School is in full swing now during October, National Bullying Prevention Month, but LGBT students still feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and gender expression. According to GLSEN’s (Gay, Straight Education Network)on-line survey entitled the 2013 National School Climate Survey of students between ages of 13 and 21, 55.5% of LGBT adolescents feel insecure at their school. They report higher levels of depression, lower GPAs as well as self-esteem than heterosexual students.
Despite the harassment, in schools with a comprehensive policy against harassment, LGBT students are less likely to hear gay used in a negative way, as for example, “that’s so gay.” But 72% of students with no policy hear “that’s so gay” frequently.
According to GLSEN, the prevalence of hearing negative remarks about gender expression was at its lowest levels in 2013. What is GLSEN offering schools that is proving to be effective?
· Provides an Elementary School toolkit called “Ready, Set, Respect.” This teaches about respect, and focuses on name-calling, bullying and bias, LGBT-inclusive family diversity and gender roles and diversity.
· Has a guide called “Working With LGBT Students of Color: A Guide for Educators.”
· Safe-Space Kit – For $20, a school can order a 42-page guide filled with strategies.
· Information on how to join/start a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) at your school or take part in one of GLSEN’s student leadership programs to make your school a better place.
· Has Educator guides, lesson plans, and resources ready to download.
· Press materials covering Inclusion and Respect for Educators.
· GLSEN sponsors special events such as A Day of Silence, No Name-Calling Week, Ally Week, Think B4You Speak, and Changing The Game.
On a larger scope, outside the school, GLSEN chapters connect to obtain support locally and bring change to communities. GLSEN UP has a policy action center to contact your elected officials and learn about GLSEN’s current campaigns. Besides federal laws, such as Safe Schools Improvement Act and the The Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), GLSEN supports states’ bills such as Equality Act, Every Child Deserves a Family Act, Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, and The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (suicide prevention).
To be a supportive ally and inspire students to be kind and speak up when they see bullying, look to GLSEN for concrete tips. http://www.glsen.org/educate/resources
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.