The state of LGBT related anti-bullying legislation in the United States

As the country recognizes and supports LGBT pride and awareness this month, advocates across the country are working to address the problem of LGBT-related bullying in schools.

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) notes that two types of laws exist that are meant to protect LGBT children and youth in schools:  fully enumerated anti-bullying laws and non-discrimination laws.

Enumerated laws are specific to protecting students from bullying related to sexual orientation or gender. There are 15 states with this type of law including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Non-discrimination laws also exist to provide protection for LGBT students in schools. Unlike fully enumerated legislation, some of these laws do not protect against discrimination based on gender identity, which is the case in Wisconsin. However, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia do provide some protection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

This type of legislation is incredibly important in order to offer both legal and physical protection to students. GLSEN notes that 6 out of 10 students feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and transgender students have an even higher rate at 8 out of 10. Bullying introduces terrible risks for children and perhaps the greatest for LGBT youth. Many children report feeling unsafe in school, but the reality is that many of them actually are not safe. As many as 1 out of 5 have been physically harmed according to the 2009 National School Climate Survey. When children and youth feel threatened at school this often leads to further problems such as depression, thoughts of suicide, poor grades, mental and physical health problems that can extend into adulthood.

This year more and more states are recognizing the need for better and fully enumerated laws and are responding to the need by increasing anti-bullying legislation in order to protect LGBT students.

Two recent examples of these efforts:

The Pennsylvania State Legislature is pushing legislation that will target bullying in schools specifically based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The legislation, known as the Safe Schools Improvement Act, supports a larger education bill to combat bullying and harassment. Read more about it here.

At the federal level, Senator Al Franken has recently reintroduced the Student Non-discrimination Act that offers protection to students against harassment and bullying based on gender or sexual identity. The bill offers nationwide protection, modeled after Title IX legislation, and remedies discrimination in public schools based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Do you know the laws in your state? What’s being done to protect LGBT students from bullying?

 

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#CEVchat: CEV in the School

We occupied a small piece of the Twitterverse on Wednesday to discuss children’s exposure to violence and the role schools can play to help. A follow-up to the release of our new toolkit, CEV in the School, the Twitter chat was a way to share our abundance of resources as well as answer any questions about the issue.

No surprise to us, the conversation drifted to the lack of resources for educators when it comes to how to deal with students who are struggling to cope after being exposed to violence. (Please visit our Storify page for a collection of key tweets from the chat) Fellow tweeters said resources lacking included professional development for teachers and mental health employees trained in identifying CEV.

The National Survey of Children Exposed to Violence found that 42 percent of children who had been exposed to violence were known to school authorities, evidence of how crucial it is for school officials to be knowledgeable about CEV. Having a teacher trained of the signs and how to help could make a huge impact on a child.

Children’s exposure to violence is a growing, evolving field and much work is being done to make people more aware of its impact and prevalence. The Safe Start Initiative is one of many steps toward awareness and solutions to children’s exposure to violence. Funded by the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, eight grantees across the country are currently implementing evidence-based programs to test their efficacy in preventing and helping children who have been exposed. There is also Attorney General Eric Holder’s Defending Childhood Initiative, which has grantees implementing similar programs with a law enforcement focus.

Thanks to everyone who helped spread the word about this topic. With so much of a child’s time spent in school, educators play such an important role in helping children who have been exposed to violence at home, in the community or within the school itself.

Questions? Suggestions? Feedback?  Feel free to comment below.

Guest post: Stop Bullying by Promoting Pro-Social Skills on the Playground

Jill Vialet is the founder and CEO of Playworks. Vialet has worked for more than 25 years in the nonprofit sector, during which she focused her entrepreneurial skills on conceiving of and growing two successful nonprofit organizations.

For too many children, violence in the news, on television, on the Internet and even just beyond the schoolyard fences, is a part of their daily lives. The last thing we need is for our children to be exposed to violence in school. Unfortunately, violence does occur in schools every day, in the form of bullying. Bullying is defined as  the “intentional aggressive behavior that tips the balance of power and  is often repeated over time.. And according to the National School Climate Center, every seven minutes a child is bullied on a school playground.

When bullying, teasing and name-calling are present on a school campus, it contributes to an environment in which students’ physical and social-emotional safety is at risk. It is the responsibility of the school, and in the best interest of the grown-ups working there, to create safe communities that ultimately help contribute to learning.

The good news is that there is a way to prevent bullying, one that focuses on recess and extends into the classroom. At Playworks, we have been promoting safe, healthy play on schoolyards for the past 16 years. A recent study by Mathematica Policy Research and Stanford University showed that Playworks schools not only prevent bullying, but increase students’ feeling of safety and inclusion.

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You’re Invited! CEV in the School Twitter chat

Follow @SafeStartCenter using #CEVchat to participate!

Please join us Sept. 12 at 3:30 p.m. ET as we take to Twitter to discuss children’s exposure to violence in a school setting.

Now more than ever, it’s important that the education community is aware of the impact of children’s exposure to violence. Increasing knowledge and awareness can help educators develop a safe environment for children while also helping them heal and build resiliency.

To increase awareness, the Safe Start Center recently released a toolkit – CEV in the School – focused on children’s exposure to violence and its impact in the child’s educational environment.  The toolkit includes an easy to understand infographic as well as tip sheets on CEV and how teachers can help.

We hope you’ll join us using #CEVchat to follow and participate in the conversation. If you’re on Facebook, stop by and let us know you’re coming!

Feedback? Questions?  Feel free to contact us at info@safestartcenter.org.

Awareness: the Link Between Bullying and Suicide

This past weekend, a family and community got together to remember 12-year-old Payton Ruth Anne Richardson, who shot herself six months ago. In her memory they are working to raise awareness about bullying because they believe that it contributed to her suicide. More of the story is available here.

More and more, stories like Payton’s have been seen in the news in the last year, and it isn’t just a problem in the United States. Just a few months ago, a 13-year-old Japanese boy jumped to his death after having been forced to regularly “practice suicide.” A report from the BBC shares a video about a study conducted by a bullying prevention charity, Beatbullying. It found that possibly more than 40 percent of suicides among 10- to 14-year-olds may be bullying-related.

There is also a growing number of statistics on the link between bullying and suicide. BullyingStatistics.org shares a list:

  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. More than 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.
  • Victims of bullying are between two  to nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University.
  • A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying.
  • 10- to 14-year-old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide, according to the study above.
  • According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying.

Suicide is the worst potential consequence related to exposure to bullying. It is important that children, parents and communities are fully aware of both the signs and symptoms of bullying and suicide. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center recently shared an issue brief on Suicide and Bullying that frames the issue and provides some great ideas for prevention. You can check it out here.

For more resources and information on the issue of bullying and prevention, checkout the Safe Start Center Bullying Resources page.

LGBT Pride Month

9 out of 10 LGBT students have experienced harassment at school.

LGBT teens are bullied 2 to 3 times more than straight teens.

More than 1/3 of LGBT kids have attempted suicide.

LGBT kids are 4 times as likely to attempt suicide then our straight peers.

National Youth Association

During the month of June a spotlight highlights these statistics and many others concerning the LGBT community. LGBT Pride Month (different from LGBT History Month, which is observed in October) is filled with rallies, parades and outreach events across the country. According to GLAAD, it is held in June “to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion in New York City on June 28, 1969, which most historians consider to be the birth of the modern LGBT movement.”

LGBT youth are exposed to the same type of violence as heterosexual individuals, but they may also experience traumas related to their sexual orientation or gender identity like bullying as a child or teen related to their presumed sexual orientation or gender expression.  In addition, some LGBT youth are exposed to physical or sexual assault (gay bashing) or domestic violence, which carries with it additional stigma and barriers to treatment.  We know what the impact of exposure to violence is on children and youth, and therefore, they are very vulnerable to negative impacts.

During the last year or so, the issue of suicide and LGBT youth received a lot of media attention when at least four LGBT teens committed suicide after they were constantly bullied. Direct or indirect exposure to this violence can have many consequences for youth’s mental health, school performance and everyday life.

According to the Trevor Project, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers and more than 1/3 of LGB youth report having made a suicide attempt.

As we discussed in one of our Mental Health Month blogs, building a child/teen’s resilience is the best way to potentially protect them from the consequences of exposure to violence.

Centers for Disease Control Public Health Model provides a great way to start and complete the process of enhancing children’s well-being. Understanding Children’s Exposure to Violence details ways to build resilience, including participation in high-quality early care and education programs to enhance physical, cognitive, and social development and promote readiness and capacity to succeed in school.

We hope you’ll take some time this month to explore the plethora of resources available regarding the LGBT youth community and how exposure to violence impacts them, as well as proven strategies to build resilience and create understanding school environments.

Below is a great video from the Youth Pride Choir and some resources to get you started.

Resources:

CDC – http://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth.htm

GLSEN Playgrounds and Prejudice Study – http://www.glsen.org/playgroundsandprejudice.html?

GLSEN Ready, Set, Respect! Toolkit – http://www.glsen.org/readysetrespect.html?

Programs:

The Trevor Project – http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

It Gets Better Project – http://www.itgetsbetter.org/

Articles:

The Social Environment and Suicide Attempts in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youth –  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3081186/?tool=pubmed

New York Times: Suicide Draws Attention to Gay Bullying – http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/21/suicide-of-gay-teenager-who-urged-hope/

NYU to Study Increased Suicide Risk Among LGBT Youth – http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20110913/greenwich-village-soho/nyu-study-increased-suicide-risk-among-lgbt-youth

A symptom of a wider problem

Why us?

Why here?

Why did he do it?

These are the questions people always have in the face of tragedy and loss. When things like the Chardon High School shooting happen, often the public and community’s focus is on looking at the lives of the victims and understanding the shooter’s motivation, usually with the feeling of anger.  But it’s really important to make sure we remember to look at the whole picture.

News headlines are showing a variety of reasons and speculation for why T.J. Lane – for all appearances, a normal, great kid with a bright future – did something this.

Was it just random?

One report said

“Lane told police that he did not know the students, that he picked them randomly,
according to the report. But some of the students who were shot had known
Lane since at least middle school. Some rode the bus with him each day.”

Was he just an overlooked danger?

Because another one points out that

“Lane wasn’t a student at Chardon, but he went there to catch a bus that would
drop him off at an alternative school for at-risk teens.”

Or is he repeating a cycle of violence from things he witnessed as a child?

Because, yet another report mentions that

“Both parents were charged with domestic violence against
each other and his father was very violent.”

Or finally, did he just do it because of a broken heart?

Because yet, another report says that

“A group of friends close to Lane’s former girlfriend told ABC News that the girl had dated Lane, and that after they broke up, she began seeing one of the victims, Russell King Jr. Lane felt forgotten after the couple broke up, one of the students said.”

The reality is that we may never know why he brought the gun that day and shot those other teens. There is no excuse that will ever justify T.J. Lane’s actions that day, but there is an explanation. It’s vital we try to understand the root cause, and this is outlined in The National Survey on Children’s Exposure to Violence.

“ [It] confirms that most of our society’s children are exposed to violence in their daily lives. More than 60 percent of the children surveyed were exposed to violence within the past year, either directly or indirectly (i.e., as a witness to a violent act; by learning of a violent act against a family member, neighbor, or close friend; or from a threat against their home or school).”

There are two sides to every story, and many reasons that tragedies happen, but a variety of violence exposures are often at the root of these occurrences, and they are the symptoms of a wider problem. Knowing how often our children are exposed to violence is imperative, and we have to understand the whole picture of violence.

This can be done through:

  1. Continued training of practitioners and public health officials
  2. Public awareness about the problem of violence exposure
  3. Recognition of the signs of trauma
  4. Continued field research on the issue

Exposure to violence is an epidemic and a problem that affects everyone that it touches; things like the Chardon School shooting are often a symptom of this wider problem. So, what’s really important beyond just helping schools and communities to heal is to understand this whole picture of violence and continue finding ways to prevent and protect our children.

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