Last weekend GLSEN brought together for the first time a group of students who will be part of GLSEN's Ambassaadors program. This Media Summit was a huge success with 15 youth traveling from far-flung locations such as Alaska, Alabama, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, as well as representatives from Brooklyn and the Bronx.
Throughout the weekend students learned key messages and storytelling techniques to help advance GLSEN’s awareness-building goals.
Workshop topics included Social Media, Telling Your Story through the Media, Public Policy and the Safe Schools Improvement Act, Media Coverage of LGBT People of Color Communities, and more intimate coaching and practice sessions on writing letters to the editor, action planning, and interview and presentation skills using video.
We also took field trips on the Staten Island Ferry and an LGBT history walking tour of the West Village.
Here are some select quotes from the students on the weekend:
“I loved it here. I’ve never felt so open about anything before.”
“OMG. It was amazing—one of the best experiences of my life.”
“An opportunity for me to become inspired and learn how to utilize the media as a tool for advocacy.”
“Aside from the tools and advice that were given to me in order to deal with the media, I have built wonderful relationships with wonderful people.”
>After testifying at the July 8th hearings, Sirdeaner Walker met with key sponsors and cosponsors of the Safe Schools Improvement Act and members of the U.S. Department of Education.
Rep. Linda T. Sanchez (D-CA); Eliza Byard, GLSEN Executive Director; Eric Masten, GLSEN Public Policy Associate; Sirdeaner Walker; Congressman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) who represents Sirdeaner's home district in Springfield, Mass.
Sirdeaner Walker; Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Chair of the Healthy Families and Communities Subcommittee; Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI), Chair of the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcomittee; and witnesses Cassady Tetsworth, Dr. Scott Poland and Kenneth Trump
Show your support for the Safe Schools Improvement Act by signing an online petition HERE.
>This morning Sirdeaner Walker was on Capital Hill testifying about bullying and in support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act. Here are two photos:
We expect to have video later in the day.
>Sirdeaner Walker, mother of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, testified before two congressional subcommittees this morning in Washington D.C..
"I did everything that a parent is supposed to: I chose a "good" school; I joined the PTO; I went to every parent-teacher conference; I called the school regularly and brought the bullying problem to the staff's attention. And the school did not act. The teachers did not know how to respond."
And the most important thing I've learned is that bullying is not an inevitable part of growing up. It can be prevented. And there isn't a moment to lose. "
Read Sirdeaner's full testimony here.
>As shocking as it is that the anti-gay industry would make stuff up or take things out of context to smear GLSEN Founder Kevin Jennings, deception is the basis for its campaign to derail Kevin's appointment as Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education for the Department’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.
Think Progress has a great post debunking attack after attack on Kevin. Think Progress even went so far to actually speak to education leaders who have worked with Kevin. As proud as we are of all that Kevin has accomplished in his more than 20 years as an educator and advocate for students, don't take our word for it. From Think Progress:
ThinkProgress spoke with Molly Spearman, executive director of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators. Spearman first heard Jennings speak at the 2007 convention of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). Spearman said that she was so impressed with Jennings, she decided to invite him to speak at her organization’s October 2007 summit on bullying:
"I was a little nervous, being in South Carolina, a very conservative state. But once again, he handled it extremely professionally. He did a agnificent job, and it was a huge success. We had a waiting list of people who wanted to come. … We had several hundred people there. … He was very very well-received — absolutely rave views. And that was in conservative South Carolina. So he handled what could have been a very sensitive topic in a very professional way that was accepted by everyone."
Good As You, a fantastic LGBT-themed blog, also had a great post earlier this week debunking the slander.
As you may expect, the anti-gay industry has called on its minions to call, write and email Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to use these falsehoods to try to get Kevin fired. Help us respond by showing Duncan how many support exists for appointments like Kevin's that will actually make schools safer and better. Sign our petition of support.
>Talking Points Memo, one of the most-read online news sources, has a story up about the anti-gay smear campaign against GLSEN Founder Kevin Jennings, who was appointed to Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education for the Department’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.
GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard's quote says it all:
"Up until today, I had been simply saying this is the same old stuff we've been dealing with for years, and we here at GLSEN have become very practiced at ignoring this kind of effort to slander us," said Byard, "And so we really hadn't taken action before this time. And it got to a point where there was so much energy online and in our own constituency to say we can't let this stand."
Sign the petition to support Kevin Jennings here.
>A message from GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard:
Kevin Jennings, GLSEN's Founder and former Executive Director, begins his post at the Department of Education next week. The anti-gay industry is trying to discredit Kevin's remarkable record of achievement in order to thwart crucial progress on school safety. Don't let them!
Please raise your voice in support and share this action with others.
Thank you very much!
Eliza Byard, PhD
>As we've mentioned in previous posts (here and here), President Obama told GLSEN student leader Conrad Honicker that Conrad's shoes were the "coolest shoes to ever set foot in the White House" when Conrad and his parents got a chance to meet with Obama and Michelle Obama before Monday's LGBT Pride reception at the White House.
>GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard on attending Monday's LGBT Pride reception at the White House, before which GLSEN student leader Conrad Honicker and his parents got to meet President Obama and the First Lady ptivately:
The reception was clearly a watershed event, even as there remains so much to be done to advance full equality for LGBT people and safer schools for all. But there was something even more remarkable about the day, above and beyond the event itself. Yesterday, GLSEN student organizer Conrad Honicker and his family had an opportunity to meet privately with the President and Mrs. Obama for a few moments before the President entered to make his remarks.
Along with a small group of other organizations’ constituents (a PFLAG mother and her son, a pair of gay dads and their children with the Family Equality Council, and an older lesbian couple who are members of SAGE), Conrad and his parents were taken aside to meet with the President and Mrs. Obama. They had a few moments to tell their stories and ask for the President and First Lady’s help in making schools safer for all students affected by anti-LGBT bias and harassment in school. And, as Conrad told me afterwards, shaking slightly with excitement as he spoke, the President told Conrad that his pointy silver wingtips were, without a doubt, “The coolest shoes that have ever set foot in the White House.”
Shoes and all, Conrad and his parents were tremendous advocates for GLSEN. Over the course of the reception, they and I spoke with other key Administration representatives, including David Axelrod, Senior Advisor to the President, and various members of the Office of Public Engagement. I got to speak with Mrs. Obama immediately after the President’s remarks, to reinforce the ask that Conrad had made, and mention the Safe Schools Improvement Act once again.