GLSEN Focuses on Anti-bullying Strategy
More help may be on the way for gay students in the United States who face discrimination.
At a meeting last weekend, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) adopted a new strategic plan to help protect GLBT students from harassment. GLSEN is the nation's largest group working to end anti-gay bias in K-12 schools.
"When I founded GLSEN 12 years ago, it was my goal was to get the GLBT community interested in education issues, and at the same time I wanted to get the education community interested in LGBT issues," said GLSEN founder and director Kevin Jennings. "Now they are."
So, the group interviewed hundreds of people affiliated with the nation's schools. From these interviews came a new three-year strategic plan. The group's first goal is to end anti-GLBT bullying and name-calling in school hallways.
"The initiative sounds like a good idea," said Mary Deegan, an eighth grade teacher at Westmont Junior High in suburban Illinois. "Sometimes I do hear people use anti-gay names in the hallways, but if I hear it, I tell the student not to use that language. I would never hesitate to reprimand them." But many teachers do hesitate, according to GLSEN's 2001 National School Climate Survey. The survey found 84 percent of GLBT students routinely hear people being called anti-gay comments like "faggot" and "dyke." Eighty-two percent said when it happened in front of teachers, these teachers didn't intervene.
GLSEN will work closely with teachers to show them how and why they should intervene. They will also work with students to help pressure their peers not to use that language.
"We've found students are the most effective in getting young people to change their language," said Jennings.
Jennings said GLSEN will also work with policy makers to change discrimination laws to include sexual orientation, and they will work to make GLBT issues a part of the national education agenda.
"If you are going to improve schools in this country, you have to make sure they are welcoming to all students," said Jennings. "If we can accomplish these goals in three years, you are going to see a dramatic change in American schools for the better."