February 09, 2010

>Cross-posted at blog.glsen.org.

Friday marks the two-year anniversary of the tragic shooting of Lawrence "Larry" King, a 15-year-old eighth-grader from E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, Calif., who was killed by a classmate because of his sexual orientation and gender expression.

Vigils to remember Larry King and bring attention to the need to address anti-LGBT violence in schools will take place across the country. To find one in your area or to register a vigil or event, visit http://www.rememberinglawrence.org/.

Here's a look back at some celebrity PSAs done to remember Larry and raise awareness.

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February 08, 2010

>Two Iowa Republican state legislators have introduced a bill that would remove sexual orientation and gender identity/expression from a list of enumerated categories already listed in the state's anti-bullying law.

The reason, beyond wanting to see LGBT students bullied? To use children as pawns.

Schultz told NBC affiliate WHO-TV that the rationale behind the move is to force a vote on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, since the Iowa Supreme Court pointed to laws like Iowa’s Safe Schools Law in making its April decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

Iowa Pride Network Executive Director Ryan Roemerman summed it up well.

“When our state is facing record budget deficits and unemployment, House Republicans feel their time is best spent picking on Iowa’s LGBT youth.”

Iowa Pride Network also recently released its 2009 Iowa School Climate Survey, which found that more than 3 out of 4 Iowa LGBT students had been verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation.

February 05, 2010

>Last week, U.S. Representative Jared Polis and 60 bipartisan cosponsors introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), a bill that would institute protections in public schools against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Federal law already prohibits discrimination in schools on the basis of race, nationality, gender, religion and disability, and it's great that Solis and other members of Congress understand the need to extend these statutes. As GLSEN's 2007 National School Climate Survey revealed, nearly 9 in 10 LGBT middle and high school students have faced some form of bullying or harassment--whether verbal or physical--in school. Passing and enacting SNDA is a huge step forward in combating these alarming figures.

SNDA has already seen wide support from an array of professional and advocacy organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund and the School Social Work Association (not to mention GLSEN!). Recently, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) threw its support behind SNDA, citing the detrimental effects that bullying and harassment can have on students' emotional well-being and academic performance. As NAASP's Executive Director, Gerald N. Tirozzi, stated:

A safe and secure learning environment is vital to the educational success of all students...This legislation will enhance the ability of teachers and administrators to deliver a valuable education in public schools that are free of bullying, harassment and other forms of harmful discrimination.

It's great to see that national education organizations such as NASSP recognize the need to protect and best serve all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Be sure to stay tuned to the GLSEN Blog--we'll be providing updates about SNDA as the bill moves forward in Congress!

February 05, 2010

>Rep. Jared Polis introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act last week to protect students from discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Chris Johnson from DC Agenda, whose staff comprises much of the former Washington Blade reporters and editors, wrote a nice article about the bill, including some good news from the White House.

The White House also expressed support for the legislation in response to a query from DC Agenda.

“The president believes that every child should learn in a safe and secure school environment,” said Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson.

February 05, 2010

>Kudos to The New York Times' blog, The Learning Network, for posting a lesson plan today on discussing 'Don't Ask Don't Tell,' the military policy toward LGBT people serving.

February 04, 2010

>GLSEN Public Policy Association Alison Gill takes a look at a positive development in the Department of Justice in terms of interpreting Title IX to include protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

After a decade of virtually no enforcement, the Department of Justice has once again taken an interest in issues of sex and gender discrimination in schools. The Department of Justice intervened in the case of Sullivan v. Mohawk Central School District et al., which was originally brought by the NY Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a 14-year-old gay boy named Jacob who attended the Mohawk Central School District in New York.

Jacob suffered a pattern of harassment and abuse by fellow students and even teachers, including verbal harassment, assault and physical harm, and destruction of his property. Although Jacob and his supportive family reported this abuse to his school principal and other school authorities promptly and regularly, no action was taken to protect Jacob. For a complete account of the harassment perpetuated on Jacob and the school administration’s refusal to act, you can read the affidavits of Jacob and his father.

The Department of Justice is pursuing this suit under Title 9 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which does not allow students “on the basis of sex, [to] be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a). While this law explicitly covers sex discrimination, DOJ lawyers argue that the law also covers discrimination based on gender stereotypes — that is to say, boys who are beaten up for being effeminate. While some courts have ruled that Title IX covers gender expression and sexual orientation, the law is uncertain in this area. This case may help to establish this principle more generally.

Of course all children are entitled to a safe and nurturing space in which to learn. Unfortunately, the type of bullying and harassment from which Jacob suffered is all too common for LGBT students in schools around the country. GLSEN’s research shows that 60.8% of LGBT students feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and only about a third of students who reported incidents of victimization to school staff said that the problem was addressed effectively.

While the Department of Justice intervention shows a renewed interest in protecting the rights of LGBT students, Jacob’s case again demonstrates the need for anti-bullying policies and legislation so that schools can take steps to prevent this sort of harassment in the first place.

February 01, 2010

>Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church really don't like LGBT people. This isn't news to anyone who's heard of his "church." It's also not news to the many high schools WBC has protested for having a Gay-Straight Alliance, a favorite target of WBC.

Wanting to make the most of their protesting trips around the country, WBC also will protest anything American because, if you don't stand with WBC, you're against WBC. Sometimes it's military funerals (don't try to find logic in it). Last week it was Twitter.

And where WBC goes, counter-protesters usually follow. Take last week's clever counter-protest outside Twitter.

We get asked every so often about how best to respond to WBC protests. Attention is what WBC wants, so local organizers should think twice about whether a counter-protest is the best course of action. The Anti-Defamation League says "resist directly engaging."

The antidote to hate speech is good speech. Spread positive messages of tolerance and respect throughout the community. Discuss openly how hateful speech can poison a community. Notably, we do not recommend holding counter-protests or educational events at the same location as, or close to, the protest.

GLSEN also worries about student safety. While WBC seems to have remained peaceful in their protests, counter-protesters sometimes get agitated. WBC feeds off such reaction and frankly would love nothing more than to have a reason to sue someone. It's how WBC funds a lot of its hatred.

Deciding to ignore is always difficult but probably the correct approach. What do you all think?

January 29, 2010

>GLSEN's longstanding research has shown for nearly 10 years that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students face pervasive bullying and harassment in school. Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT youth experience harassment at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, according to GLSEN's 2007 National School Climate Survey.

As we prepare to release findings from the 2009 National School Climate Survey later this year, a new study conducted by doctors at Nationwide Children's Hospital corroborates what GLSEN has found for years.

The act and victimization of bullying continues to be a problem among today's youth. While many children are experiencing this form of violence, it is more prevalent in children that are different from the social norm. As medical professionals continue to further their understanding of bullying, research shows a high rate of sexual minority youth who experience this harmful activity.

A new study conducted by doctors at Nationwide Children's Hospital found that sexual minority youth, or teens that identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, are bullied two to three times more than heterosexuals.

According to the study that is now available online in the Journal of Adolescent Health, sexual minority youth are more vulnerable to a variety of physical and mental domains such as bullying or suicidal thoughts. Plus, the study found that many older adolescents reported being bullied.

For more of GLSEN's groundbreaking research, including reports on the experiences of transgender students in school and LGBT students of color in school, visit the research section on our website, www.glsen.org/research.

January 28, 2010

>A Wyoming school board last week upheld its superintendent's decision to remove No Place for Hate banners from the local high school and elementary school. What was so horrible that required their removal?

The banners, part of the Anti-Defamation League's No Place for Hate campaign, were cosponsored by an LGBT organization, the Gay and Lesbian Fund of Colorado.

As the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's editorial board put it, "what types of prejudice and bigotry are challenged apparently makes a big difference to the board."

As we celebrate No Name-Calling Week, it's sad to think about the kind of message this sends to the schools' students.

A petition has been started to ask the board to put the banners back. You can sign it here. You have to register for an account or use a Twitter account.

This will come as no surprise, but Wyoming is not one of the 12 states that has passed a law to protect students from bullying and harassment or discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression..
January 28, 2010

>A proposed law to prohibit discussion of any sexual orientation in Tennessee schools other than heterosexuality, sometimes called "No Promo Homo" laws, was essentially killed for another year yesterday. GLSEN Public Policy Associate Alison Gill talks about how GLSEN supporters like you can make a difference in defeating bad policies like this.

Last week the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) told us about a scary bill moving through the K-12 Education Subcommittee of the Tennessee House. HB0821, also called the "Don’t Say Gay" bill, would prevent Tennessee teachers and schools from discussing sexual orientation other than heterosexuality. A law like this can make LGBT students feel invisible and could cut them off from resources they need, such as supportive teachers.

When TTPC told us that the K-12 Subcommittee was to consider the bill this Wednesday, we emailed an Action Alert to our networks in Tennessee, warning them about the bill. Fortunately, we have very strong networks in Tennessee thanks to a lot of great local organizing by GLSEN supporters and student leaders such as Conrad Honicker.

Combined with local efforts such as TTPC's, we were able to apply significant pressure on the subcommittee to drop the bill. And we were successful! On Wednesday, the Tennessee K-12 Subcommittee decided not to take up the bill, which should kill the "Don’t Say Gay" bill for at least another year.

Sign up to receive GLSEN's Action Alerts here.

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