June 24, 2010

>Several student and community leaders represented GLSEN at the White House LGBT Pride Reception on Tuesday. Check out what they had to say about it here.

Below is GLSEN Student Ambassador Dominique Walker's account.
My mom and I were fortunate to have a private photo opportunity with the President prior to the reception. We were both very nervous as we stood there waiting to meet him. As the military personnel escorted us to have our picture taken, my mom told the President about my brother Carl, the anti-gay bullying he faced and how he took his life. We had a photo of Carl, which we showed to the President. I also told him about our work to raise awareness about the issue and our advocacy work with GLSEN to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act. I was so surprised and honored when the President said that he had heard about my brother's story and offered his condolences. He also said that he wants to do what he can to help and is on board with the Safe Schools Improvement Act. The past year has been such a journey for me and my Mom. This was definitely a highlight in that journey - and I feel like the sky's the limit. Thank you so much to GLSEN for all of the support this past year and for this incredible opportunity.

June 22, 2010

This afternoon, a remarkable GLSEN delegation will attend an LGBT Pride Month reception at the White House to press for the federal action most critically needed on LGBT issues in K-12 education in this country. The five student advocates and their guests will call for President Obama’s support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act, as well as for continued progress on a range of initiatives currently underway in federal agencies, including the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and Justice. Dominique and Sirdeaner Walker will have the opportunity to make our case to the President himself, in a short meeting before the President’s remarks.

I am so proud of the fact that GLSEN has built such a strong partnership with such effective leaders. Because of the work that we do at the national and Chapter level, GLSEN will be ably represented at the highest level of federal advocacy by a diverse group of people who are at the front lines of this effort every day. This delegation is uniquely positioned to carry the message to the President, members of the Administration, and elected officials attending this afternoon’s event.

Over the past 18 months, many Executive Branch agencies have engaged with GLSEN in crucial new initiatives, but we still need clear and unequivocal support from the President himself, particularly in the legislative arena, where the provisions of the Safe Schools Improvement Act must become law as part of this Administration’s version of No Child Left Behind. I look forward to reporting back on the experience of our group at the White House today. Here’s a little more information about them:

The Delegation

Austin Laufersweiler, who just graduated from Lassiter High School in Marietta, GA, was GLSEN’s 2009 Student Advocate of the Year, and will attend the reception with his mentor and ally, Maru Gonzalez. After experiencing severe anti-LGBT bullying in school, Austin went on to found his school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), provide training for his former middle school on LGBT issues, and advocate for the implementation of comprehensive anti-bullying policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression at his own school and throughout Georgia.

Danielle Smith, a recent graduate of Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, ME, and GLSEN’s 2010 Student Advocate of the Year, will be accompanied by her parents, Richard and Victoria Smith. Danielle led the Jump- Start Student Leadership Team coordinated by GLSEN Southern Maine, was the president of her school’s GSA, and was the valedictorian of her class.

Dominique Walker, a rising senior at the MacDuffie School in Springfield, MA, will attend the reception with her mother, Sirdeaner Walker, a member of GLSEN’s National Board of Directors, and her aunt, Tonda Walker. Since the suicide of her younger brother, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, one year ago, Dominique has become a leader in the effort to end anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools, a member of GLSEN’s National Ambassadors Team, and the co-president of MacDuffie’s GSA.

Loan Tran, a rising junior at the Phillip O Berry Academy of Technology in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a member of GLSEN’s National Ambassadors Team. Loan has been a leading advocate for federal legislative action on LGBT issues in K-12 education as well as for positive change in her own school and local community.

Mary Susman, a recent graduate of Westside High School in Omaha, NE, will attend with her mother, Kathleen Susman. Mary is on the board of GLSEN Omaha and leads the chapter’s Jump-Start Student Leadership Team. She is a leading advocate for LGBT equality and LGBT issues in schools in her community and nationally, who has persevered in her work despite the bullying she has experienced in school and on-line.

Happy Pride, and thank you for all that you do to advance our mission!

Warmest regards,

Eliza Byard, PhD
Executive Director

May 04, 2010

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Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a general anti-bullying bill yesterday. While GLSEN was disappointed that the final bill did not enumerate specific categories of students often targeted for bullying -- something essential to protect students from bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression -- we were proud to be represented at the signing ceremony by new GLSEN National Board of Directors member Sirdeaner Walker.

The Walker family, who lost 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover to suicide a year ago after enduring anti-gay bullying at school, and GLSEN Communications Director Anthony Ramos also had a private meeting with Gov. Patrick, during which he expressed interest in exploring ways to add enumeration to the regulation.

Sirdeaner Walker also gave the following speech at the ceremony about the importance of the federal Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would require schools that receive federal funding to implement enumerated anti-bullying policies. You can view the speech on Facebook here.

I am very thankful to Governor Patrick and the Massachusetts Legislature for bringing attention to the crisis of bullying and harassment in our commonwealth schools.

Passing this bill is a watershed moment, but the work does not end here - indeed, it's just the beginning.

Next, and perhaps even more important, is implementation of the provisions in the bill. In that work we must ensure that we protect those youth most victimized by bullying-that means specifically naming the classes of persons who have historically and disproportionately been the subjects of bullying and harassment.

My son Carl took his life just over one year ago. He was bullied with anti-gay remarks. And Phoebe Prince took her life just a few months ago after relentless sexist bullying.

The sexist and homophobic bullying that Phoebe and Carl faced is all too common. And evidence shows that school officials often do not recognize this kind of bullying and harassment as unacceptable.

I will continue my work with GLSEN to pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act, federal anti-bullying legislation that would ensure all of our students across the country are equally protected from the bullying crisis we are facing.

We need to teach our children the simple message of respect for all. This is not about criminalizing bullying, but about preventing bullying through education.

My son was denied a lifetime of opportunities. I continue this work to ensure that no other child has to endure what my son went through, and that no other family suffers as mine has.

March 29, 2010

>Not only is addressing anti-LGBT bullying and harassment the right thing to do, failing to do so can also be very costly for school districts.

In yet another favorable outcome for a student who sued a district for failing to address bullying based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, a gay student from New York has reached a settlement with Mohawk Central School District in federal court.

Jacob is now 15 and says school officials did virtually nothing to stop bullies who picked on him because he acted differently from other boys.

Under the settlement, the district agreed to implement changes to protect students
from harassment and to pay $50,000 to Jacob's family.

Such judicial outcomes have become the norm rather than the exception. GLSEN and The National Center for Lesbian Rights put together an extensive list a few years ago of court cases where the student won or a settlement was reached: Fifteen Expensive Reasons Why Safe Schools Legislation is in Your State's Best Interest.

March 21, 2010

>Great quote from Ewan McGregor regarding his new movie with Jim Carrey, I Love You Phillip Morris. McGregor and Carrey portray two men falling in love.

It is a reflection I guess on where we’re at that it’s such a big deal that it’s a love story between two gay men, like the idea of two men being in love is slightly shocking or almost taboo, it’s beyond me.
March 19, 2010

>As you may know, Constance is headed to DC this weekend to attend GLSEN's Safe Schools Advocacy Summit, where she'll meet with Student Non-Discrimination Act sponsor Rep. Jared Polis from Colorado.

Our friends at the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT Project (ACLU is representing Constance in her case to have prom reinstated) have set up a weekend action for people to show their support for Constance and the other students and community leaders attending SSAS.

March 19, 2010

>Check out Constance on Ellen today. Thank you to the amazing folks at www.tonic.com who presented Constance with a $30,000 college scholarship on the show via Ellen.

The site is about hope, and we can't help but be a little hopeful about the future after seeing all the positive reaction to Constance's case. The ACLU, which is representing Consance, has a good rundown of all the happenings to date.

Can't wait to meet Constance tomorrow at GLSEN's Safe Schools Advocacy Summit. Check out our Twitter page for updates throughout the day. And show your support for Constance on Facebook here.

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March 17, 2010

>Cross-posted at blog.dayofsilence.org

In yet another hopeful sign for the future, nearly two-thirds (65%) of college freshmen support same-sex marriage, according to new data released by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Over all, 65 percent of the college freshmen surveyed last fall supported same-sex marriage, compared with 58 percent of Americans 18 to 29 years old and 39 percent of the population nationwide, according to the Pew research groups' study.

Support for gay marriage has increased generally in the past decade. In 2000, 56 percent of entering college students backed it. Four years later, freshmen were 57 percent supportive at the time they enrolled, and by graduation, 69 percent of that entering class supported gay marriage, according to the UCLA research institute.

While a number of factors probably contribute, the rise of Gay-Straight Alliances over that time (more than 4,000 are registered with GLSEN today compared to 1,000 in 2001) has almost certainly had an impact.

The National Day of Silence is perhaps even more important. Hundreds of thousands of students coming together every year across the country to raise awareness of anti-LGBT bullying has almost certainly led more people to the belief that every person deserves to be treated with the same dignity and respect.

This year's Day of Silence is less than a month away. Join us on April 16 as students help spread a message of respect for all. Be a fan of the official Day of Silence Facebook page for updates on how you can show your support, even if you're not in school.

What are you going to do to end the silence?

March 17, 2010

>Cross-posted at blog.glsen.org

In yet another hopeful sign for the future, nearly two-thirds (65%) of college freshmen support same-sex marriage, according to new data released by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Over all, 65 percent of the college freshmen surveyed last fall supported same-sex marriage, compared with 58 percent of Americans 18 to 29 years old and 39 percent of the population nationwide, according to the Pew research groups' study.

Support for gay marriage has increased generally in the past decade. In 2000, 56 percent of entering college students backed it. Four years later, freshmen were 57 percent supportive at the time they enrolled, and by graduation, 69 percent of that entering class supported gay marriage, according to the UCLA research institute.

While a number of factors probably contribute, the rise of Gay-Straight Alliances over that time (more than 4,000 are registered with GLSEN today compared to 1,000 in 2001) has almost certainly had an impact.

The National Day of Silence is perhaps even more important. Hundreds of thousands of students coming together every year across the country to raise awareness of anti-LGBT bullying has almost certainly led more people to the belief that every person deserves to be treated with the same dignity and respect.

This year's Day of Silence is less than a month away. Join us on April 16 as students help spread a message of respect for all. Be a fan of the official Day of Silence Facebook page for updates on how you can show your support, even if you're not in school.

What are you going to do to end the silence?

February 12, 2010

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From any angle, February 12th is the anniversary of two lives' destruction by homophobia and the inability of the two boys' families, school and relevant social service agencies to deal effectively with the escalating conflict between them. Experts on bullying agree that any bullying situation involves two young people who need help--the target and the perpetrator. Both Brandon and Larry had already led difficult lives, and needed something more than their communities were able to give them.

Read more here from GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard.

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