March 15, 2012

Respect Report: From the Halls of Congress to the Hallways of the Schools Next Door

The System Works

It was clear very early in Russlynn Ali’s tenure as the new Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education that she was committed to having her office do everything it could to end harassment and discrimination faced by students nationwide. On her third day on the job – before she had even unpacked her office – I had the opportunity to meet with her to discuss anti-LGBT bias and violence in our schools, and hear her vision for bringing her office’s powers under Title IX to bear on this national crisis.

Last week’s landmark settlement in Anoka-Hennepin was her office’s third victory as she and her great partner Tom Perez as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, work to fulfill that vision. Our friends at the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center stood with six families in the district, and the Departments of Justice and Education brokered a settlement that will bring critical change to the district.

The system works, and LGBT youth have an ally and defender in the civil rights enforcement offices of the federal government. If you are having persistent problems in your school or district, go here to see how to make a complaint to Russlynn Ali’s office with help from GLSEN’s Claim Your Rights Project. Now attention turns to the effective implementation of the remedies in Anoka-Hennepin, Tehachapi, and Mohawk Valley school districts, all under similar court order.

School districts nationwide have taken notice, and a quiet revolution is taking place as they seek to proactively implement the in-school interventions championed by GLSEN to promote better, safer school environments.

Next Tuesday, the amazing work taking place nationwide will be on full display at the White House’s LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Communities in Dallas. We’re proud to be a lead partner in supporting this convening. Our Texas-based GLSEN chapters, national staff and GLSEN student leaders will facilitate workshops and speak on the plenary Safe Schools panel about building on the momentum and making all K-12 schools safe, affirming places for all youth.

We were there in DC, we’ll be there in Dallas next week, and in the months and years to come we'll be there for all the districts ready to do the critical work.

Our Safe Space Initiative will be in 20 of the nation’s largest school districts with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-Department of Adolescent and School Health. We're there nationwide with Safe Space Kits for middle and high schools and Ready, Set, Respect! for grades K-5. And we'll continue to be a voice for these issues in DC and in the partnerships forged through two decades of work with countless leading national education and youth development organizations.

We couldn’t do this work without your support. Your belief in our mission of fuels our ongoing efforts. Thank you.

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Eliza Byard

About Eliza Byard

Dr. Eliza Byard is the Executive Director of GLSEN - the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.

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