Back to School: An Ally’s Perspective on Welcoming Schools

This post is part of our Welcoming Schools “Back to School” blog series. Welcoming Schools, a project of the HRC Foundation, offers administrators, educators and parents/guardians the tools they need to ensure their elementary schools welcome all students and families.

This post comes from Dr. William A. Howe, past-president of the National Association for Multicultural Education and a Welcoming Schools advisory council member:

Why Should a Straight Guy Like Me Care About an LGBT Inclusive Approach in Elementary Schools?

As an educator for 35 years now, I have watched our schools grow into a microcosm of our larger society – more colorful and more inclusive. Trained as an elementary and special education teacher, I started my career working with mentally and physically handicapped students warehoused and hidden in institutions. Those institutions are gone and now these students share the same public schools with other students. Walking the halls of schools today I often see what I hope will be the future of our country – recent arrivals practicing English, students speaking multiple languages, children of all colors playing and learning together, able-bodied students pushing the wheelchairs of their classmates. Teachers are preparing students for a vastly different world, where skills in working with diversity are just as essential as the three R’s.

As an educator and an activist, I have worked with Jewish students taunted with anti-semitic comments, Muslim students who were called terrorists, disabled students shunned by peers, children of same sex parents brought to tears by cruel comments, gay and lesbian students driven to attempt suicide by callous fellow students and, yes – teachers. As a human being how can I not care? My students’ problems are mine too. Their success in life depends on learning in a school environment where they feel safe, both physically and emotionally.

An inclusive approach to education introduces students to the full spectrum of American life that does not always mirror the world as a Norman Rockwell painting. An LGBT inclusive school teaches students that differences in family structures are not deficits. Students are learning about life at a younger age. As an educator I have learned that as young minds, beliefs and values form we must guide them to make their own, informed decisions. We hold our breaths hoping that they will grow up to be compassionate, empathetic, accepting and caring human beings that take a stand against bigotry of all forms. That, for a teacher, is just as important as academic success.

Non-traditional families – single parent, same-sex parents, bi-racial, multicultural, multi-ethic, two-religion — loving families are now a part of the grand experiment of democracy envisioned by the founders of this country. A multicultural, LGBT inclusive America presents the best opportunities for our children to succeed in a global economy and diverse workforce.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

Welcoming Schools & Bullying Prevention

 

This is the fourth post in our Welcoming Schools “Back to School” blog series. Welcoming Schools, a project of the HRC Foundation, offers administrators, educators and parents/guardians the tools they need to ensure their elementary schools welcome all students and families.

 

This post comes from Dr. Marlene Synder, the Director of Development for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Dr. Synder is also a member of the Welcoming Schools National Advisory Council. She discusses the links between Welcoming Schools and Olweus, the world’s foremost bullying prevention program.

We all want our children to learn, thrive and become productive adults. Many students find it difficult to learn, thrive and dream of their futures because of school-based bullying (both traditional and cyber bullying) . We know that bullying is pervasive in our schools. National prevalence studies consistently show that roughly one in five students have been bullied regularly and a similar number have bullied others. Many others witness bullying going on around them, so in fact, there are millions of students who have to deal with the issue of bullying in our schools each day.

Students who bully generally bully students who they perceive as different and/or weaker than they are. Sometimes the bullying might be focused on a student’s family or something about the student that makes him or her stand out from the norm. Perhaps the student has two moms or two dads or lives with his or her grandparents. A bullied student might speak with a strong accent, or be of a racial or religious minority. A student might be bullied because of his or her size, or because he or she does not like to do the things that are expected for his or her gender. We are all too aware of how devastating the results of this kind of bullying can be, as we have heard all too often of students as young as 11 years old committing suicide after being severely bullied at school.

Dr. Dan Olweus, whose program has been researched for the past 30 years, clearly asserts that bullying is peer abuse and it is a civil rights issue. Our schools need to be a place where every student feels safe in school regardless of their family structure or identity. No student should be hurt, humiliated, or excluded at school. School is not a place that any student should fear. School should be a place where everyone feels welcome and a place where students enjoy learning and can grow as a part of a larger community.

 

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) was brought to United States schools more than a decade ago. The guiding principles for the OBPP are:

1. Warmth, positive interest and involvement with students and their families are needed on the part of all adults in the school. The responsibility for developing and ensuring a safe and welcoming school climate rests with adults.

2. We need to set firm limits to unacceptable bullying behavior. Clear, consistent rules and messages against bullying behaviors should be present throughout the entire school.

3. Consistent use of nonphysical, non-hostile negative consequences when rules are broken. Because OBPP is research-based, program procedures and guidelines should be followed as closely as possible.

4. Adults in the schools should function as authorities and positive role models. Children learn by example from all adults; teachers and their families.

The content of Welcoming Schools is in alignment with these guiding principles. Welcoming Schools helps the adults in the school become comfortable with interrupting bias-based bullying. Welcoming Schools involves families and the larger community. And Welcoming Schools helps adults proactively create a school climate that is welcoming of the diversity that we find in our schools. Welcoming Schools helps remind us that it is possible to create positive school climates that limit negative behavior and promote respect for all students.

The more we can work together to promote consistent messages against bullying behaviors, our children will learn, thrive and realize their dreams for their futures.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

Governor Paterson Signs NY Safe Schools Bill into Law

Today, New York Governor David Paterson signed into law the “Dignity for All Students Act.” The act is a broad safe schools law that requires schools to adopt policies to address harassment and discrimination against students, to educate teachers and students on harassment and bullying and provides reporting requirements. Particularly notable is that the bill enumerates, or lists, classifications for protection including the basis of real or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender – defined to include gender identity and expression- and sex.

Enumerated laws have been shown to provide better actual protections to students and to make students feel safer in school. GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey found that 9 out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment in school. By highlighting categories of vulnerable students, states send a strong message that all students are valuable and alerts students that they can seek help from teachers and the administration if they face harassment or discrimination.

The “Dignity for All Students Act,” passed by overwhelming majorities in both the Assembly and Senate, also marks the first time the New York Senate has passed legislation explicitly protecting trans people. The step bodes well for passage of the New York “Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act” which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations.

Currently, 14 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination, harassment, and/ or bullying against students based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Only 12 states and the District of Columbia prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

Focus On The Family Warns Parents About How To Spot Gay Activism In Schools

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Focus On The Family/CitizenLink Sees “Sneaky” Gay Agenda In The Public Schools

Oh, the evil sneakiness of evil homosexual activists!

Below is a video posted by PikaFilms/CitizenLink (CitizenLink being in the activist arm of Focus On The Family), entitled Report: Identifying Gay Activism in Public Schools.

Here’s just a text snippet of dialog between the two — It’s some back-and-forth discussion between CitizenLink’s Director Of Digital Media, Stuart Shepard, and CitizenLink’s Education Analyst, Candi Cushman. The two Christian activists discuss the “sneaky” “gay agenda”/”homosexual agenda” in the public schools.

Stuart Shepard: If there is one characteristic trait of the gay agenda in the public school system, it’s this: It’s sneaky. It’s usually designed to look like something else — it’s disguised as something else — to make it hard for parents to realize what’s going on.

What can parents look for? — How can you help them identify what’s going on in the classroom? What do they see?

Candi Cushman: Oh what you say is so true. Gay activists realize that most parents in this nation do not want this kind of teaching coming in a taxpayer expense in their public schools. So, homosexual activists have become very adept at getting subtle — at sneaking in these homosexuality lessons into things with innocent sounding titles.

Then, no sh**, they go on to discussing how lessons on student bullying, and safe school programs, are ways that homosexual activists sneak in these homosexuality lessons into public schools.

And here I was thinking that when they talked about “homosexuality lessons,” they were going to talk about how discussion of gay sex was being introduced in Kindergarten classrooms. Nope, bullying and safe schools.

It’s something to behold, that these two really think and believe that school systems trying to address harassment and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer identified students — as well as against young boys and men that are presumed to be gay because they are perceived to be too effeminate by their peer students; as well as against young girls and women that are presumed to be lesbian because they are perceived to be too masculine by their peer students — is a way for homosexual activists to sneak in homosexuality lessons into public schools at taxpayer expense.

Can we think of the children please, Stuart and Candi? You know, the victims of harassment and violence?

Ah, the “sneaky” “homosexual activists.”

Well, one doesn’t need to wonder very hard as to why many in the LGBTQ community see these conservative “Christians” as bigots and haters. Folk like Stuart and Candi sadly are examples of those so looking for the evils of homosexuality in every nook and cranny of society that they don’t see any real dangers of LGBTQ student bullying — of student harassment and violence.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright