September 10, 2012
Back-to-School Voices: Peter DeWitt
Elementary School Principal
Poestenkill, New York
Every year I am more and more convinced that we do not do enough to safeguard our LGBT student population. They are bullied and harassed more often than their peers and don’t feel safe coming to school. As a school administrator I believe that parents send their kids to school so they can learn but they expect them to be safe. It is our job as school administrators and teachers to make sure that all students feel safe when they come to school.
This year is very exciting in New York State because all school districts have to implement the Dignity for All Students Act (Dignity Act), which means that they have to make sure that they are offering safeguards and resources that will help create an inclusive environment. In my own district we have school board policies and student codes of conduct to help ensure that we are creating a safe environment for all students. Through our district curriculum teams, librarians offer LGBT sections in the high school library and K-12 teachers educate students about gender bias through the use of children’s literature and character education resources. In addition, we are using sources from GLSEN’s Ready, Set, Respect and our Dignity Act committee will be implementing student surveys to see how well it is working.
Peter DeWitt is a blogger at Education Week and author of “Dignity For All: Safeguarding LGBT Students.”
Resources to help you get back to school
Ready, Set, Respect! – a toolkit for elementary educators
States with Safe Schools laws – check to see if your state has an enumerated anti-bullying policy, such as the Dignity for All Students Act in New York
Model Laws & Policies – if your state doesn’t have anti-bullying legislation, take a look at our model legislation and talk to your local lawmakers about adopting it
What have YOU done to transform you school? What ideas or tips can you provide to other LGBT students overcoming challenges? Share your story with us so that we can share it with world. Together, we’ll be inspired to make this school year even better than the last – for everyone.