Need for Safe Schools Advocacy Clear in Nebraska

Earlier this week, Nebraska's Lincoln Journal Star reported about a flier sent home with fifth grade students that offered questionable advice for "turning bullies into buddies." Lincoln officials have apologized, saying that the flier doesn't reflect actual district policy and offering their own "facts about bullying."

The flier, whose advice includes "do not tell on bullies," is indeed problematic, but it's district policy in Lincoln (see Policy 5482, pg. 130) and state policy in Nebraska that offer real cause for concern. Neither employs the bullying and harassment prevention strategies that have proven most effective. In fact, only sixteen states and the District of Columbia have in place laws that enumerate specific categories of targeted students, "underscore[ing] those students who research shows are most likely to be bullied and harassed and least likely to be protected."

 

GLSEN: Enumerated anti-bullying laws by state

We must remain engaged in safe schools advocacy at the state and local level, and we must work toward a federal baseline that holds all states, including Nebraska, accountable. It starts with the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA), which supports the creation of enumerated anti-bullying policies that include data collection, public education, and grievance procedures. It continues with the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), which protects students from school-based sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, much like Title IX does for gender discrimination, and much like other areas of law do for various protected classes; recognizes bullying and harassment as discrimination; and provides remedies against discrimination and incentives for schools to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Check out PFAW's policy toolkit: Education Without Discrimination: Creating Safe Schools for All Students to learn more about SSIA and SNDA and how you can raise safe schools awareness.

Then take a look at PFAW's report on Big Bullies: How the Religious Right is Trying to Make Schools Safe for Bullies and Dangerous for Gay Kids and its 2012 update.

Finally, be sure to visit our website and Right Wing Watch for more updates.

PFAW

Minnesota Safe Schools Bill Becomes Law

Amid last week's activity surrounding the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network's Day of Silence and the PFAW-led safe schools letter campaign came a state success for the idea that all students deserve far better than what they're getting when it comes to bullying an harassment. In the wee hours of April 9, the Minnesota House of Representatives took the final vote on the Safe and Supportive Schools Act. That afternoon Governor Mark Dayton signed it into law.

PFAW activists proudly joined OutFront Minnesota and the Safe Schools for All Coalition in supporting the bill as it moved to the Governor's desk.

PFAW will continue to stand up for safe schools.

We have released a policy toolkit designed to help activists understand and address the problem head-on. We hope that you'll use it to continue your own work on this important issue.

We also hope that you'll check out PFAW's report on Big Bullies: How the Religious Right is Trying to Make Schools Safe for Bullies and Dangerous for Gay Kids and its 2012 update.

Then visit our website and Right Wing Watch for more LGBT equality updates.

PFAW

Safe Schools Letter Campaign Concludes with Nearly 30 Organizations Standing Together to Say Students Deserve Better

The letter-a-day campaign for safe schools that PFAW led concluded today, when we also marked the Day of Silence – an annual event organized by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) that is meant to draw attention to the "silencing effects" of anti-gay harassment and name-calling in schools and to be a way for students to show their solidarity with students who have been bullied.

Over the last month twenty-eight groups went on record with Congress in support of safe schools legislation. Together, we sent loud and clear the message that all students deserve far better than what they're getting when it comes to bullying and harassment in schools.

Below are excerpts from this week's letters.

Religious Action Center:

The Reform Jewish Movement has long been active in the struggle for civil rights for all Americans, including members of the LGBT community. As people of faith, our holy texts teach us that all people are created in the Divine image, b’tselem Elohim (Gen. 1:27), and should thus be treated with respect and dignity. As Jews, our tradition and history teach us that we should not stand by as others suffer– we envision a government which “to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance” (George Washington, in a letter to Moses Seixas, 1790). Yet LGBT students are frequently victimized in their own schools and at the hands of their fellow students.

National Black Justice Coalition:

We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the unspeakable tragedies unchecked bullying is causing across our nation. Students must be protected, and must feel safe and affirmed in their schools. NBJC is dedicated to the elimination of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in all our communities, and we recognize how these behaviors specifically attack those that live at the intersection of being Black and LGBT. Ultimately, this is about stopping abhorrent behavior that gets in the way of a quality education. All students deserve far better than that.

Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS):

On behalf of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), an organization concerned about the sexual health education and well-being of people of all ages and particularly our nation’s youth, I urge you to actively support and cosponsor the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA, H.R. 1652/S. 1088) and the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA, H.R. 1199/S. 403). Bullying and harassment in schools are pervasive problems with serious consequences for students. SNDA and SSIA are two pieces of legislation that would help create safe and healthy spaces for students to learn.

National PTA:

As the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer child advocacy organization, National PTA has long advocated for the health and wellbeing of all children. PTA believes that the safety of children in school settings is a fundamental right and therefore we advocate for policies and programs that address the prevention, intervention, and elimination of bullying to allow every child full access to educational opportunities.

Advocates for Youth:

No young person should feel unsafe in their school because of who they are. Bullying and harassment have no place in our educational system, and SNDA and SSIA help us to protect all young people from being targeted based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. We urge you to support and cosponsor SNDA and SSIA.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund:

Most importantly, as shown by the recent rash of suicides of bullied children across the nation, these bills are part of a comprehensive preventative strategy to ensure that youth survive the years they spend in school. No parent should ever again have to learn that their child has taken his or her life due to bullying and harassment from a peer that was entirely preventable.

SNDA and SSIA will assist in creating a welcoming environment for all students and ensure that children are able to focus on education, rather than merely survival. Once enacted, these protections will help create a better educated, more productive population, able to contribute fully to the general welfare of our nation. Again, we urge you to support SNDA (S. 1088/ H.R. 1652) and SSIA (S. 403/H.R. 1199) as a co-sponsor of this essential legislation.

PACER Center:

PACER is working to create a paradigm shift in society’s views about bullying. Instead of seeing bullying as an accepted behavior and a natural part of childhood, we need to understand that bullying has a significant impact on the lives of children, especially those with disabilities. Children with disabilities are already so often vulnerable and when they are being bullied, their vulnerability magnifies. This can lead to additional challenges to learning in school, including fear of going to school, social isolation, and physical and emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, and lack of self-worth.

Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN):

Today is GLSEN’s annual Day of Silence. Hundreds of thousands of students across the United States have taken a vow of silence for the day to draw attention to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools – behavior that we know has serious consequences. Eight in ten lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students report being verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation, and nearly two-thirds harassed because of their gender expression. Such harassment has detrimental impacts on students’ long-term social, academic, psychological and physical well-being, including increased rates of absenteeism and depression and lower grade point averages and educational aspirations.

To most effectively address bullying, harassment and discrimination, it’s essential to have effective laws in place. The Safe Schools Improvement Act would empower states to develop anti-bullying laws that best meet their needs, so long as those laws meet basic, fact-based criteria to ensure their effectiveness, including the enumeration of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and religion. The legislation would also streamline data collection on bullying and harassment to help states better address the issue. The Student Non-Discrimination Act would ensure that LGBT students can no longer be discriminated against in public school simply for being who they are.

Here are some of our earlier participants – more support for safe schools. And here's a look at all twenty-eight of us – together.

It's important, though, to recognize that safe schools advocacy is not just about one day or one month – it's a long-term commitment to change.

PFAW has released a policy toolkit, Education Without Discrimination: Creating Safe Schools for All Students, designed to help activists understand and address the problem head-on. We hope that you'll use it to continue your own work on this important issue in the weeks and months to come.

We also hope that you'll check out PFAW's report on Big Bullies: How the Religious Right is Trying to Make Schools Safe for Bullies and Dangerous for Gay Kids and its 2012 update.

PFAW

On the Day of Silence, Check Out PFAW’s New Safe Schools Policy Toolkit

Today is the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network’s Day of Silence, an event meant to bring attention to the “silencing effect” of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools. In classrooms across the country, thousands of young people will stay silent throughout the day as part of an annual student-led effort that has been occurring since 1996.

In anticipation of the Day of Silence, People For the American Way recently released a new policy toolkit, Education Without Discrimination: Creating Safe Schools for All Students, which provides activists with the tools they need to advocate for critical safe schools reforms. The toolkit includes lobbying and media tips, talking points, sample materials, and background info on the lead federal legislation, the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) and Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA).

Unfortunately the Religious Right continues to rail against commonsense legislation like SSIA and SNDA that would help make our schools safe for all students. Right-wing activist Gordon Klingenschmitt has warned that the Student Non-Discrimination Act would “give homosexuals and perverts protected status” and “mandate pro-homosexual recruiting of kids in public schools.” Just this week, Mission America’s Linda Harvey – who once claimed that anti-bullying programs would turn schools into “indoctrination camps” – publicly encouraged young LGBT people to stay in the closet.

To learn more about how to stand up to these hateful attacks and push for positive change, check out the safe schools toolkit.

PFAW

African American Ministers in Action Featured This Week in Safe Schools Letter Campaign

The letter-a-day campaign for safe schools that PFAW is leading just finished another week, and now twenty groups have gone on record with Congress in support of safe schools legislation. Together, we are sending loud and clear the message that all students deserve far better than what they're getting when it comes to bullying and harassment in schools.

PFAW's own African American Ministers in Action was one of this week's highlights.

As clergy we will continue to learn and grow in our work for civil and human rights for all because of critical needs that have risen with the increase of cyberbullying and being bullied on school property. When young people come to our places of worship, they walk into a sanctuary, a safe place. This is what we should cooperatively be striving for in our schools.

We encourage you to be a partner in stopping abhorrent behavior that prevents victimized students from accessing quality education. All children deserve far better than that. Can we count on your support and cosponsorship? Your consideration of SSIA and SNDA, including as part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), is necessary and appreciated.

Below are excerpts from the rest of this week's letters.

CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers:

CenterLink represents 149 centers in 45 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, supporting the heart and soul of the LGBT movement. LGBT community centers work more closely with their LGBT constituency and engage more community leaders and decision-makers than any other LGBT network in the country. It is these community centers that often serve as the first line of defense against harassment and bullying of LGBT youth, and it these centers that see the devastating impact of these acts on our country’s students . . . It is our responsibility to ensure that all students have access to quality education without fear of harassment and discrimination. We strongly encourage you to support and co-sponsor the SSIA and the SNDA.

Keshet:

Since the campaign launched, more than 11,000 individuals and 1,000 Jewish organizations have signed on, making a public commitment to stand up against demeaning or bullying treatment of anyone due to real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. We ask for members of our government to make their own commitment to protecting students from bullying within schools by taking action in Congress.

There is a Jewish concept known as . . . Tikkun Olam, which translates to an obligation to repair and heal the world. While term might be rooted in Jewish text and tradition, the concept is universal. Please stand with the Jewish community and Keshet and help repair the world by protecting our students.

Robert F. Kennedy Center:

Bullying is, at its core, a human rights violation. It is the abuse of the powerless at the hands of the powerful, and it is a threat against the right to receive an education free from persecution. According to the U.S. Department of Education, over 28% of youth age 12-18 report being bullied in the past year. The effects of bullying are serious and long-lasting and affect both academic achievement as well as mental and physical health long after the bullying has stopped.

Gay-Straight Alliance Network:

On behalf of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, we write today to urge you to support two critically important bills: The Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) (H.R. 1199 / S. 403) and Student Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 1652 / S. 555). GSA Network is a national organization that operates a national association of 39 statewide organizations serving Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs in more than 3,000 schools across the country[.] Tens of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight ally youth participate in GSA clubs each year, and work to make schools safer.

Together these bills represent the first Federal definition of bullying and harassment, a necessary step to helping school districts, administrators and educators prevent, identify and address incidents of bullying and harassment. In the United States, 63.5% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and 43.9% because of how they express their gender. 81.9% of LGBT students were verbally harassed at school because of their sexual orientation and 63.9% because of their gender expression. 55.2% of LGBT students were harassed or threatened by their peers via electronic mediums, often referred to as cyber bullying.

National Association of Secondary School Principals:

NASSP believes that learning occurs best in a supportive, inviting, orderly, and personalized school setting, where students are safe and feel free from theft, threats, intimidation, bullying, weapons, drugs, or violence of any type. Principals accept that their first responsibility is to foster such a climate, and the public continues to confirm that priority. NASSP believes that school leaders and staff members, along with community members and leaders, have a shared responsibility to ensure that schools are safe and orderly. Trusting relationships in school are the most effective means of ensuring school safety.

Log Cabin Republicans:

For too long a national inattention to bullying has left America’s LGBT youth particularly exposed to extremely high rates of harassment and assault. According to the 2011 National School Climate Survey, over 81.9% of LGBT students experienced verbal harassment, over four in ten were physically harassed, and over one in five suffered physical assault based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Many in Congress recognize the reality that faces our nation’s youth and the positive impact of anti-bullying laws, which is why they have taken steps to prevent bullying in our nation’s schools. By becoming the next co-sponsor of the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA), you, too, can help American children.

Transgender Law Center:

No administrator, teacher or school staff would be able to be silent when a student is being bullied or harassed because of his or her actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The SNDA makes school districts responsible for preparing staff to deal with bullying and harassment of LGBT youth or those perceived to be LGBT.

Here are some of our earlier participants – more support for safe schools.

With one week to go, PFAW will continue to update you as we approach this year's Day of Silence – an annual event organized by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) that is meant to draw attention to the "silencing effects" of anti-gay harassment and name-calling in schools and to be a way for students to show their solidarity with students who have been bullied.

PFAW has released a new policy toolkit, Education Without Discrimination: Creating Safe Schools for All Students.

Please also check out PFAW's report on Big Bullies: How the Religious Right is Trying to Make Schools Safe for Bullies and Dangerous for Gay Kids and its 2012 update.

PFAW

Safe Schools Letter Campaign Wraps Another Week, Twelve Groups Have Gone on Record

The letter-a-day campaign for safe schools that PFAW is leading just finished another week, and now twelve groups have gone on record with Congress in support of safe schools legislation. Together, we are sending loud and clear the message that all students deserve far better than what they're getting when it comes to bullying and harassment in schools.

Below are excerpts from this week's letters.

Family Equality Council:

America has a rich tradition of valuing education and protecting and nurturing children through the educational process. Children with LGBT parents should not grow up feeling that their country does not value their success or the legitimacy of their parents and their families. We must ensure that all children have the same opportunity to thrive – which requires that they feel safe, supported and valued in school. Students experiencing harassment based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or because they have LGBT parents are deprived of equal educational opportunities and are too often left with few or no avenues for recourse.

The Trevor Project:

In honor of next month's Day of Silence highlighting anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment in schools, and on behalf of the more than one hundred thousand lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth served annually by The Trevor Project’s life-saving programming, we write in strong support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA, H.R. 1199 & S. 403). We thank the 226 bipartisan House and Senate cosponsors of this critical bill for addressing what has become a pervasive national problem, and we urge all members of Congress to join them.

Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund:

We urge you to support SSIA in response to increasing reports of harassment and violence faced by Sikh American students in schools. Consider the experience of Akashdeep Singh Ahluwalia, an eleven year-old Sikh American from New Jersey. Like many Sikh American students, who keep their articles of faith, he was bullied. Akashdeep was bullied so often that he had to change schools. When asked how he feels about the harassment he continues to face he responded, “It really depresses me. But in the end what can I do?”

American Association of University Women:

In addition to requiring policies prohibiting bullying and harassment, effective complaint procedures, and information sharing in current reporting systems, SSIA also provides opportunities for professional development to prevent bullying and harassment and student education programs. This is a critically important bill that will make a real difference in the lives of ALL students nationwide. That is why this bill is supported by over 110 leading national organizations in the fields of education, health, youth development, civil rights and religion.

PFLAG National:

Specifically, today’s letter to you involves three bills: [t]he Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA), [t]he Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) and [the] Every Child Deserves a Family [Act] (ECDF).

PFLAG is the nation’s largest family and ally organization.  It is comprised of parents, families, friends and straight allies united with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender LGBT)[,] and has more than 350 chapters and 200,000 members and supporters crossing multiple generations of American families in major urban centers, small cities and town and rural areas in all 50 states.

PFLAG’s values are America’s values.  We believe that the welfare, safety and well-being of our children, all of our children, is an American value with a high priority that merits your attention.

Here are some of our earlier participants – more support for safe schools.

PFAW will continue to update you as we approach April 11, this year's Day of Silence – an annual event organized by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) that is meant to draw attention to the "silencing effects" of anti-gay harassment and name-calling in schools and to be a way for students to show their solidarity with students who have been bullied.

Just today we released a new policy toolkit, Education Without Discrimination: Creating Safe Schools for All Students.

Please also check out PFAW's report on Big Bullies: How the Religious Right is Trying to Make Schools Safe for Bullies and Dangerous for Gay Kids and its 2012 update.

PFAW

Safe Schools Supporters Make Strong Showing for Launch of Letter Campaign

PFAW recently launched a letter campaign urging members of Congress to support safe schools legislation. Along with six allies who also sent letters this week, and those who will soon join us, we are making a strong showing for the idea that all students deserve far better than what they're getting when it comes to bullying and harassment in schools.

Below are excerpts from this week's letters.

Human Rights Campaign:

Federal statutory protections address discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and disability. Unfortunately, federal civil rights laws do not expressly protect students from discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Decades of civil rights history show that civil rights laws are effective in decreasing discrimination against specific vulnerable groups. It is time that we extend these laws to protect our LGBT youth.

American Civil Liberties Union:

The Student Non-Discrimination Act would have a profound impact in improving the lives of LGBT students in the U.S. by ensuring that discrimination and harassment of students on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity has no place in our country’s public elementary and secondary schools. It would do so in a way that preserves the right of all students to speak freely and the right of all students to benefit equally from the educational programs offered.

League of United Latin American Citizens:

Each time another news story comes out about the suicide of a gay teen, we must ask ourselves what we as a nation can do about it. Last year, I contacted your office about the tragedy of Carlos Vigil, a 17 year old Latino student from New Mexico, who committed suicide after posting a note on his Twitter account about the bullying he had suffered over the years. While not a solution to anti-gay prejudice, SNDA and SSIA represent a positive step forward in protecting our students from this kind of harassment. Both of these bills would help establish policies in schools across the nation that would help put an end to such egregious bullying. These bills are not only about the government offering protections, but they would also empower families to act in ensuring the safety of their children. As of now, families have limited or no recourse for putting an end to harassment against their child. These bills would give hope to parents worried about their kids and feeling powerless to help.

National Association of School Psychologists:

Based on the research, there is a solution to this problem. Bullying prevention programs that include prevention, school-wide universal positive behavioral supports, early intervention, and individualized interventions for bullies and victims, parental involvement and increased adult supervision can reduce bullying by up to 50% (Olweus, 1997). If we are to solve the problem of bullying and harassment in America’s schools, we need to make a significant investment in prevention and intervention programs.

National Women's Law Center:

The Safe Schools Improvement Act (S. 403/H.R. 1199) and the Student Non-Discrimination Act (S. 1088/H.R. 1652) present Congress with a historic opportunity to implement important protections against bullying and harassment for all students, and to offer critical protections to current and future generations of LGBT youth and their student allies by ensuring that discrimination against and harassment of students on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity will have no place in our country’s public elementary and secondary schools.

Point Foundation:

Point Foundation is the nation’s largest scholarship-granting organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students of merit. Every year, thousands of LGBTQ students apply for our scholarships. Many have experienced harassment in school that no student should experience.

PFAW will be sharing even more with you as we approach April 11, this year's Day of Silence – an annual event organized by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) that is meant to draw attention to the "silencing effects" of anti-gay harassment and name-calling in schools and to be a way for students to show their solidarity with students who have been bullied.

In the meantime, please check out PFAW's report on Big Bullies: How the Religious Right is Trying to Make Schools Safe for Bullies and Dangerous for Gay Kids and its 2012 update.

PFAW

People For the American Way and Allies Tell Congress, "Stand up for Safe Schools"

Last week we told you about Marcel Neergaard, who has consistently spoken out against the "don't say gay" push in Tennessee. Marcel's latest words have come in the month leading up to the Day of Silence, an annual event organized by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) that is meant to draw attention to the "silencing effects" of anti-gay harassment and name-calling in schools and to be a way for students to show their solidarity with students who have been bullied.

As we approach April 11, this year's Day of Silence, PFAW is doing its part to spread Marcel's message – the idea that allstudents deserve far better than what they're getting when it comes to bullying and harassment in schools.

Today People for the American Way sent a letter to every member of Congress urging their support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) and the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA). We are joined by twenty-four other safe schools supporters also sending letters to Congress. Each of us has taken a day to tell the House and Senate that this issue is not forgotten, that quality education means education without discrimination.

People For the American Way today on SSIA and SNDA:

Through SSIA and SNDA, and their inclusion in the Strengthening America's Schools Act (S. 1094), Congress has recognized the need to reverse this trend. SSIA supports the creation of comprehensive anti-bullying policies that enumerate specific categories of targeted students – including those targeted based on sexual orientation and gender identity – as well as data collection, public education, and grievance procedures. SNDA protects students from school-based sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, much like Title IX does for gender discrimination, and much like other areas of law do for various protected classes. SNDA recognizes bullying and harassment as discrimination, and it provides both for remedies against discrimination and incentives for schools to prevent it from happening in the first place.

[ . . . ]

Ultimately, this is about stopping abhorrent behavior that gets in the way of quality education. All students deserve far better than that.

We'll be sharing even more with you in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please check out PFAW's report on Big Bullies: How the Religious Right is Trying to Make Schools Safe for Bullies and Dangerous for Gay Kids and its 2012 update.

PFAW

From "Right to Discriminate" to "Don't Say Gay," Standing up in Tennessee

With "right to discriminate" bills making news across the country, Tennessee's "don't say gay" battle continues to have a lasting – and inspiring – impact.

In 2011, Tennessee made national headlines for its effort to pass a "don't say gay" bill that would have prohibited educators from discussing any sexual orientation other than heterosexuality with students in kindergarten through eighth grade. This not only applied to lessons in classrooms, but to all discussions between educators and students. Any acknowledgement that LGBT people exist was officially prohibited, a cruel effort to isolate and declare as abnormal any children who were LGBT or who had LGBT family members (including parents).

It's come back in various forms since then, but it has yet to become law – thanks in part to courageous young people like Marcel Neergaard, who has consistently spoken out against the legislation and its chief sponsor, John Ragan, and who has also advocated for policies to protect LGBT students in the Volunteer State.

This week, Marcel wrote for the Huffington Post:

I know I am not alone in my struggles. I know I have to be happy with the progress LGBTQ people have made. I also know that it's not okay to be called out for being different. I know I can be helped by Tennessee's Dignity for All Students Act (HB927). It is important to say students cannot be harassed, intimidated or bullied because they are gay or perceived to be gay. The Dignity for All Students Act specifies many other groups, like kids who are bullied because of their religion, race, gender, gender identity or gender expression. It even helps the kids who are brave enough to be friends with students who are "different."

I'm not the only gay youth in Tennessee. I'm not the only gay kid in Oak Ridge. I'm not even the only gay student in my school [–] I'm just someone who is standing up. I know I have written about bullying many times, but this is still happening to kids like me everywhere and I refuse to let it continue. I will go on educating my school system, and the people around me who believe the gay stereotypes, but we [cannot] do this alone . . . We need . . . to convince legislators that students everywhere deserve safe places to learn. We also need people to encourage our representatives, who are supposed to represent us, to pass bills like the Dignity for All Students Act and federal legislation such as the Safe Schools Improvement Act. I want to make sure other kids do not have to go through what I have. This week I will be in Nashville for Advancing Equality on the Hill Day talking to my senator and (hopefully) representative about making schools safer for kids like me. What will you do?

Marcel's words ring especially true in the month leading up to the Day of Silence, an annual event organized by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) that is meant to draw attention to the "silencing effects" of anti-gay harassment and name-calling in schools and to be a way for students to show their solidarity with students who have been bullied.

As we approach April 11, this year's Day of Silence, PFAW will be doing its part to spread Marcel's message – the idea that all students deserve far better than what they're getting when it comes to bullying and harassment in schools.

In the meantime, check out Big Bullies: How the Religious Right is Trying to Make Schools Safe for Bullies and Dangerous for Gay Kids and its 2012 update.

In other LGBT news, Wisconsin marriage equality advocates are trying to get their litigation on the fast track.

Check out even more news from our friends at GLAAD, the Victory Fund, and the Washington Blade.

PFAW

New documentary revisits the climate change we all should want

Last spring, PFAW staff members and friends attended a screening of Lee Hirsch's documentary, Bully, which tells the stories of young people bullied in school, the challenges they faced, the actions they took, and the lessons they teach us all.

One such lesson was the idea that bullying is an environmental problem that requires climate change. Everyone has a stake. It’s not just bullies and the students they target. It’s students who witness incidents. It’s teachers and administrators with the power to intervene. It’s nurses and counselors dealing with the physical and emotional tolls taken. It’s parents trying to get through to their children. It’s community groups who simply want to help. It’s bus drivers. It’s also not about paying lip service to the problem. It’s about having a genuine interest in making it better now and sustaining those solutions in the future.

Now HBO is set to tell another story of the climate change we all should want.

It was February 12, 2008. 15-year-old Lawrence “Larry” King, who had begun openly exploring a female expression of his gender identity, and 14-year-old Brandon McInerney were in a computer lab at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, California. With the flash of two gunshots, Larry was off to the hospital, fighting for his life in a battle that he would soon lose; and Brandon was under arrest, later tried as an adult and sentenced to 21 years. Never would their teacher and their classmates be the same.

Both boys had troubled family lives and were caught up in a system that never fully met their needs. They were students in a school where the administrators and most of the teachers and students didn’t understand Larry or what he was going through. Nobody adequately stepped up for Larry leading up to that fateful day. Even Larry's friends and allies could do little to make the situation better.

At the Valentine Road screening, Eliza Byard, GLSEN's Executive Director who recently spoke in commemoration of the March on Washington, said something to this effect:

Larry's legacy is more than our enduring sadness. There is more that we can do.

It's the same call to action that Dennis Van Roekel has made in his work as President of the National Education Association: (5:24)

Stories like Larry’s are the reason we must support climate change in schools nationwide. They’re the reason we must support federal legislation like the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

Let’s make sure we stand up for not only tolerance but also for understanding in our own communities and schools.

PFAW