Who’s Safe In School:
Supporting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Students
In this volume:
From the Director
Who's Safe in School? Contradictions and Inconsistencies in Federal Educational Policy
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth in Vermont Schools
Book Review- Queering Elementary Education: Advancing the Dialogue about Sexualities in Schooling
Film Review- It's Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in Schools
Film Review- Out of the Past: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Rights in America
Film Review- Speak UP!
Fourteen Recommendations to Principals, Teachers, and Administrators on Supporting LGBTQ Youth
From the Director
In this issue of Progressive Perspectives, we highlight an important and timely issue for educators, school administrators, community members, and parents, as we take a look at issues facing students who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ). Our lead article, "Who's Safe in School? Contradictions and Inconsistencies in Federal Educational Policy" takes a critical look at recent policy guidelines summarized in Protecting Students from Harassment and Hate Crimes: A Guide for Schools, prepared by the U.S Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights and the National Association of Attorneys General. It is a well-researched and thorough assessment of the impact of the Guide on schools, and documents what we need to do to further ensure the safety and well being of all students.
Closer to home, Sarah Page takes a look at the experience of LGBTQ students in Vermont schools. While we can all be proud that Vermont takes the lead nationally in legislation that supports equal rights for all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation, we still have work to do to ensure that all students have the right to attend school without fear of harassment or violence. Ironically, the passage of HB847, guaranteeing the rights of civil union to same-sex couples, did result in a very uncivil backlash that certainly affected LGBTQ students in Vermont schools. In the face of the heated politics surrounding civil unions, many educators are uncertain how best to respond to increasing incidents of harassing speech, violence and threats of violence. We hope that this publication provides you with legal, moral, and practical tools to combat anti-gay bias. In addition, we hope that the resource section, with its book reviews, film reviews, organizations and web sites proves useful to you in your efforts to create and sustain safe school environments. Many thanks to Sarah Page, Dewey Project Office Manager and graduate student in the Educational Studies Program at UVM, for the work she did to compile and check out these resources.
Kathleen Kesson, DirectorWho's Safe in School? Contradictions and Inconsistencies in Federal Educational Policy
John Dewey Project on Progressive Education
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“Matthew (whose older brother is gay) was repeatedly attacked by other students, who taunted him as a ‘queer,’ a ‘fag,’ and a ‘bitch.’ Administrators claimed that they could not protect Matthew from his peers, urged him to remain quiet on the gay issues ‘for his own good,’ and even suggested that he join the football team to prove to them and his peers that he ‘was not a little fag.’” (American Civil Liberties Union, 2000)Control of sexuality in the United States is often considered in the realm of archaic legal statutes that outlaw homosexuality or prohibit certain sexual acts. The influence of these laws dwindles when considering the cumulative impact of an atmosphere of compulsory heterosexuality that is imposed on students by our nation’s schools along with the active suppression of other sexualities. A hidden curriculum establishes national standards for appropriate sexuality and assigns heterosexuality to the apex in the hierarchy of power. These power inequalities marginalize and often stigmatize people who are (or are perceived to be) lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or questioning (LGBTQ). Consequently, our nation’s schools are unjust and unsafe learning environments for many students.
After the verbal harassment escalated to physical harassment without any acknowledgment or repercussion from school administrators, Tres’s classmates followed her from school and threatened her with a gun, saying they didn’t like that she was gay. She left school, despite being the president of her class and the editor of the yearbook (Tres, personal communication, May 1996).Conflicting Messages in the Guide
Protecting Students from Harassment and Hate Crimes:
A Guide for Schools, prepared by the Office of Civil Rights (U.S. Department
of Education) and the Bias Crimes Task Force Subcommittee of the National
Attorneys General, provides a tentative first step in presenting recommendations
to ensure the safety of LGBTQ students and affirm their right to an education
free from threat, intimidation, and violence. However, despite the
intent to reduce all forms of bias, the conflicting messages presented
in the Guide thwart the stated goal of creating safe schools for
all students. In the following analysis, I examine the many conflicting
messages presented in the Guide to expose the underlying message
that protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation is optional
and not necessary to protect the civil liberties of all students.
The stated goal of the Guide is to “provide school administrators and others with practical guidance for developing a comprehensive approach to protecting students from harassment and violence” (p. ii). As a Guide and not an enforced policy, the intent is to “provide suggestions that school systems may find helpful to address the issue of harassment and violence in the schools and should not be interpreted to mean that … any school department, school district or school [is required] to make use of this Guide” (p. IV). This introduces the Guide as a framework for schools to protect students from harassment and hate, but one that is optional. While the Guide does refer to current federal laws requiring action, these laws, like the Guide, are filled with contradictions between what is needed to protect students’ civil rights and maintaining the status quo.
A School District had sexual orientation on its list of categories protected from harassment and discrimination. However, in the District student handbook and on posters describing the District’s anti-bias policy, sexual orientation was omitted. When the District was notified of the oversight, the District made no move to correct the omission or to notify students that sexual orientation was indeed a protected category (personal communication, Levitt, October 1997).School Climate
The Guide calls for school districts
to enforce anti-bias policies “consistently and vigorously,” to ensure
that “their efforts to prevent and address bias crimes do not discriminate
on the basis of race, national origin, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation,
religion, or disability” (p. 45). Ironically, despite the call for
consistency, the Guide is inconsistent regarding sexual orientation.
In many sections of the Guide, the list of protected categories
does not specifically include sexual orientation or it may presume to be
covered by statements such as “other forms of diversity.” In the
six Sample School Policies included in Appendix A of the Guide,
(one of which is the Vermont Model Anti-Harassment Policy), only two specifically
refer to the need to address bias based on sexual orientation. The
inconsistent inclusion of LGBTQ issues limits the impact of the Guide
to help create school climates that are safe and supportive for all students.
The section of the Guide on School Climate states that “by themselves, written anti-harassment policies and complaint procedures will not stop or prevent harassment” (p. 35). Subsequent information in this section details the broader educational efforts necessary “to establish an environment that respects individual differences and promotes appreciation of racial and cultural diversity” (p. 35). The inclusion of information addressing the following topics is presented as important in establishing a school climate that deters harassment and supports positive responses to diversity: training school board members, administrators, and staff; educating students about harassment and discrimination; implementing monitoring programs and prevention strategies; and involving parents and community members in anti-harassment efforts (pp. 35-39). While all of these activities constitute important ingredients to a comprehensive anti-bias policy, the need to address sexual orientation is never mentioned. Without explicitly identifying sexual orientation and with no reference acknowledging LGBTQ people as members of the school community, fostering a “more positive school climate for all students through routine, open communication” (p. 37) cannot occur.
A heterosexual teacher on a High School Diversity Council that was making plans for a diversity week celebration suggested that it was important that gay and lesbian issues be addressed during diversity week. When the teacher returned to the next meeting of the Diversity Council, the principal informed her that the diversity week would include only racial and cultural diversity (personal communication, V. Obenshain, September 1997).Legal Basis for Protection Against Bias Crimes
The inclusion of descriptions of existing legislation
requiring protection from harassment and hate crimes strengthens the impact
of the Guide and increases the likelihood that school districts
will implement and follow anti-bias policies. However, federally
protected categories for both harassment and hate crimes are not consistently
inclusive of all categories of diversity. Furthermore, schools made
‘safe’ by the fear of lawsuits rather than by the belief that students
deserve a safe place to learn cannot create truly safe environments.
State and federal laws influence the creation and adoption of school policy,
and consequently form an important part of the discussion of safe schools.
While the complex and extensive legal framework that underlies an analysis
of harassment and hate crimes is beyond the scope of this paper, I briefly
examine some of the legislation that the Guide mentions as an impetus
for creating safe schools. I focus on hate crimes legislation, Title
IX (federal statute), and other significant civil rights rulings, which
reveal that, despite its complexity and inadequacy, legislation can still
have a positive impact on school policy.
The legal basis for the prosecution of hate crimes varies from state to state. Forty-one states and the District of Columbia have enacted some type of law against bias-motivated crimes, but the protected categories vary greatly. Of these, only 22 state laws refer to hate crimes based on sexual orientation (U. S. Department of Education, 1999, p. 135). The Guide gives the definition of a hate or bias crime as “an offense against persons or property motivated by hate or bias against a victim based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or sexual orientation” (p. 41). Hate crimes differ from other crimes because their impact extends beyond the victim. They are often interpreted as symbolic assaults on a group and as such have psychological and emotional impact on the entire community and can create a climate of fear (LAMBDA, 1999a; Karmen, 1992).
The principal federal hate crimes statute, 18 U.S.C. Section 245 has a limited scope of protection, as it delineates a list of protected categories and protected activities. The statute, “prohibits the intentional use of force or threat of force against a person because of his or her race, color, religion, or national origin, and because he or she was engaged in a federally protected activity, such as enrolling in or attending any public school or college” (U. S. Department of Education, 1998). This statute does not assign protected status for the categories of sexual orientation, gender, or disability.
A female student repeatedly found pornographic literature and obscene notes with graphic and violently anti-lesbian threats placed in her locker. One handwritten note read, “Die, Die…Dyke bitch, Fuck Off. We’ll kill you.” When the student sought help from the school, school officials refused to act to protect her (American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU] Freedom Network, 1998, p. 1).Lack of protection against bias crimes based on sexual orientation in school, state, and federal hate crimes policies disregards the alarming statistics collected by the U.S. Justice Department since the establishment of the Hate Crimes Statistics Act (1990). These statistics reveal that violence against LGBTQ people or people presumed to be gay or lesbian is one of the most rapidly growing forms of hate crime reported in the United States (Jenness & Broad, 1997; Berril, 1992). According to data collected by the FBI in 1996 in accordance with the Hate Crimes Statistics Act, hate crimes based on race are the most prevalent (62%), followed by those based on religion (16%) and then sexual orientation (12%) (ACLU, 1999). These statistics do not take into consideration that anti-LGBTQ hate crimes are vastly under-reported and undocumented due to the shame and potential harm to individuals who come out as LGBTQ (LAMBDA, 1999a). Under the real threat of violence, the absence of clear protection by federal and state legislation is a grave omission. However, even in this climate of legal ambiguity, school administrators and staff have an obligation to protect all of their students and provide them with a safe place to learn.
In a middle school, a gay student wrote a “love note” to another male student telling the student of his attraction to him. The student who received the note reported the incident to the teacher who in turn told the principal. The gay student was suspended for a day and his parents were called in to discuss their son’s actions. The reason given for suspension of the gay student was harassment (personal communication, H. Dubowsky, May 1999).Recent guidelines (1997) for schools regarding Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, a federal statute that bars sex discrimination including harassment, may encompass sexual harassment directed at gay and lesbian students (Office of Civil Rights, 1997). Wagner v. Fayetteville (1998) established that same-sex, student-on-student sexual harassment could be considered a violation of Title IX. In a more recent case, Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, “Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said lawsuits might be filed against school officials who knowingly ignore student-on-student harassment” (LAMBDA, 1999b). There are other cases pending that refer to Title IX. However, there are specific limitations to the actions that are covered under this statute. As mentioned in the Guide, “heckling comments made to students because of their sexual orientation, such as ‘gay students are not welcome here’ does not constitute sexual harassment under Title IX” (p. 18). The Guide does not state other options for addressing such “heckling comments” directed at LGBTQ students.
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Impact of the Guide on Schools
Anti-bias policies in schools establish guidelines for acceptable behavior and ramifications for individuals who commit bias-related crimes and for those charged with ensuring safe school environments. Although inconsistent, the Guide can help schools establish a minimum level of tolerance and can be used to create an environment where support for LGBTQ students can occur. Teachers are often hesitant to support LGBTQ students unless the district has guidelines in place that will protect them while they are engaged in what are often perceived as controversial actions. Teachers (especially LGBTQ teachers who could serve as role models) want to have a defense against attack from political foes, anxious parents, or religious groups (Lipkin, 1995). Without explicit policies, many teachers are often afraid of the repercussions for supporting LGBTQ students for a range of reasons, including: “fear of dismissal for discussing a morally ‘taboo’ topic; fear of reprisals from parents or religious leaders in the community; fear of being labeled gay or lesbian; not to mention the teachers’ own homophobic ideological moorings” (McLaren, 1995, p. 109). These reasons are primarily based on fear and misunderstanding rather than a desire to meet the right of all students to learn in a safe environment. Policies are needed to overcome the climate of fear that pervades schools and to establish basic guidelines for teachers and other school staff.
A lesbian high school student was caught off guard when her teacher chastised a male student by saying, “Don’t be a fag.” The lesbian student felt that the teacher’s comment was inappropriate and shared it during a meeting of the Gay and Straight Alliance (GSA) at her school. The heterosexual advisor of the GSA was stunned that her colleague had used this slur and confronted the teacher. The teacher responded that she had not realized the impact of her actions and apologized the following day to the class. The lesbian student who reported the slur hoped that her teacher would not figure out that she was the one who had revealed her teacher’s actions (Personal Communication, T. Bartlett, May 1999).Despite the conflicting messages regarding sexual orientation, the potential impact of the Guide is significant, as it presents an opening in the public sphere to foster diversity and promote tolerance. For LGBTQ students who feel that they have little or no recourse to address the daily violence they encounter, the Guide is a positive step as it introduces the possibility of adding sexual orientation to anti-bias policies and discusses the importance of overcoming misconceptions and biases. “Educators have a tremendous opportunity to reduce or eliminate hate-motivated crimes and violence… (by creating) a school climate where hateful acts are not tolerated” (United States Department of Education, 1998). While tolerance is an improvement over a climate of discrimination, tolerance is not sufficient to create safe schools. “Merely tolerating or ‘putting up with’ alternative and dissenting views is insufficient. For once heard, they can be all too easily dismissed” (Howe, 1997). Tolerance in and of itself will not bring about a safe and supportive environment for all students. While policies promoting tolerance can justify disciplining inappropriate student behavior, creating a climate of tolerance does not address the underlying homophobia and heterosexism in our schools and the resulting detrimental effect on LGBTQ youth. Schools need to create pedagogy “that challenges assumptions… sensitizes students to diversity of sexual expression and allows them to think critically about the ways in which it is linked to privilege, prejudice, and the power of naming (Yescavage & Alexander, 1997).
“In seventh grade when students realized he was gay, a classmate pushed him to the floor and simulated raping him as other students watched. Another time, he was knocked into a urinal by one boy while another boy urinated on him” (LAMBDA, 1999a).Anti-bias policies and tolerance are just a small part of a larger discussion that addresses the impact of heterosexism and homophobia in schools. The enforced invisibility of LGBTQ people in schools constitutes a daily climate of subtle and not-so-subtle violence. “Violence against gay and lesbian youth is… associated with much higher than average rates of suicide, truancy, and dropping out” (Howe, 1997). Heterosexism, which permeates school culture, is “an ideology that denigrates and stigmatizes any non-heterosexual form of behavior, identity, relationship, or community” (Herek, 1992). Consequently, students who deviate from the heterosexual norm in any way, whether it be dress, mannerisms, choice of classes, or sexual orientation, are chastised and made to feel like outsiders. They then can become targets of classmates’ hatred, verbal abuse, anger, ridicule, and physical violence. Shifting from a climate of violence and abuse to creating a supportive climate for LGBTQ students through implementation of comprehensive anti-bias policies and inclusive school curriculums begins to dismantle the norm of heterosexuality and the practice of silencing (Appleby, 1997). However, to recognize and affirm LGBTQ students and identify the current climate of injustice requires more than inclusive school anti-bias policies and curriculum. Overcoming homophobia, the misunderstanding, fear, or hatred of homosexuality, benefits all students, not just LGBTQ students. Anti-homophobia education expands concepts of acceptability and can help heterosexual people better understand their own sexualities (Lipkin, 1995). The impact of acknowledging and recognizing LGBTQ people in schools widens the spectrum of possibilities for all students. The invisibility of and assumed nonexistence of LGBTQ people in schools affects all students. Unks (1995) describes the invisibility of LGBTQ students in a “typical” secondary school:
Within typical secondary school curriculum homosexuals do not exist… The lesson is clear: homosexuals do nothing of consequence. The absence from the curriculum of valid information about homosexuality cuts both ways: heterosexual students are given no reason not to hate homosexuals, while homosexual students are given no reason not to hate themselves. Both groups suffer a loss for they are denied important information about a significant group of human beings (p. 5).This climate of invisibility and self-hate for LGBTQ students means that an incredible amount of energy is directed at resisting and opposing the heterosexual hegemony. While the resiliency of LGBTQ youth is beginning to be documented, the public health risks of LGBTQ youth are better known. LGBTQ youth are often engaged in risky behavior such as performing poorly academically, dropping out of school, engaging in substance abuse, running away from home, or committing suicide (Unks, 1995). These consequences can be partly attributed to the current school climate that is unsafe and unsupportive of LGBTQ students.
“My school has a gay/straight alliance and we put up signs around the school. These signs have to be approved and signed by the principal. He has approved signs that say, ‘Homosexuality is not a choice’ and ‘Homosexuality: it cannot be changed.’ However, the other day he refused to allow us to put up a sign that said ‘Homosexuality: it is natural.’ His reasons were that some parents do not agree with the statement and he will receive a lot of complaints. Later he told my gay/straight alliance advisor that because the statement is only an opinion, it cannot be put up. Then a week later he would not allow a sign that said ‘Homosexuality: it is normal’ to be put up” (Chris cited in Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, n.d.).Conclusion
I have argued in this article that Protecting Students from
Harassment and Hate Crimes: A Guide for Schools presents critical but
insufficient steps towards creating safe schools for all students.
the Guide proposes recommendations that, if implemented, may help
to increase tolerance and awareness of LGBTQ students, it presents limited
educational reform efforts that do not truly embrace the diversity in our
schools. The contradictions in the Guide result in a framework
that does not adequately address the need to create a safe and nurturing
school climate for LGBTQ students. Anti-bias policies that include
sexual orientation are a significant but insufficient step to establish
safe schools because they protect LGBTQ students while also reinforcing
their marginalization and stigmatization. Without transforming the
covert curriculum that reinforces heterosexual hegemony, LGBTQ students
will not be able to exercise their right to attend schools that are safe
and free from all forms of harassment and discrimination. While implementation
of the recommendations in the Guide might afford LGBTQ students
some minimal protection, there is a long struggle ahead to create schools
that are truly safe for LGBTQ students.
In the Introduction to the Guide, it states that “our schools owe our students a safe environment that is conducive to learning and that affords all students an equal opportunity to achieve higher educational standards” (US Department of Education, 1999). As the anecdotes from students presented in this article show, schools are not safe places for LGBTQ students. These glimpses into the lives of LGBTQ students in schools show the many ways they daily face harassment and discrimination. These stories reveal the range of individuals who create the unsafe school climate for LGBTQ students: administrators, teachers, other students, and community members.
Working together, administrators, teachers, students and community members can create safe, nurturing schools where distinct perspectives of students from many backgrounds are listened to, respected, and celebrated. In school communities founded on the premise of justice and equality, the possibilities for all students are expanded, fostering both recognition and celebration of LGBTQ students. Reform efforts such as inclusive multicultural education, participatory democracy, and emancipatorypedagogy can incorporate these qualities and transform schools to create communities that affirm differences.
Transforming education to include LGBTQ students will create possibilities for all students and affirm the diversity that exists within and between individuals across and between boundaries of race, class, gender, religion, disabilities, and sexual orientation. LGBTQ students have a right to a school climate that is not only free from violence, but is a safe place for them to develop to the full range of their potential. It is time for all individuals involved in schools from students to teachers, parents to community members, and from administrators to the Secretary of Education to take leadership in eradicating the discrimination and nonrecognition of LGBTQ students in their communities and to create safe schools for all students.
American Civil Liberties Union. (2000, May). Ohio ACLU to sue school district over harassment. Freedom Network. Retrieved June 16, 2000, from the World Wide Web: http://www.aclu.org.
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|Joan Doyle has taught for over 11 years and received her Masters in Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies at the University of New Mexico. While in Albuquerque she helped start a chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). She currently resides in Northampton, MA where she volunteers with Pride Zone, a drop-in center for LGBTQ youth.|
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender,
and Questioning Youth in Vermont Schools
By Sarah Page
Vermont leads the nation in its legislative efforts
to protect and support Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning
(LGBTQ) citizens and students. Through its legislative initiatives, youth
support agencies, educational initiatives about LGBTQ issues, documentation
of risks LGBTQ youth encounter, and alliances within schools, Vermont has
been confronting homophobia and has tried to create safer learning environments
for all Vermont students. Following is a brief description of these efforts.
Many of the initiatives that protect LGBTQ citizens may not be directed towards its youth. However, acknowledging and protecting LGBTQ as whole persons, deserving of the same rights and same protections under the law as heterosexual persons, is a positive step. Vermont is one of only eleven states with laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in private employment (American Civil Liberties Union, 2001). Vermont’s “Hate Crimes Law”-which included “sexual orientation” as a protected category-was passed in 1989 (Hate-motivated Crimes, 1989). In 1999 it was amended to include “gender identity” as a category (Hate-motivated Crimes, 1999). Vermont is one of only 27 states to include “sexual orientation” in the definitions of hate-motivated crimes (Human Rights Campaign, 2002). Vermont repealed its sodomy laws in 1978, one of twenty-six states that have repealed their laws (American Civil Liberties Union, 2001a). Vermont is the only state with legislation that grants same-sex couples all the legal rights of marriage (Civil Unions); while more than twenty five other states have specifically banned same-sex marriages (American Civil Liberties Union, 2001b), Vermont has created same-sex marriage with a new name.
Despite such progress in the larger social arena, Vermont students are continuously harassed in school, and are at disproportionately high risk of suicide and other risky behaviors (Vermont Department of Health [VDH], 1998). The Civil Unions debate clearly demonstrated bigotry and hatred with the plethora of offensive bumper stickers (such as “Kill Fags Not Deer”), signs (Take Back Vermont) and advertisements. According to Outright Vermont, LGBTQ students are being verbally harassed in schools on a regular basis (Personal communication, 2001). Can there be any doubt that students are at risk because of bigotry and fear? Lawful protections are positive, necessary, and courageous steps towards supporting these students. Having taken risks to change societal attitudes towards LGBTQ persons, we must now continue that support in the time of conservative backlash.
Vermont amended its Education Statutes in 1993 to explicitly state that harassment, “constitutes a form of discrimination. It means verbal or physical conduct based on a student’s race, creed, color, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation or disability and which has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment” (Vermont Statutes, Title 16, 1993). The inclusion of sexual orientation is important. The statute explicitly defines “sexual orientation” as a category. While the U.S. Department of Education recommends inclusion of “sexual orientation” it is up to individual school districts or states to do so.
During the 2000 legislative session, Vermont continued its tradition of supporting all students by passing An Act Relating to Supporting Safe Learning Environments in Vermont Schools Act 113 (H. 270). It states that “school boards must adopt comprehensive discipline plans that include more than the standard discipline policies. Such plans must also include the school’s approach to classroom management; how the school will provide information and training on conflict resolution; procedures for informing students and parents about the discipline policies and notifying and working with parents about student misconduct; how to respond to significant disruptions such as bomb threats; how staff will receive training on maintaining a safe, orderly, civil, and positive learning environment (Act 113 (H. 270). As prescribed, the Vermont Department of Education (2001) has posted a Model Student Harassment Prevention Policy on its web site. This law was passed after incidents of hazing in the state. It strengthens the commitment to creating safe learning environments for all students.
The larger issue is, however, how do we protect students with or without laws? It is up to the teachers, staff, and administrators to support and defend all students despite fear of retaliation by homophobic parents. Stopping name calling, changing language, and supporting the student who is harassed is what we need to do for all minority students or victims of hate. Supporting minority students or any student being harassed is the right thing to do. The former Vermont State Department of Education commissioner David Wolk (2000) pledged to:
do everything within my power to honor and respect the diversity within our communities and schools, and particularly to ensure such respect for all children, regardless of their individual differences based upon ability, gender, religion, ethnicity, race or sexual orientation.Commissioner Wolk (2001) re-emphasized this commitment in last year’s final address by stating, “all of our schools must be havens of mutual respect.” This is certainly a positive statement of assuring the safety of all Vermont students. Now we need actions that reflect the words. One hopes the issue of Vermont’s LGBTQ teens will be consistently included in all safe schools initiatives and is not neglected or considered too controversial. It remains to be seen how the new commissioner will respond.
American Civil Liberties Union. (2001). National
Perspective: Municipal and State Laws Prohibiting Sexual Orientation Job
Discrimination [On-line]. Available: http://www.aclu.org/issues/gay/pedreira_laws.html
American Civil Liberties Union. (2001a). ‘Crime’ and Punishment in America [On-line]. Available: http://www.aclu.org/issues/gay/sodomy.html
American Civil Liberties Union. (2001b). Statewide Anti-Gay Marriage Laws [On-line]. Available: http://www.aclu.org/issues/gay/gaymar.html
Gibson, P. (1994). Gay male and lesbian youth suicide. In G. Remafedi (Ed.) Death by denial: Studies of suicide in gay and lesbian teenagers (pp. 15-68). Boston: Alyson Publications.
Hate-Motivated Crimes, Vermont Statutes : Title 13 Crimes and Criminal Procedure : Part 1 Crimes : Chapter 31. Discriminations: § 1455. Hate-motivated crimes. (1989 & Supp. 1999).
Human Rights Campaign. (2002). Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act [On-line]. Available: http://www.hrc.org/issues/federal_leg/lleea/lleea_quickfacts.asp
Outright Vermont. (2000). Outright Vermont Pamphlet. Burlington, VT: Outright Vermont.
Outright Vermont. (1994). Vermont educator’s survey: Working with gay, lesbian, and questioning youth and addressing issues in the classroom. Burlington, VT: Outright Vermont.
Vermont Department of Health Office of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs. (1998). Nuggets, news, notes, and findings form the office of alcohol and drug abuse programs. Vermont: Author.
Vermont Department of Education. (2001). Model student harassment prevention policy. [On-line]. Available: http://www.state.vt.us/educ/model_policies/harass_pol_07_06_01.pdf.
Vermont Statutes : Title 16 Education : Part 1 Administration : Chapter 1. Administration Generally : Subchapter 1. General Provisions: § 11. Classifications and definitions (26)a. (1993).
Who Would Have Thought, Inc. (Nov. 28, 2000). Newsletter. Vermont: Author.
Wolk, D. (2001). State of Education Speech 2001 [On-line].
Wolk, D. (2000). State of Education Speech [On-line]. Available:http://www.state.vt.us/educ/dsw_comments/DSW_stateofed_9_19_00.htm
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|Sarah Page is completing her Master’s Degree in Educational Studies at the University of Vermont. Her research focus has been centered around LGBTQ youth in schools and Queer theory. She is currently the business manager for the John Dewey Project.|
|Advocates for Youth: Dedicated to creating programs and promoting
policies which help young people make informed and responsible decisions
about their sexual and reproductive health: provides training, information
and advocacy to youth serving organizations, policy makers, and the media
in the U.S. and internationally. (202) 347-5700
1025 Vermont NW, Washington, DC 20005
|American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): The goal of the ACLU
Lesbian and Gay Rights Project is equal treatment and equal dignity for
lesbians, gay men and bisexuals. That means even-handed treatment by the
government, protection from discrimination in jobs, housing, hotels, restaurants
and other public places, and fair and equal treatment for lesbian and gay
couples and families.
|National Youth Advocacy Coalition (NYAC): Lobbies for legislative
protection against discrimination for sexual minority youth, publishes
an excellent news magazine regarding sexual minority concerns. (202) 319-7596
1711 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 206
Washington, DC 20009 http://www.nyacyouth.org
|P.E.R.S.O.N. Project (Public Information Regarding Sexual Orientation
Nationally): Provides action alerts, an organizing manual and curriculum
(510) 601-8883 (Resources and National News)
586-62nd St., Oakland, CA 94609-1245
|Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN): The only
national organization working to end anti-gay bias in schools.
121 W. 27th St. Suite 804, New York, NY 10001
|Gay/Straight Alliances: A student guide from Massachusetts Department of Education- includes typical goals and sample rules of GSA's and 10 easy steps for starting a GSA at your school. http://www.doe.mass.edu/lss/GSA/|
|Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD): Analyzes textbooks and mass media for anti-gay bias and advocates for fair treatment of sexual minorities in media. http://www.glaad.org||Lambda Legal Education and Defense Fund (LLDEF): Provides legal
advice and support for people experiencing sexual-orientation-based harassment
and other discrimination. (212) 995-8585
666 Broadway, Suite 1200
New York, NY 10012-2317
Resource List for the Parents of GLBTQ Youth
|PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays): National Homepage
provides support, education, and advocacy. Distributes excellent brochures.
Local chapters meet monthly. For parents, siblings, and friends and for
gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth and adults, too. Share concerns,
ask questions, good people.
1101-14th ST NW, Suite 1030
Washington, DC 20005 (202) 638-4200
Vermont Chapters: Burlington: (802) 863-4285
White River Junction: (802) 296-2383
|Outright Vermont: A statewide education and advocacy organization.
They offer support services and resources for GLBTQA (Ally) youth 22 years
old and under.
Toll-free 800-glb-chat or in Burlington 865-9677
P.O. Box 5235, Burlington, VT 05402 http://www.outrightvt.org
|UVM-Free to Be (SGA): An SGA club to provide safe
space for UVM LGBTQ students.
Billings Center, B163, Burlington, VT 05405 http://www.uvm.edu/~lgbtqa/
|Out in the Mountains: A newspaper for the LGBTQ Vermont
community. (802) 434-6468
PO Box 1078, Richmond VT 05477 http://www.mountainpridemedia.org
|UVM-LGBTQA Services: Provides resources and information to meet
the needs of LGBTQA students, staff and faculty at UVM. (802)565-8637
461 Main St., Burlington, VT 05405 http://www.uvm.edu/~free2b/
|R.U.1.2?: An LGBTQ community center for cultural, educational
and artistic events. (802) 860-7812
PO Box 5248, Burlington, VT 05402 http://www.ru12.org/
|Vermont Department of Education: http://www.state.vt.us/educ/index.htm|
|SafeSpace: A resource and referral line for victims of same-sex
domestic violence. (802) 863-0003
PO Box 158, Burlington, VT 05402
|Vermont_NEA: GLB Educators and their Allies.
(802) 645-9630 P.O. Box 156, West Pawlet VT 05775
|Vermont Human Rights Commission: Provides training and
information on civil rights laws and conducts investigations.
135 State Street, Drawer 3, Montpelier, VT 05633 http://www.hrc.state.vt.us/
Resource List for GLBTQ Youth
|OASIS Gay Youth Magazine Online: Features over 50
young columnists ranging in age from 13 to their mid-20's.
|Youth Assistance Organization (YAO or YOUTH.ORG):
This organization was formed to provide for the needs of queer youth; the need for a rare opportunity to express themselves, to know they are not alone, and to interact with others who have already accepted their sexuality. http://www.youth.org
|!OutProud! The National Coalition for Gay, Lesbian &
Bisexual Youth: Provides advocacy, resources and support to LGB youth
and agencies that work for them.
369-B Third Street, Suite 362
San Rafael, CA 94901-3581
(415) 499-0993 http://www.outproud.org/
|YOUTH 13-17 and YOUTH 17-21: two online conversation groups
offer peer support for often very isolated lgbtq and supportive youth.
Age policy strictly enforced and the groups are not a dating service.
|Youth Resource: Support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender youth. http://www.youthresource.com/|
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Queering Elementary Education: Advancing the Dialogue about Sexualities in SchoolingQueering Elementary Education is unique because as it's title suggests it does not apologize for the stance that it takes, nor does it wallow in the problems of being homosexual in a heterosexist society. It is a book all educators should read whether they are elementary school teachers, administrators, or college professors. It challenges assumptions about how we view education and how we view caring for children. Edited by William J. Letts IV and James T. Sears, it offers many perspectives on the various aspects of elementary education and the myriad ways it is heterosexist.
Edited by William J. Letts IV and James T. Sears (1999) ISBN # 0-8476-9369-4
Reviewed by Sarah Page
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It’s Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in SchoolMany elementary and middle grades teachers would like to address gay and lesbian issues in the classroom, but are confused about whether and how to approach this sensitive topic. In this award-winning film, we see many concrete examples of classroom activities, faculty meetings, and other school activities where important and meaningful conversations about the issues take place. This well crafted video and the accompanying viewing guide are carefully designed to open up dialogue among the adults in school communities about one of the most controversial issues facing schools today. There are many extraordinary, moving scenes, in which the young students, in their own words, show how all of them are affected by anti-gay prejudice, and they make a powerful case for a curriculum that teaches respect for everyone, including lesbians and gay men. The documentary highlights exceptional schools and courageous leaders who are in the vanguard of creating safe, inclusive schools. Carolyn B. Sheldon, President of the American School Counselor Association, says of this film, "IT'S ELEMENTARY is essential viewing for parents and educators concerned about preventing violence and prejudice" (video cover). I have shown it multiple times to pre-service and in-service teachers, and it always evokes tears, laughter, positive reviews, and new understandings about how to enact deeply held commitments to social justice.
Directed by Debra Chasnoff
Distributed by New Day Films (http://www.newday.com)
Reviewed by Kathleen Kesson
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Out of the Past: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Rights in AmericaI often include, in my multicultural education courses, a unit on gay and lesbian history and current issues. In the "pre-tests" that I give, I find that few of my teacher education students, many of whom are deeply committed to social justice, have even a rudimentary understanding of gay and lesbian history. This is not surprising, as the stories of gay and lesbian political figures, writers, artists, and entertainers, not to mention ordinary folks, are largely untold. They are most certainly absent from the school curriculum. This engaging film begins to tell the untold story, from the efforts of Henry Gerber during the 1920's to establish the first gay rights organization in the Unites States, to the story of Bayard Rustin, leader of the Civil Rights movement and close associate of Martin Luther King. Learning this history may be a first important step to becoming a more tolerant society that accepts, even celebrates our incredible human diversity. This moving film is told through the eyes of Kelli Peterson, a high school student in Salt Lake City, Utah, who is likely to become one of the history makers herself for her courageous and principled actions. If you don't remember, she was the young woman who dared to start a Gay/Straight Alliance in her public school, provoking a firestorm of protests, legislative battles and national media attention. Her story provides a modern counterpoint to the many historical human rights battles featured in this film. It is a film suitable for viewing by high school students, and would be a wonderful educational resource for teachers and administrators who want to support positive identify formation, strong role models, and a deepened sense of history to gay and straight students alike. This film is an eye-opening and powerful discussion starter.
A Jeff Dupre film (winner of the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival)
Reviewed by Kathleen Kesson
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Speak UP!SPEAK UP! is a 30 minute documentary directed by a former UMass student and produced by the Media Education Foundation (MEF), a national non-profit organization located in downtown Northampton, MA. MEF offers a selection of over 40 videos that examine a variety of crucial issues, providing “students, educators, activists and the general public with the necessary tools and vocabulary required to re-examine media images and their influence on how we think about our personal, political, economic and cultural worlds” (mediaed.org). According to MEF, “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) students and their allies face unique challenges of violence and harassment in schools. SPEAK UP! explores what these students and their allies have done to transform their schools into safer and more welcoming environments. Interviews with students, parents, teachers, administrators and national activists highlight not only the need for transformation, but offer resources and advice for those actively working for change.” Featuring Judy Shepard, Danny and Julie from MTV’s Real World, and Anthony Rapp from RENT, SPEAK UP! is lively and entertaining while providing a hard-hitting argument for school reform. It examines school policy, parent and teacher support, curriculum, student alliances, and grass-roots activism. SPEAK UP! can be ordered at mediaed.org.
Reviewed by Sara Just
|Sara Just is an English teacher at Amherst Regional High School, where she teaches Gay and Lesbian Literature, Women in Literature, and African American Literature electives. She completed her master’s degree in Social Justice Education at Goddard College, where she wrote a thesis entitled “The Hours Bursting Open: Transforming the High School Classroom with Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Literature,” a document which became the foundation for her Gay and Lesbian Literature class.|
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Fourteen Recommendations to Principals, Teachers and Administrators on Supporting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth (LGBTQ)
1. Get informed about LGBTQ issues. Ask questions. Read about homophobia and the issues faced by youth, families, and other teachers who are LGBTQ.
2. Support teachers, students, and administrators in their attempts to support LGBTQ students.
3. Believe a student when they tell you they are LGBTQ.
4. Confront name-calling, harassment, and slanderous jokes.
5. Use inclusive language.
6. Display LGBTQ-positive signs, pictures, and posters.
7. Insist upon inclusion of LGBTQ persons in diversity presentations, activities, etc..
8. Help create and support Gay/Straight Alliances, support groups, or other organizations for LGBTQ youth.
9. Initiate training on LGBTQ issues for teachers, staff, and administrators including violence prevention and crisis intervention.
10. Be clear about your willingness to support LGBTQ students.
11. Have accurate and positive resources in school libraries for LGBTQ youth.
12. Include LGBTQ issues throughout the curriculum, not just in health class in relation to disease.
13. Create a climate of respect and equity within your classroom.
14. Challenge assumptions. For example, not everyone is heterosexual even if they have not told you otherwise.
The Massachusetts Governor's Commission on Gay and
Lesbian Youth (1994). Making school safe for gay and lesbian youth: Breaking
the silence in schools and in families. In G. Remafedi (Ed.), Death
by Denial: Studies of Suicide in Gay and Lesbian Teenagers (pp.151-205).
Boston: Alyson Publications, Inc.
Lipkin, A. (1999). Understanding homosexuality, changing schools: A text for teachers, counselors, and administrators. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Mithcell, L. (Ed.) (1999). Tackling gay issues in school: A Resource module. Bridgeport, CT: GLSEN CT.
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