments you remember as you continue to reflect and use that as your platform for educating the faces that you greet on a daily basis.  It is amazing what stays in our memory bank and if we really want to make the power of No Name Calling Week last a month, a year, a lifetime, we must begin by doing our best to assure that our students don’t share the same negative moments many of us as adults can still recall. 

Look and listen to what is going on around your building and, depending upon the age of your students, ask them what they hear and see.  Everyone in every identity group at school is subject to being stereotyped and having judgments made against them based upon these stereotypes.  

In recognition and celebration of what No Name Calling Week is about and how it can have a lasting impact for you and your students, think about the minor and major moments that embrace the ideals of this nationwide movement.

Start with “upstanders” posters that encourage curiosity and conversation.  For example, consider the statement: “Don’t make fun of my religion; ask me about it.”  Invite students to share aspects of their layered identities and use their experiences as a springboard for greater dialogue. 

Have students create posters about daily positive behavior using upbeat language – encourage people to do what is right instead of discouraging them from doing what is wrong.  Consider something simple like, “What did I do today to make someone’s day better?” or “Did you say something nice to someone today?”

Embrace a monthly theme in your classroom or building and create events that support those themes such a community, respect, responsibility, etc. 

No Name Calling Week should be about enjoying and celebrating the challenge of changing memories and making a lifelong difference for our lifelong learners.


December 31, 2013

With merely hours until we bid 2013 adieu, we thought it important to check back in on all the amazing things that happened over the last 365 days. Here are some of our favorite highlights of the year. 



GLSEN starts the year off in whirlwind of change as we settle back into our home in lower Manhattan after over 2 months of being displaced. 


No Name-Calling Week is celebrated for the 10th time! Thousands of teachers and students participate in the national week of action. Art galleries filled with messages of hope, resiliency, and love are organized in schools across the country. (more)



GLSEN Middle Tennessee’s Jump-Start team discusses their experiences with bullying and harassment in school with Fun. This eventually leads to a GLSEN & The Ally Coalition partnership during Fun.’s nationwide tour. (more


GLSEN’s Research Department releases the first ever research brief examining LGBT student experiences in school sports and physical education entitled The Experiences of LGBT Students in School Athletics. (more




GLSEN Greater Cincinnati is barred from participating in the Cincinnati St. Patrick’s Day Parade. With thousands of petition supporters and outspoken ally organizations, the Cincinnati community rallies behind the Chapter and GLSEN’s mission; city council members withdrew from the parade and local organizations walked with signs supporting GLSEN Cincinnati and youth. (more)



GLSEN releases a YouTube video to set the record straight on the meaning and impact of the Day of Silence. Whose side are you on? soars on Facebook and YouTube with over 45,000 views.



Jason Collins makes his first public appearance since coming out at GLSEN’s Respect Awards in New York City. He receives the 2013 GLSEN Courage Award. (more


The Respect Awards in New York also has a splash of aloha as Farrington High School alumni Janet Mock presents her alma mater with this year’s GSA of the Year Award. (more)



The U.S. Department of Education announces that, for the first time, it would include a mandatory question about allegations of harassment based on sexual orientation on its Civil Rights Data Collection survey. This represents the first time the Department has asked about sexual orientation on any of its surveys. The Department will make the data collection optional for the 2014-2015 school year and mandatory beginning in the 2015-2016 school year. (more)




The GLSEN Research department releases its first ever report on the experiences of LGBT youth online, Out Online.  This report documents that LGBT students not only face greater harassment but also find greater peer support and access to health information. (more)


Transgender Student Rights is officially entrusted to GLSEN to help further its growth.  This student-founded organization was created specifically to advocate for the needs of transgender and gender nonconforming students. (more)



GLSEN’s Executive Director, Eliza Byard, speaks at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Her speech on those sacred steps honors the March on Washington, Bayard Rustin, and the responsibility we all have to lift up the voices of young people. (more)


GLSEN Pittsburgh joins forces with the Pittsburgh Pirates to promote Changing the Game, the GLSEN Sports Project in Southwestern Pennsylvania. (more



Two Student Ambassadors, Liam & Paulina, represent GLSEN at the NY Times sponsored “Out Youth” panel. During this panel members of the audience were able to ask questions regarding the state of LGBT youth. The other organizations represented included the Trevor Project, the Human Rights Campaign and the True Colors Fund. 




Laila Al-Shamma receives GLSEN’s 2013 Student Advocate of the Year award. Her amazing work in her school and for her GSA brings her to the Respect Awards in Los Angeles where she gives one of the most inspiring speeches of the night. 


Ally Week turns 9! This year we challenged ourselves not only to identify new allies and celebrate existing allies, but to ask ourselves how we can all become better allies to one another. (more)


GLSEN grows to 38 local Chapters in 25 states! (find your local chapter here



After many discussions, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi signs on as a cosponsor to GLSEN’s top-priority federal legislation, the Safe Schools Improvement Act. Traditionally, House leadership rarely cosponsors legislation. Pelosi’s support of SSIA elevates the importance of the legislation and is key to getting other members of leadership on board. (more


GLSEN Media Ambassador, Ashton is featured on Upworthy as he brings attention to why the safe schools movement is important to him. (more)



We did it! A Safe Space Kit in every school! (more)


From all of us at GLSEN we want to wish you a Happy New Year!

Here's to a fun, fierce, and fab 2014! 

January 02, 2014

“Sticks and stones may break our bones, but names will break our spirit.”

Spoken by Bobby Goodspeed in James Howe’s The Misfits (the novel that inspired the creation of GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week ten years ago), these words become the tagline on advertisements for the “No-Name Party” in a student government election that takes place in the story’s middle school.  

As a way of introducing themselves and their platform to the school, the members of this fledgling political party create what in turn inspired an important part of GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week, the Creative Expression Exhibit. Together the students in the story provide their school with a clever visual representation of the problem of name-calling using the put-downs heard in the school.  Inspired by this, students across the nation have been staging similar displays in their own schools each January

Creating displays or performances of students’ artistic expressions is an effective No Name-Calling Week strategy that educators have used to draw attention to the problem of name-calling in their schools.  In an effort to do the same thing on a larger scale, GLSEN each year provides an opportunity for students and whole schools to submit individual and group displays and performances to an exhibit designed to teach and to inspire action with a national audience.  

This last year students at Larchmont Charter School created a truly inspiring and informative video of their school-wide No Name-Calling Week display. The school’s work was recognized nationally for its impact and shared with thousands on our website. We again invite all schools to submit images of their displays or individual student work to our Creative Expression Exhibit so that we can share these with others. We've made the process really easy this year. Click here to learn how your school can get involved.

We know that the arts can promote positive, powerful social change - even in a school setting. In many instances, the arts can help students express things for which they do not have or cannot find the words. We hope you will consider holding a creative expression exhibit in your school this year and submitting images to our national display.

While names can and do break students’ spirits as Bobby Goodspeed suggests, the arts can lift those same spirits up and support efforts to rid schools of name-calling and bullying once and for all.

January 02, 2014

Each and every year we marvel at the innovative and creative ways that educators recognize No Name-Calling Week in their schools. And like every good teacher out there, when we see something great, we add it to our repertoire! This is one of the ways that No Name-Calling Week has continued to grow and remain relevant for ten years.

GLSEN's No Name-Calling Week lessons (elementary, middle and high school) have remained a staple of every school’s celebration but we've noticed that schools use these in various combinations and paired with unique events designed to address specific needs or build upon related efforts or even tied to school-wide themes for the year.  

So how do these educators do their planning? How do they decide which No Name-Calling Week activities and lessons to implement?

We’ve noticed that the most successful No Name-Calling Week plans are those that emerge when educators first give deep consideration to the culture of their school and identify aspects of the culture that they wish to change.

Taking our cue from these excellent educators, we’ve put together a tool designed to help everyone engage in a similar planning process. Planning No Name-Calling Week in Your School: A Guide is a resource that educators can turn to every year to help determine desired outcomes and set objectives.

The planning tool can help you identify needs and articulate the outcomes you're working towards. This is the best way to choose just the right No Name-Calling Week lessons and activities for your classroom or school. For example, if name-calling based on physical appearance is one of the problems you’ve observed and you’ve decided you want to help students to be able to identify actions they can take to move beyond appearance as a dominant force in their social lives, you can choose the Beauty is Skin Deep lesson. And if you’re school needs a visual reminder of the importance of no name-calling, you might choose to engage in the Gardens of Kindness lesson or have a Creative Expression Exhibit.

Thanks to educators across the country and our amazing national partners, No Name-Calling Week boasts a robust set of resources to help educators address just about any name-calling issue they might observe in their school. But don’t take our word for it - join in on the conversation we're having with over 18,000 No Name-Calling Week followers on facebook. Here educators just like you pose questions and get advice and inspiration from their colleagues across the country. Together we're making just the right plans so that all of our schools become the safe and respectful places students deserve.


January 02, 2014

If you’ve ever planned a No Name-Calling Week in your school, this is probably something you’ve been asked or heard someone say. We certainly have! And while our answer is always a resounding, “Yes!” we know this is still far from what students experience in an overwhelming number of our schools. 

In 2012, GLSEN issued a groundbreaking research report, Playgrounds and Prejudice: Elementary School Climate in the United States. Sadly, the findings suggest that in many places students may actually experience most weeks as “name-calling week.” Consider this:

  • Half of students (51%) and just less than half of teachers (45%) say that students at their school make comments such as “retard” or “spaz” sometimes, often or all the time
  • Slightly less than half of elementary students (45%) report that they hear comments like “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay” from other kids at school sometimes, often or all the time while nearly half of their teachers (49%) say they hear students in their school use the word “gay” in a negative way with a similar frequency.

GLSEN's 2005 study, From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, A Survey of Students and Teachers suggests that students in secondary schools also experience name-calling and bullying at alarming rates.

Clearly, there is a need to set aside time for a program like No Name-Calling Week and the kind of learning that it affords students! And January is a perfect time for it. For some, January may be just the right time for a classroom or school-wide intervention to address problems. For others, No Name-Calling Week may be used as a complement to year-long, school-wide efforts addressing name-calling and/or helping students to learn pro-social behaviors such as kindness.

There are as many reasons and ways to approach planning No Name-Calling Week as there are schools.  What’s your school’s reason for participating? What are you doing to become a No Name-Calling School this year so you can say, "It is in our school" the next time someone asks that "Shouldn't every week be No Name-Calling Week" question

Please share your plans with us here and use and share our resources to make your school's No Name-Calling Week the best and most effective one yet!   


December 13, 2013

Eric S. is a graduate of East Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, North Carolina where our executive director Eliza Byard recently delivered the final kit in our three-year campaign to send a Safe Space Kit to every school in the United States.

I was checking my Facebook feed earlier today and saw an announcement of the new GSA at East Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, NC. I graduated from East Meck in 1974, back in the days before the idea of a GSA was on anyone’s radar. For a gay or questioning kid then, there was just nowhere to go for information, companionship, or understanding, and certainly there were no adults with whom it was safe to have a conversation about gender identity or sexual orientation. Most of us just tried to keep a low profile, and hoped no one would notice how we were “different.”   

It’s pretty amazing to be able to visualize the physical space of my high school of forty years ago, which was a huge jumble of fear, fun, fear, growth, fear, and challenges, as a space that actually reaches out its arms to embrace all of its students. In an unexpected way, even though I have grown up and found and married the man I love (thanks, Minnesota!) I feel as though the school is also reaching out to embrace me and the people like me who walked its halls through these many decades. Congratulations to all the young people who are using this new tool to claim their spot in the world, and thanks to all the advisers and allies who helped clear the path for them and for us.

To learn more about the Safe Space Kit or get one for yourself visit glsen.org/safespace

December 12, 2013

Earlier this year we lauded the efforts of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) after they proposed key additions to Civil Rights Data Collection that would, for the first time, require districts to report incidents and allegations of harassment or bullying of K-12 students on the basis of sexual orientation and religion (the office already collects data on bullying based on gender, race and other categories).

The CDRC instrument is a critical source of civil rights data for other government agencies, educators, researchers and the general public in the effort to promote equal educational opportunities for all students. In addition, the data collected by OCR is used to assist with enforcement efforts in schools and districts. Last week however, OCR indicated that it will delay mandatory implementation of such data collection, along with several other new proposed questions not related to LGBT issues. The data collection will be optional, however, which could still result in OCR collecting data on anti-LGB bullying for the first time.

OCR said it made the decision to delay some of the questions for three main reasons: to address concerns raised by school districts about the burden of additional data collection (OCR plans to make the tool more user-friendly and provide necessarily technical assistance), to ensure districts have the time needed to provide comprehensive and accurate data, and because the public comment period on all of the proposed new questions is still open. As such, most districts have not been collecting this type of information from the start of this school year and would not be able to provide accurate data for 2013-2014.

As a result of these concerns, data collection on sexual orientation-related and religion-related bullying is slated to be optional for this school year but would be required in the next CDRC data collection in 2015-2016.

It’s very disappointing that the rollout wasn't better handled and frustrating that these hurdles weren't better anticipated. The Department’s decision to delay these new requirements, however, is understandable considering where things currently stand. 

In the meantime, OCR will be collecting a second round of comments, and we encourage our partners and allies to submit statements supporting the mandatory data collection on incidents of bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and religion. In addition, we encourage local advocates to request that school districts who have been collecting data about sexual orientation- and religious-based bullying report this data to OCR though the optional questions for 2013-2014.

OCR’s mission is to ensure access to equal educational opportunity for all students. The new data items represent critical areas of access. GLSEN will work to ensure that school districts report complete and accurate data to OCR in 2015-16. We will also continue to provide districts with the effective tools to combat bias-based bullying and harassment, including model policies, professional development and appropriate curriculum.


Find Your Chapter