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Fighting off School Bullying

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October 07, 2010 05:48 pm

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In a recent conversation with a friend, she discussed some particulars about a mandatory training her employer instituted. The training was rather progressive and something I had never heard done in the professional space. It was a training to create a safe space for individuals transitioning to another gender.  Consultants, therapists, and trainers were brought in to teach, answer questions, and facilitate a healthy conversation. One of the most important factors is that the president of the organization was an active and fully engaged participant in the training. As matter of fact, it was her idea. Having the organization’s figurehead participate in this training would make other employees view it more seriously.

That conversation made me think about the recent attention on bullying. A number of recent stories have emerged concerning  suicides of young students who were bullied based on sexual orientation, with the latest being the student at Rutgers University. According to a 2009 survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) of more than seven thousand middle and high school students, nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation. According to LGBT legal assistance organization Lambda Legal, almost one-third of LGBT students drop out of high school to escape the violence, harassment, and isolation they face there – a dropout rate much higher than the national average.

Recently, Secretary Arne Duncan released a statement calling for “parents, teachers, students, elected officials, and all people of conscience…to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms.” Under the Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2009, states can use grants to fund local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools in preventing and responding to incidents of bullying and harassment.

Many schools that I have been involved with in my career have had anti-bullying and harassment policies, but do not provide trainings for their students and staff. The training I heard about from my friend sounds like something that could help students really understand diversity outside of race and ethnicities.

Should schools receive funding particularly for trainings by organizations like GLSEN? Are there other or more effective ways to lessen acts of bullying and harassment to LGBT and all students?

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