“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.
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.
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?
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
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.
In the fall of 2010, GLSEN embarked on a monumental campaign to provide every middle and high school in the country – 63,000 schools — with a GLSEN Safe Space Kit by the end of 2013. The Kit, which includes Safe Space stickers and posters and a 42-page guide to being an ally to LGBT students, empowers teachers to make a difference in the lives of LGBT youth.
Earlier this month, the last batch of Safe Space Kits began arriving at the remaining few hundred schools, meaning every secondary school in the country now has access to a resource that helps teachers make classrooms and hallways safer for LGBT students.
GLSEN could not have reached every secondary school in the country without the support of hundreds of corporate and community partners, GLSEN’s 38 chapters and many of you – from donating Kits to voting for us in the Pepsi Refresh Challenge and helping us win $250,000 toward the campaign.
Here are a few of the people and partners who helped us reach this goal:
- Eddie, a high school student and GSA leader in Portland, Oregon, purchased 12 Safe Space Kits out of his own pocket and hand-delivered them to schools in his area.
- Wells Fargo made a historic financial and volunteer investment in the campaign, allowing GLSEN to take the initiative to scale and achieve our ambitious goal.
- Deborah Gist, Rhode Island Commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, wrote to educators in the state: “Ask yourself what you can do and begin by identifying yourself, your classroom and your office as safe spaces for LGBT students. It can change a life – and in some cases, save one.”
- Our GLSEN Phoenix chapter hosted district-wide trainings to maximize knowledge and impact of the Kits.
All told in the past three years, we’ve distributed close to 100,000 Kits (schools need more than just one) and 1 million Safe Space stickers.
But the completion of the Safe Space Campaign is just the beginning. We are committed to making sure every LGBT student can identify not just one but many supportive educators, which our research shows leads to higher grade point averages, greater educational aspirations and less fear-based absenteeism. That is something we all can support.
Our executive director Eliza Byard sent this email out today and I wanted to share it with you all here!
I want to invite you to take part in a national call to action that is changing the calendar and making history.
Following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, today we are celebrating #GivingTuesday, a day dedicated to giving – when charities, families, businesses, students, retailers and many more will come together to make a difference nationwide.
#GivingTuesday is a national day of giving to help start the holiday season. It is a moment to remember what this time of the year is all about – giving back.
I invite you to be part of the #GivingTuesday celebration and help GLSEN show the world what a difference we can make together with your gift of $75, $50 or $25.
And I hope you will also help spread the word about GLSEN and Giving Tuesday by sharing the message with others and letting them know why you support our continuing efforts to ensure every member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
P.S. You can use “#GivingTuesday” in your social media posts today to share with the world why you support GLSEN to make a difference for schools across the country. Thank you!
Dear Ms. Svenson,
I was stunned to hear your recent comments about transgender students during a school board meeting. Your suggestion that transgender students be castrated before using a restroom that aligns with their gender identity is inhumane, inappropriate, and potentially dangerous to the students in your school district.
In the 2011 National School Climate Survey, GLSEN found that more than three-quarters of transgender students experienced verbal harassment based on their gender expression or gender identity. In addition, 3 of 10 transgender students report having been physically harassed as well. By publicly suggesting that transgender students should be castrated, you are reinforcing this dangerous and unjust trend.
As a fellow school board member, I know that this role has many responsibilities. Chief among them is to act in the best interests of the students. However, your comments suggest a prejudice against transgender and gender non-conforming students, rather than a stance designed to help the students in your district.
Your responsibility to act in the best interests of your students includes ALL of your students, including transgender and gender non-conforming students. Whatever your personal views may be, they need to stay away from your role as a public official. You should know that when you speak publicly, your words can ripple throughout your school community, and could lead to even more bullying and harassment against transgender students. Your comments dehumanize transgender and gender non-conforming students, and they could endanger students in your district.
In your comments, you derided recent successes in Massachusetts and California to make schools safer and more welcoming to transgender and gender non-conforming students. As a school board member in Massachusetts, I implore you to give these policies a serious look, and consider taking a proactive approach to supporting transgender and gender non-conforming students. When we create healthier school environments, we’ll be in a much better place as school board members to accomplish what we originally set out to do: help students learn.
Alex Pratt is a co-founder of GLSEN’s Transgender Student Rights and a member of the Littleton School Committee.
Add your name in support of Alex's open letter to Katherine Svenson, the Delta County Colorado School Board Member.
I’m Tommy Bricco, an intern in GLSEN’s Research Department, and I wanted to introduce myself to the broader GLSEN community. I’m thrilled and excited to be a part of GLSEN’s phenomenal team of leaders and advocates who are making such a tremendous impact in educational arenas throughout the country for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) young people. Two months ago I started assisting the Research Department with preparing the data for the 2013 National School Climate Survey report. Having had minimal experience working with education research, I was unsure about what I could expect in my position. However, I quickly realized that my work is more than just crunching data for the next report. Working with data affords me an opportunity to see patterns in LGBTQ students’ stories and to hear these young people’s voices come through in their responses.
Working at GLSEN has also given me the chance to reflect on my own journey as an LGBTQ activist. My story began when I was nine years old. As a young kid in a school, I found myself more comfortable playing with the girls on the playground rather than playing with the boys. One afternoon an adult came out of the school, pointed at me, and with a smirk on his face asked, “Who is the new girl at school?” This was the first time that I seriously thought about who I was as a young person. What did he mean? Was he actually insinuating that I was a girl? Was I doing something wrong? This was the first time I was acutely aware that the pressure to conform to traditional “gender norms” would be something I would have to face in life.
Moving forward from this experience, I knew that the way this adult made me feel was wrong, and I didn’t want another young person to have to go through the anxiety and stress associated with gender stereotyping. However, this was not the last time that I was exposed to anti-LGBT behavior. From little league baseball teams to the hallways of my public schools, homophobia seemed to be everywhere in my community. Since beginning my internship here at GLSEN, I am even more convinced that there is much work to be done to ensure LGBTQ young people have safe, inclusive learning environments.
Despite exposure to anti-LGBT behavior in my community, I was fortunate to have a mother who believed in acceptance, understanding, and love for all people. It was this type of love and influence that allowed me to accept myself and recognize the importance of valuing the differences inherent in humanity. In addition to my mother, many of my teachers gave me the confidence to draw on my experiences and work towards providing equal education opportunities for LGBTQ youth.
Once I got to college, I began to fully embrace my identity as a gay man. In addition, I began developing my passion to advocate for culturally-sustaining curricula and school environments for underrepresented populations of students, primarily for students of color and LGBTQ students. This passion led me to the New York University graduate program in Education, Leadership, Politics and Advocacy which I will complete this December. I’m so grateful to have been given this opportunity at GLSEN to help make positive changes in the lives of LGBTQ young people. To me, GLSEN is a place that helps provide, build and sustain the spaces for young people to speak up and make their voices heard. I look forward to contributing to research that local advocates can use to ensure safe schools for all students, and I know that together we can make a change.
This guest post is by one of our Student Ambassador alumni, Emet Tauber
Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, and event where once a year we come together to commemorate and honor the lives of transgender people who have been taken from us due to violence and transphobia.
This day is a solemn day to reflect on all that we have done and all that we still must do to make this world a safer place for transgender and gender non-conforming people. In the world of K-12 schools this means providing equal bathroom access, equal sporting access, the proper use of names and pronouns for every student, and the right of every student to express their gender how they want to. We have come a long way in the past few years, but we still have a long way to go.
The events of the past few weeks in California have reminded us just how cruel the world can be to people they don’t understand. As activists and representatives of the queer community, we must educate others on who we are and why transgender student rights are of the upmost importance.
Today is also a time in which we can and should step back in order to let individual voices be heard across our communities. We should recognize our relative privileges and let people who might not otherwise be heard, have their stories resonate from coast to coast, and classroom to classroom. Personally, tonight I will be speaking at Stetson University in Florida about the intersections of my identity as a Jew and as a person of trans* experience. In my remarks I will remind students of the Jewish value of menschlichkeit, being a good person and a good neighbor to those around you.
Tonight, be a mensch and support your fellow students in their time of reflection and sorrow over the loss of over 280 trans* identified people this year. I hope your day will be full of reflection and thought about how to take action for transgender people and gender non-conforming people everywhere.
Editor's Note: Trans* is often used to connote a diversity of identities under the "transgender umbrella." These identities include, but are not limited to: transgender, transsexual, transmasculine, transfeminine, genderqueer, agender, third gender, two-spirit and mahu. The usage originates from the search convention where an asterisk indicates a wildcard, where "include anything following"