CAMPAIGN: District aims to make environment at schools safer
By Connie Llanos – LA Daily News Staff Writer | http://bit.ly/cU3tRc
Updated: 10/07/2010 08:16:35 PM - In the wake of a recent string of gay teen suicides across the country, Los Angeles Unified officials joined forces with gay rights advocates Thursday to announce a targeted effort to eliminate bullying of homosexual youth at local schools.
Working with the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, district officials said they plan to launch an information campaign this month that will include handing out some 1,500 "Safe School Kits" to local secondary schools to create safer environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
"LAUSD has been a leader in the country in creating curriculum that addresses LGBT issues, we were the first district to adopt a textbook that discussed issues of gender orientation and sexual identity and we have over 100 gay/straight student clubs," said LAUSD board member Tamar Galatzan, speaking to students and gay rights advocates at Monroe High School in North Hills.
"Something as simple as letting students identify adults that they can trust and talk to at school can make a huge difference."
According to district officials, just under 8 percent of LAUSD's 600,000 students identify as gay, and 90 percent of those report being harassed daily at school.
Tim Kordic, an LAUSD advisor on health education programs, said it seems from anecdotal evidence that the harassment suffered by LGBT students in the district is also often more violent than any other student group. It also leads to more hospitalizations, while suicide rates for these students are triple that of other students.
"We have great schools that have great programs for students and yet, we still have these extreme issues happening at our school every single day," he said.
Jose Navarrete, a senior at Monroe and president of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance club, said he has been lucky to have supportive friends at his school, but many he knows have not had the same experience.
"Sadly I've heard about students getting harassed, verbally assaulted and a lot of other students simply don't come to school to avoid everything," Navarrete said.
GLSEN executive director Eliza Byard said despite the increased visibility of gay life and issues in popular culture, much of the discussion can be politicized and polarizing.
Providing more education and outreach to schools is crucial to ensuring students' success, Byard added.
"It is crucial for all students to feel supported and safe in their school environments not only for their safety but also for their academic achievement," she said.
GLSEN is donating "safe school kits" to local schools, which include stickers that teachers, counselors and administrators can place in their offices or classrooms, which label that space as a "safe" zone.
District officials will also hand out resources to teachers and administrators that they can connect students to, and tip sheets on how best to counsel students.
LAUSD fights anti-gay bullying at schools
By Melissa MacBride | http://bit.ly/d9IROW
Thursday, October 07, 2010 - NORTH HILLS, Calif. (KABC) -- The Los Angeles Unified School District has partnered with the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to launch a new program designed to help gay and lesbian youth deal with bullying because of their sexual orientation.
As part of the new Safe Space program, school teachers and staff members will receive kits to help them create a safe environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) students. The kit provides reading information on how young people can deal with on-campus bullying, cyber bullying, coming out, and homophobia.
"The key to student achievement and to student well being is knowing that they have the support and care of adults in their school community and they have somewhere to turn when they are in trouble," said Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN.
According to GLSEN, nine out of 10 LGBT youth are harassed at school because of their sexual orientation and four out of 10 students report that they have been physically harassed at schools. The group is hoping that this program will help reduce those kinds of statistics.
Anti-gay harassment is to blame for the recent suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi and three other young people in three recent weeks. Many celebrities are now lending their voices in hopes of changing a homophobic climate in schools nationwide.
Country singer Chely Wright, who came out to the public in May, is helping promote the Safe Space program now in place in L.A. and schools in Maine and New York.
"I am a happy, well-adjusted Christian woman with good family values but I am a lesbian. And this was important to me to make certain that young people who feel alone that they feel less alone," said Wright.
Students at James Monroe High School, where the program was launched Thursday, say in recent years gay and lesbian students and others who are perceived as being different are finding a greater acceptance amongst their peers.
"As students we all are there for each other in support. When we see something happening like that we always stand up for each other. And I think year by year as I have been here as a student, I've seen our support for each other just increase throughout the years," said student Yesenia Gutierrez.
"We now realize that there's no differences with one another and that we're all the same just of different thinking and points of view," said student Nirav Prajapati.