The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) recently conducted their biennial National School Climate Survey. This survey was introduced in 1999 and it serves as a reminder, to some it’s a wake-up call, that we all have segments of our populations that continue to be targeted.
Quoting from the GLSEN email:
The latest edition of GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey…includes four major findings:
-schools nationwide are hostile environments for a distressing number of LGBT
-a hostile school climate affects students’ academic success and mental health
-students with LGBT-related resources and supports report better
school experience and academic success
-school climate for LGBT students has improved somewhat over the years, but
remains quite hostile for many.
The report from GLSEN included some specific survey data regarding New York.
-Almost all LGB T students (90%) heard “gay” used in a negative way, and more
than eight in ten (83%) heard other homophobic remarks at school regularly
-The majority experienced verbal harassment: 70% based on their sexual
orientation and 53% based on the way they expressed their gender
-Students also reported high levels of other types of harassment at
school: 58% were sexually harassed while 51% experienced “cyberbullying.”
-Only 30% were taught positive representations of LGBT people, history and
events, and nearly half (49%) could not access information about LGBT
communities on school Internet.
It’s disappointing to read, and I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but I keep hoping that we’re making inroads. Perhaps we are, but it doesn’t bear out in the survey.
Our GSA is up and running and, like our inaugural year last year, we’re encouraged by the support we have for it from students and adults. This week is Transgender Awareness Week and we will have a representative of the transgender community present at our scheduled meeting to talk to our kids. Our objective hasn’t changed: provide a supportive environment for students who are dealing with LGBT issues and to educate our school wide population to develop a cadre of supporters for these students.
As written in the GLSEN email by Nicole Burjetka, a co-chair of GLSEN New York Capital Region, “There is no excuse for a hostile school climate. We all have a responsibility to ensure that our schools have the necessary resources, supports and training to create a safe and affirming environment for all students.”
I, and many of my colleagues at Shaker JHS, second the comment, and we understand the needed emphasis on ALL students. We have an obligation to each student who walks through our doors to provide a safe, supportive environment.
Recently I co-presented (with CJ Gannon, a GSA advisor) on the topic of forming and running a GSA at the NYS middle Schools Association annual conference. We were disappointed: four middle school teachers attended our presentation. Four! I know that every middle school has a need to support LGBT students, and I tend to think that these segments of their populations and not even being recognized, let alone supported. One of the attendees was very honest is saying he didn’t think his school or community would approve of creating a GSA, even given his perspective that a need existed.
It’s not surprising then that the survey results indicate what they do…there’s still a long way to go in a lot of communities, and schools. Let’s hope that more educators realize that steps need to be taken and more schools begin to provide for the support of ALL their students.
Here is a link to a great article, written by Don Gately, Principal of Jericho MS. He clearly expresses why Jericho MS has a GSA.
Middle school people out there would do well to take Gately’s comments to heart, to follow Shaker JH’s approach, to realize that every middle school has the same need. Stand up and provide for your kids!
And that’s my perspective.