Last month, Robert, our Director of Training and Curriculum Development, forwarded me four Team Respect Pledges to post on Changing The Game: The GLSEN Sports Project. I looked down to see that they were all from Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, MD. Right down the road from my home in Montgomery County.
I soon learned the story behind these four pledges: Chris Murray, a straight teacher and coach at WJ is on a mission to get every single team at his school to take GLSEN's Team Respect Challenge. And he wants Walter Johnson to be the first school in the country to have 100% participation.
Take a look at this video that Chris made sharing his story and offering a challenge to you.
Will you step up and commit to getting the teams at YOUR school to take the challenge? I'll be looking up the coaches and administrators at my high school to ask them to step up. If you want be an advocate for respect in athletics, you can commit to working with your K-12 sports teams to take GLSEN's Team Respect Challenge. We'll follow up with you, providing resources and other materials so that together we can change the game.
And help us spread the word about the Team Respect Challenge. Share this blog post on your Facebook profile. Or tweet about it using #RespectChallenge and @glsen in your update.
It's here! We are excited to make the debut of Xelle's newest single, "Invincible." This inspiring song and touching video is sure to make your toes tap. I've already added it to my running playlist. Not only is it a great song, Xelle is generously donating proceeds from the single to GLSEN. We'll be putting that to work in our efforts to ensure schools are safe for every student, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
The message of respect and self-love resonates throughout this video. Take a look!
You can buy the single on iTunes.
We want to know: What makes you invincible?
Let us know in the comments below!
“As a student whose life was saved by GLSEN's work, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for standing with us.”
Numbers are often so important in our work. Numbers from our research, at the heart of everything we do at GLSEN, document the collective experience of LGBT youth, inform our programs and demonstrate how our work is making a real difference in thousands of school districts every day. Numbers also help us track our progress towards our yearly goals, and give us a sense of how engaged people are in our work.
So I of course was overjoyed when I saw that 5,000 people signed our thank you message to Grazie Media last week, when Grazie Media did not bow to anti-LGBT pressure to pull our "Think B4 You Speak" PSAs from its JumboTron outside the Super Bowl, and made sure the message of respect was heard at the epicenter of America’s largest annual media event.
I’m thrilled that more than 70,000 people heard that message on-site at the Super Bowl, and millions more were part of the online dialogue sparked by Grazie Media’s decision – all of them hearing a message that could have a lasting impact in the lives of LGBT youth.
In return, we spoke as one in huge numbers to show an ally that they would find overwhelming support in doing the right thing.
But there’s a deeper story behind all those numbers, and it came through from the 166th person to sign our thank you message.
“As a student whose life was saved by GLSEN's work, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for standing with us.”
I am fortunate to be able to travel the country in my job and hear from youth and educators whose lives are in a better place because of something as simple as seeing a GLSEN Safe Space Sticker or joining a Gay-Straight Alliance or having a coach suggest their team take GLSEN’s Team Respect Challenge.
Knowing that they are not alone, that others stand with them and are willing to act to end the violence and discrimination they face, can literally change and save students’ lives. Research tells us that fact. Individual stories bring that reality home.
I can’t tell you how much it means to me, our staff, our chapters, our volunteer Board of Directors and all of the people connected to GLSEN’s work to hear from you about the impact of our work. And how much it means to us when we hear that you are ready to mobilize, to support our allies and to let every student in this country know that they are not alone!
Who doesn't love a good beat with a positive message? XELLE is partnering up with GLSEN for the release of their third single "Invincible" to support our work to ensure safe schools for LGBT students and their allies.
The ladies of XELLE (JC Cassis, Rony G and Mimi Imfurst) are using the upcoming release of their song "Invincible" to increase awareness about anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. And the energetic pop group are going to donate sales of "Invincible" to GLSEN when the single is released on Valentines Day, February 14, 2012 .
“When I was in high school, it was bullying by my peers and being assaulted by a school personnel that lead to me being outted to my family. I then found myself homeless after being kicked out of my house for being gay. GLSEN was one of the organizations that supported me during that time. As a member of XELLE it is important that we give back so no young person has to experience what I did.
XELLE is celebrating the release of their new single this coming Tuesday in New York City. The "Invincible" Release Party is hosted by Season 4 RuPaul’s Drag Race Star Jiggly Caliente and Project Runway Season 9 runner up Joshua McKinley. You must be 21+ to attend the event. There is no cover, but drink sales will benefit GLSEN!
The "Invincible" music video will also be released exclusively on blog.glsen.org on February 15. Make sure to visit our blog to watch the ladies of XELLE turn it out in support of LGBT students and their allies.
News broke this week that anti-LGBT group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) sent home fliers to students in Montgomery County schools advertising potentially harmful ideas about so-called conversion therapy.
Montgomery County has a long-standing tradition of allowing groups to send fliers home. After a court decision in 2006, the county's new policy is to allow any registered non-profit group to send home fliers at four times during the school year. As MyFox DC points out, these fliers are normally from the PTA or a Girl Scout troop. This is not the first time PFOX sent their flier home with students, and its not the first time they have drawn the ire of parents, students and educators alike.
Thankfully, Montgomery County, though forced to distribute the flier, has not taken a neutral position. Superintendent Joshua Starr said the fliers are "reprehensible and deplorable," according to NBC 4 in Washington.
In case you were wondering, so-called conversion therapy has been thoroughly debunked and discredited by a coalition of 13 national medical and mental health organizations. Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators, and School Personnel is an amazing resource that serves as a guide for school employees who confront sensitive issues involving lesbian, gay, and bisexual students. It is intended to help school administrators foster safe and health school environments, in which all students can achieve to the best of their abilities.
I grew up in Montgomery County, Maryland and attended Montgomery County Public Schools for kindergarten through 12th grade and while my school wasn't perfect, it was safe. Montgomery County has an enumerated anti-bullying policy. Schools are full of thriving Gay-Straight Alliances. Our county's non-discrimination laws include protections for transgender people. There were multiple openly gay teachers at my school. Openly gay students are everywhere: from the varsity track team to the school's theater productions.
While the message of PFOX is troubling and problematic, the good thing is that Montgomery County has a foundation for respect. The same thing is not true in all school districts. Growing up is hard enough, schools should be places of safety and support. That's why I work at GLSEN and that's why GLSEN's work is so important. Research like the National School Climate Survey and Playgrounds and Prejudice, give us a clear understanding of what school is really like. And resources such as the Jump Start Guide for Gay-Straight Alliances and Ready, Set, Respect! give students and educators specific tools to foster a climate of respect.
I look forward to the day when there simply isn't any group who would want to send home such a flier. Until then, we must all work to ensure that schools are safe for every student, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
If you'd like to do something concrete to help make schools safe, here are two suggestions:
- Sign-up for updates from GLSEN. We'll keep you updating on a variety of ways you can get involved from emailing your senator to signing a petition.
- Send a Safe Space Kit to your school. I made sure that my middle school and high school each have a kit. You can designate a school of your choice to receive a kit. The kit contains resources for educators and "Safe Space" stickers and posters that teachers can display to indicate they are a safe place for LGBT students.
At Bettendorf Middle School in Iowa, students had a “Walk In Another's Shoes Day” to demonstrate every child’s different personalities.
At Greenwood Elementary in Wakefield, Massachusetts, two students made a Monday morning announcement over the school public address system:
“Good morning! Remember we are all different and unique. Let’s celebrate our differences. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but mean words can tear holes in your spirit.”
And at Hammond Elementary School in Columbia, Maryland, guidance counselor Patty Smith led students in an “activity of the day” to affirm the goal of mutual respect for one another:
- on Wednesday, each student was asked to say one positive thing to someone they don’t know;
- on Thursday, they wrote “Kindness grams” to deliver to peers they don’t usually hang around with;
- and on Friday, all students and staff dressed in blue and gold — the school colors — as a show of unity against name-calling and other forms of bullying.
These are just a few of the creative and impactful ways that students and teachers across our country observed No Name-Calling Week 2012.
No Name-Calling Week was a tremendously positive way to deliver GLSEN’s message of respect for difference and diversity. And it’s an event made possible largely by your generous contributions.
In Tennessee, state legislators advanced a bill to actually protect bullies by shielding them from disciplinary action or other intervention if their name-calling and torment is based on “religious freedom.”
It’s a sad day in our country when “religious freedom” is defined as the right to make a vulnerable young student’s life miserable and unsafe.
This is precisely why events like No Name-Calling Week, and GLSEN’s National Day of Silence in April, are so very important. We must continue to beat the drum that bullying and name calling are wrong in every circumstance, in every school, and when directed at any student.
Today marks the last day of GLSEN's ninth annual No Name-Calling Week. We couldn't be more happier with the participation. As we mentioned in a previous post, thousands of schools took part including communities like Kewanee, IL; Fort Scott, KS; Asheville, NC and; Mandeville, LA.
But what about when a corporation teams up to participate in No Name-Calling Week?
Cisco Systems has been a leading sponsor of No Name-Calling Week for the past six years. Cisco Systems Vice President and GLSEN Board Member Rick Moran took some time out of his busy schedule to share this thoughts about why the company supports the program, his own experiences with bullying and what to do if a student is bullied.
Thanks for sitting down with us for an interview. Can you share how Cisco first became involved in No Name-Calling Week?
Cisco got involved six years ago, which was before I joined the [GLSEN] board. I was in NYC and met with Kevin (GLSEN's founder and former Executive Director). We talked about GLSEN’s programs, and No Name-Calling Week really stood out as a program that I thought Cisco might support. I reported back to our LGBT and Advocates employee resource group and suggested we rally around it. Most people didn’t know anything about it, but once they heard about the lessons and resources, they got very excited.
So No Name-Calling Week really grabbed their attention?
Cisco’s tagline is “Changing the way people live, work, play and learn” and this program touched “learn”. The members of the LGBT employee resource group got very excited and wanted to help. They engaged other Cisco employee resource groups to also participate.
That's amazing. It's also incredible that Cisco actually participates in the program. What does that usually look like?
Generally, we have 40 to 50 participants. They wear Cisco t-shirts, introduce themselves, wear a badge and give a lesson. They find it amazing and gratifying. The challenge is the education environment is that we have to work a little harder to help the educators feel comfortable with having a non-teacher in their classroom. But in all of the No Name-Calling Week experiences, we’ve had a great response from schools in Raleigh, suburban Dallas and Silicon Valley.
You mentioned about involving other Cisco employees in the week-long program. Can you share a little bit more about that?
We’ve brought in members of other employee resources groups: Hispanic, People of Color, Women. We have a lot of employees who are new to the country, especially from the Middle East, as many of our engineers come from India and Pakistan. Their kids are bullied, and the culture of the company is to support and help them.
It's very rewarding to hear No Name-Calling Week would resonate with people coming from different backgrounds including immigrant families. It's also interesting to hear you describe Cisco like more of a community than simply a workplace.
Cisco has an interesting dynamic and presence in Silicon Valley. We have 37,000 employees on campus, but when you add their children and other dependents, we have connections to more 100,000 people. So what happens at Cisco can really be a force for change.
As you know, bullying can manifest itself in different ways. The topic of cyberbullying is gaining a lot of traction and is something that we at GLSEN are paying more attention to. Is cyberbullying something Cisco cares about?
We are a hardware company. We build networks. There’s a lot that we can do through our technologies, and we are actively looking at the implications of all this in the cyberworld, where the rules are different and the opportunity to do harm is great.
Of course, it's been great to count Cisco as a leading sponsor of No Name-Calling Week. But can you share why the educational event personally resonates with you?
My dad was an educator, which meant we were around teachers all the time, so I had a very different relationship with teachers. I grew up in a mid-sized town with 5 high schools and 8 middle schools. I believed that teachers were there to help me, and I went to them when I needed help.
You've watched No Name-Calling Week grow from a small event into one of the largest bullying prevention programs in the country. Why does Cisco continue to lend its support?
Over the years, people have wondered what Cisco is willing to stand behind. I’m very proud that Cisco has been so willing to stand behind No Name-Calling Week for the past six years. Seeing other corporations get involved is fantastic -- of course, I’d like for us to be the only sponsor of the program -- but I’m thrilled to see others step forward. It’s a powerful statement about being willing to take on the challenge of bullying.
Thanks to you and Cisco, we've definitely been able to grow the program into what it is today. We just have one final question before we let you go: what advice would you give to a student who is the victim of bullying?
I learned that the most important thing to do about bullying is to tell someone. Talk to an adult. It is simply the most important thing you can do. Get out of the situation as quickly as you can. It’s ok to run away and be ready to fight another day. And if you see someone else getting bullied, and you can’t help, get someone who can. Don't ever turn a blind eye.
Thanks Rick for taking the time to chat with us. We also appreciate your support.
GLSEN is proud to support the first-ever National Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Day! We teamed up with more than 35+ statewide and national partners to recognize the amazing contributions GSAs have made and continue to make in schools across the country.
GSA Day was first organized in 2006 by the Iowa Pride Network after Governor Tom Vilsack declared October 25, 2006, "Iowa Gay-Straight Alliance Day" in honor of GSAs around the state that work to improve Iowa school climate. This year, the statewide observance has gone national with a host of support.
This is what GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard had to say about GSA Day:
GLSEN is proud to work with the thousands of GSAs across the country, Iowa Pride Network and fellow National GSA Day partners to recognize the tremendous impact these student clubs have on creating safe and affirming learning environments for all students.
Curious about how a GSA can benefit a student in school? Check out GLSEN's Research Brief filled with interesting findings on how GSAs are actually beneficial to improving school climate.
The White House is also celebrating National GSA Day. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan made a special video for students in GSAs. You can watch it below!
It's worth noting that issues facing GSAs have not been ignored by the Obama Administration. The U.S. Department of Education issued a "Dear Colleagues" letter outlining the legal rights of students to establish GSAs in school.
So what are YOU doing to celebrate National GSA Day?
Here are a few ideas to get involved:
Start a GSA. Does your school not have a GSA? You're not alone and we have the tools if you want to establish a GSA at your school. Take a look at some of the easy-to-read GSA resources that we offer to student leaders. We make GSA organizing a snap with tips, tools and activities. Get the goods!
Be counted. Take part in GLSEN's GSA Census so we can make sure student-led clubs like yours have the resources and support to continue your work in schools across the country. The process is simple and will take less than 3 minutes!
Connect. Join the Gay-Straight Alliances Facebook page where you can network with other GSA student leaders, exchange tips and find a community of other amazing students working to improve their schools and communities.
Lobby with us. GLSEN is still accepting applications for its Safe Schools Advocacy Summit. The 4-day event in Washington, DC brings together students, educators, parents and community members to learn about how to become effective Safe School advocates. GLSEN covers all of your expenses (travel, accommodations, food, etc) if your selected to come. Applications are due February 1. Apply here!
GLSEN's No Name-Calling Week is well underway in thousands of schools all across the country. The nationally recognized event is aimed at addressing name-calling and bullying in schools.
The week-long event was first organized by GLSEN and Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing with more than 50 participating organizations supporting the week-long event including the National Education Association and the National Association of Elementary School Principals.
DID YOU KNOW? This is the ninth annual No Name-Calling Week. The event was first organized in 2004.
There's been a lot of buzz around this year's event. Media have reported about No Name-Calling Week taking place in communities like Phoenix, Fort Scott and Asheville. Massachusetts went a step further with Governor Deval Patrick designating January 25 as "No Name-Calling Day" in the Bay State.
FUN FACT: Schools participating in No Name-Calling Week can download a variety of lesson plans, activities and other suggested resources. There have been more than 27,000 downloads of our materials in the past 30 days alone.
GLSEN's No Name-Calling Week was inspired by "The Misfits," a young adult novel written by James Howe. The story follows four students who have each experienced name-calling and decide to run for student council on the platform of creating a "No Name Day" at school. Ever since, James Howe has continued to support the annual week-long event organized at all grade levels.
Thanks to our friends at Simon & Schuster, James Howe made a video to share with No Name-Calling Week participants and supporters. You can watch his message below.
We made it! No Name-Calling Week is now in full swing! Are you looking for a lesson plan?
Check out Let's Get Real, a short film produced by GLSEN's long-time organizational partner, GroundSpark. Let’s Get Real doesn’t sugarcoat the truth or feature adults lecturing kids about what to do when kids pick on them. Instead, it examines a variety of issues that lead to taunting and bullying, including racial differences, perceived sexual orientation, learning disabilities, religious differences, sexual harassment and others. The film not only gives a voice to targeted kids, but also to kids who do the bullying to find out why they lash out at their peers and how it makes them feel. The most heartening part of Let’s Get Real includes stories of youth who have mustered the courage to stand up for themselves or a classmate.
At GLSEN, we recommend this excellent short film to use with your students in grades 5 – 9. Let's Get Real is widely hailed as one of the best tools for opening up meaningful, life-changing dialogue in schools today.
As a special offer for No Name Calling Week, GroundSpark is providing free streaming of Let's Get Real the entire week. To obtain your free digital stream, just send an email to email@example.com saying "Let's Get Real" NNCW 2012 in the subject line.