in shaping the future of this nation.”
– Barbara Jordan
Schools are the backbone of our society. Schools help to create community and provide a space for children from diverse backgrounds to come together to learn. All children deserve a supportive and safe educational environment.
Research shows that persistent bullying can lead to or worsen feelings of isolation and rejection—all of which negatively impact academic achievement. ((Elizabeth M. Diaz and Joseph G. Kosciw, Ph.D, Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), “Shared Differences: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Students of Color in Our Nation’s Schools”, 2009: http://bit.ly/98Vb8y.)) None of our children should be subjected to this type of psychological stress. Conversations about safe schools should include ways to increase acceptance of all children and support students’ well being.
The federal government has opened up the dialogue regarding keeping all children safe in our schools. The Obama administration hosted the first-ever Federal Bullying Prevention Summit, and the U.S. Department of Education has announced support for the formation of gay-straight alliances (GSAs) at public high schools.
Policies that rely only on punishment and “zero tolerance” tend to apply a cookie-cutter approach to solving the problems in schools and fail to foster the conversation needed to ensure acceptance for all children. We must advocate for strong, comprehensive anti-bullying policies that protect all young people by enumerate categories like race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity. Educators must have the necessary tools to effectively intervene to prevent bullying. Rather than further criminalize our youth, approaches that strive to educate and prevent negative behavior should be the first recourse for educators.
Emphasize common ground:
- Most Americans identify with the desire to keep kids safe. Too many neighborhoods around the country are facing alarming rates of school violence and harassment, especially in minority communities. We must work together to eradicate bullying of our students.
Highlight examples of concrete harms:
- Gay and transgender students of color often report little intervention by teachers and other school personnel when biased remarks are made in school, particularly when homophobic remarks or negative remarks about gender expression are made. ((Ibid.))