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The Status Quo Is Unacceptable

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  • At this moment when we have the nation's attention, we must make three points crystal clear:
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  • The status quo is unacceptable, and we must improve school climate with respect to LGBT youth NOW;
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  • There are things each of us can do — proven solutions that make a concrete difference in the lives of young people; and
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  • Everyone can and must take part in affecting this vital change.
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  • Special Report: Making Schools Safer for Gay Students
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Eliza Byard, Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)

The tragic news of the past six weeks has been difficult for all of us working to improve the lives of young people. I am so grateful to all of you for your hard work and tremendous support as we continue our efforts to make schools safer for all students.

The horrible truth is that today's front-page news is not that different from the daily reality in any school year. I and my colleagues on the GLSEN staff, along with our many local and national partners, have been working to change that reality for many years.

At this moment when we have the nation's attention, we must make three points crystal clear:

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  • The status quo is unacceptable, and we must improve school climate with respect to LGBT youth NOW;
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  • There are things each of us can do — proven solutions that make a concrete difference in the lives of young people; and
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  • Everyone can and must take part in affecting this vital change.
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Below are a few examples of how you and others can be part of this national movement to change and save lives:

•    Safe Space Campaign: Promote visible support for LGBT students in secondary schools nationwide by sending a GLSEN Safe Space Kit to your school. The single most important first line of defense for young people in crisis is a network of visibly supportive adults at school, in their community and at home — this campaign ensures that.
•    Ally Week: Join the student-led movement to identify allies in the effort to end anti-LGBT bullying. This year, Ally Week is October 18 to 22.
•    Federal legislation: Call your Senators and Member of Congress to build support for the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act.
•    Claim Your Rights: Enlist the support of the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education by reporting incidents of anti-LGBT discrimination at school.
•    No Name-Calling Week: Produced in partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals, No Name Calling Week lesson plans have helped tens of thousands of elementary and middle schools lay the foundation for safer schools for all in the older grades.

GLSEN's programs touch all facets of school life, supporting school communities as they seek to create and nurture a culture of respect in which all students can thrive.

In the midst of this current crisis, I awoke yesterday to the news that the Washington Post had published a piece by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council attacking GLSEN and our work. This highly offensive screed rehashed old, vitriolic nonsense and added the outrageous charge that we are exploiting recent tragedies to push a homosexual agenda upon schools to "redefine the family."

I'm pleased to report that the Washington Post has published our response this morning, in the same space that Perkins' scurrilous attacks appeared yesterday (Oct 12). And our response comes from the one person perhaps most qualified to attest to GLSEN's motives, purpose and dedication to this work: GLSEN Board Member Sirdeaner Walker.

I believe her response rings out loud and clear. I am proud of the hard work, the heart and the clarity of purpose that enabled my colleagues and I to earn Sirdeaner's trust and partnership. We will continue our work to ensure every student in this country is safe, respected and supported, and do all that we can to provide these students with a fair chance at becoming the amazing individuals they were born to be.

As always, I thank you so much for your support and partnership.

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Related:

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Special Report | Making Schools Safer for Gay Students, David Culver<>, ed., Evergreene Digest
At this moment when we have the nation's attention, we must make three points crystal clear:
•    The status quo is unacceptable, and we must improve school climate with respect to LGBT youth NOW;
•    There are things each of us can do — proven solutions that make a concrete difference in the lives of young people; and
•    Everyone can and must take part in affecting this vital change.



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New projects aim to give hope to gay teens who've been bullied

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  • In recent weeks, several high-profile suicides among gay teens nationwide have brought increased attention to anti-gay bullying in all its forms. Those deaths have prompted the launch of at least two online video projects — including one by local sex columnist Dan Savage, who is editorial director of The Stranger weekly newspaper — intended to give hope to gay teens facing harassment.
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  • Making Schools Safer for Gay Students
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Lornet Turnbull, Seattle Times | WA

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"That's so gay."

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It's a common refrain of teens and young people, part of the school-hall vernacular for anything not cool or hip.

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But for many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students — some of them still struggling with their sexuality — comments like these can be hurtful, no less stinging than more overt slurs.

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In recent weeks, several high-profile suicides among gay teens have brought increased attention to anti-gay bullying in its many forms.

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More...

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Related:

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Making Schools Safer for Gay Students, Cathy Renna, Renna Communications

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  • New report with recommendations and model legislation
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  • LGBT Students Harassed At Colleges Nationwide, New Report Says
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  • Anti-gay group organizes in Anoka-Hennepin (MN) schools as community deals with gay suicides
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'A Prayer When I Feel Hated': Helping Prevent Gay Teen Suicide

Be with me when people make fun of me,
and help me to respond how you would want me to,
in a love that respects other, but also respects me.
Help me find friends who love me for who I am.
Help me, most of all, to be a loving person.

Rev. James Martin, S.J., Huffington Post

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The recent rash of suicides among young gay youths cannot fail to move the Christian heart, or indeed any heart capable of compassion. While any suicide is a terrible tragedy, the suicide of a young person who feels that his or her life will never change, and who moves towards despair as a result of constant bullying and harassment, is especially poignant.

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Many of the gays and lesbians, young and old, who have spoken about this in the last few days have pointed to how wounded they have felt by their churches and by other religious organizations. The Christian community must find a way to reach out more compassionately to gay and lesbian youths, help them feel welcome and valued, and help them know that they are beloved by God -- and by us. We must lead, as we do with any group, and as Jesus did, first with welcome, not condemnation. For my part, here is a prayer I composed for all who feel excluded, rejected, marginalized, shamed or made fun of, in any way or in any place, religious or otherwise: "A Prayer When I Feel Hated"

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Stop the suicides: put an end to bullying in schools!

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  • Ask US Education Secretary Arne Duncan: improve our nation's anti-bullying programs so we can end this tragedy.
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  • Making Schools Safer for Gay Students
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  • Anti-gay group organizes in Anoka-Hennepin (MN) schools as community deals with gay suicides
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Joe Solmonese, Human Rights Campaign

This is an epidemic.

Last week (Sep 19-25), Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi killed himself by jumping off a bridge after his roommate secretly recorded him with another male student, then broadcast the video online.

I wish I could tell you this was an isolated incident. But Tyler's death as a victim of anti-gay harassment was just one of a number of recent suicides among teenagers who were ruthlessly "bullied to death."

Our schools and our nation cannot sit back and wait for the next tragedy. So today, we're calling on Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to speak out immediately – and to push every school anti-bullying program in the nation to include sexual orientation and gender identity like HRC's Welcoming Schools program. Please stand with us.

Ask US Education Secretary Arne Duncan: improve our nation's anti-bullying programs so we can end this tragedy.

Tyler wasn't the only one.

After months of relentless bullying, 13-year-old Seth Walsh hung himself from a tree outside his California home this week (Sep 26 - Oct 2). Billy Lucas of Indiana was 15 years old when he hung himself after being called a "fag" over and over again. Asher Brown's classmates teased him without mercy and acted out mock gay sex acts in class, and last Thursday (Sep 23) he shot himself in the head. He was only 13.

And a single district in Minnesota has seen seven suicides in the last year by young victims of intolerance. As a virulently anti-LGBT candidate seeks the governor's chair (a man who could decide the fate of anti-bullying measures), it's clear that the very lives of Minnesota's children are at stake.

This isn't a new problem. It's been happening for decades. And too often, administrators fail to act, even after parents complain about the bullying at school.

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That's why HRC developed Welcoming Schools, an innovative program that gives elementary school teachers, parents and students across the country the tools to help stop the name-calling, bullying and gender stereotyping that so many students face every day. It helps kids learn respect and tolerance early on, to prevent violence later in middle and high school.

But it's up to those who run our schools – from Secretary Duncan down to every local school board – to act to end the bullying.

Secretary Duncan: No more children should be bullied to death. Help stop anti-LGBT harassment in schools now.

Once you take action, I hope you'll write a letter to the editor of your local paper. I hope you'll also let educators and administrators in your local school district know about Welcoming Schools and explain why you want to see Welcoming Schools in elementary schools near you. The more we spread the word, the better our chances of preventing another tragedy.

If school officials don't act, more young lives will be tragically lost. We can't let that happen.

Related:

Making Schools Safer for Gay Students, Cathy Renna, Renna Communications

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  • New report with recommendations and model legislation
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  • LGBT Students Harassed At Colleges Nationwide, New Report Says
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  • Anti-gay group organizes in Anoka-Hennepin (MN) schools as community deals with gay suicides
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Anti-gay group organizes in Anoka-Hennepin (MN) schools as community deals with gay suicides, Andy Birkey, Minnesota Independent
“Well, news flash: There are homosexual people all over the world. Having your kid meet a homosexual in school and possibly even having a nice conversation with one isn’t going to turn your kid into one.” --Tammy Aaberg

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