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?


Serving Refugee and Immigrant Families in the United States

A rapidly growing demographic in the United States are children born to immigrant families. These children and their families may face a number of economic and social barriers as they grow and develop in their new surroundings. Some of these circumstances may open them up to issues such as violence exposure, problems with school readiness and access to services. However, many organizations are working to bridge this gap between services and immigrant and refugee communities by providing resources and guidance. Two examples of projects working towards this goal are the Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services (BRYCS) project and the Safe Start Center.

BRYCS does this through the provision of technical assistance between national organizations and immigrant and refugee communities in areas such as early childhood education and child welfare. This month they just released a new handbook, Raising Young Children in a New Country: Supporting Early Learning and Healthy Development. Check it out here.

BRYCS Screenshot


The handbook is part of a larger joint effort by BRYCS, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Head Start and the National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness to create a larger Collaboration Toolkit of similar resources. It is designed for immigrant and refugee parents to use in conjunction with service providers to provide them with important early childhood information to help them adapt themselves and their children. This and other resources in the toolkit will serve to help give families and communities much needed information by looking at six important themes:

  1. Family Well-Being
  2. Safety and protection
  3. Guidance and discipline
  4. Healthy Brain development
  5. Early learning and school readiness
  6. Connecting to Early Care and Education

The Safe Start Center also provides a great resource to help agencies working with immigrant families. The Trauma Informed Tips for Agencies working with Immigrant Families does this by sharing some of the potential warning signs of exposure to violence in children aged 0-18.  It also gives agency staff important information to serve their clients, including tips on how to:

  1. Screen for exposure to violence symptoms and mental health needs of children and their families on an ongoing basis
  2. Refer families for comprehensive mental health assessments that include lifetime exposure to violence and acculturation stressors
  3. Plan for individualized interventions that take into consideration traumatic experiences for both caregivers and children, which may be affecting the current family situation
  4. Expand the definition of “trauma-informed care” and “evidence-based interventions”

Do you know of any other useful resources for immigrant families? Share them below!

New NCAVP report on LGBT-related violence and prevention programs

Coinciding with Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride month annually held in June, is a report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), titled Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States in 2012.  The report looks at national level data from 15 programs across 16 states that work towards anti-violence.

The report shows that although there has been a decrease in reported LGBT-related violence nationally, there has been a rise in some states like New York. Also troubling are the report numbers showing that children and young adults aged 29 and under represented almost half of the victims and survivors. This reveals the need to rapidly increase anti-violence programming for children and young adults.

However, the report does share some great examples of organizations already working to combat this violence. Based in Washington D.C., some of these organizations include Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) and the DC Trans Coalition (DCTC).  The report also noted Project Empowerment that has positively helped to increase access to education and employment for at-risk and disenfranchised LGBT residents.

Below are some recommendations and best practices included in the report:


  • Decrease the risk of severe violence and homicide through ending LGBTQ and HIV-affected poverty.
  • Increase funding for LGBTQ and HIV-affected anti-violence support and prevention programs.
  • Community Based Organizations should create programs and campaigns to prevent anti-LGBTQ and HIV-affected harassment and violence.
  • Schools and universities should create LGBTQ and HIV-affected anti-violence initiatives and LGBTQ and HIV-affected-inclusive curricula to reduce hate violence and harassment.
  • Schools, universities, and community-based organizations, including anti-violence programs, service organizations, and faith organizations, should collect data on violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected people.

American Street Kid

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, a 2002 study put out by the US Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) found that there are over 1.6 million homeless and runaway youth in the United States, and this number is growing every year.

The National Coalition for the Homeless notes that these youth become homeless for a variety of reasons typically falling under three, often related, categories: family problems, economic problems, and residential instability. Youth leave home to escape problems, but they often become exposed to a wide variety of violence, including trauma, abuse, poverty, substance abuse, and increased incidence of contracting illnesses such as HIV. Many also face the challenges of finding safe places to sleep or even feeding themselves.

American Street Kid is a new documentary film sharing the stories of youth that have experienced the terrible reality of the traumas and difficulties that can lead to homelessness. The film was created by film maker Michael Leoni using footage from five years worth of interviews and work on the streets of Los Angeles collecting the voices of hundreds of youth living on the city’s streets.

This film is working to raise awareness about the very real problem of youth homelessness and to give voice to the millions of children and youth that are homeless across the United States.

Check out the campaign below:

American Street Kid

The importance of good emotional and mental health for children and youth

Many people are aware of the importance of teaching their children about safety. These conversations typically center on teaching kids how to protect their physical safety and prevent accidents.

What is less well-understood is the importance of also teaching children and young adults about the importance of good emotional and mental health. These conversations are so important because understanding how to prevent or protect against the potential negative effects of experiencing violence and trauma can go a long way in preventing the early onset or severity of mental heath issues and disorders early in life.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) 50 percent of mental illnesses are developed before age 14, and about 80 percent of people with both mental health and substance abuse disorders reported the onset occurring before the age of 20. Data from 2008 also shows that the prevalence of serious mental illnesses is highest among youth 18-25.

Another dangerous problem that may inhibit discussions with youth about mental health is a misunderstanding about what good mental health and awareness actually means. Data from a U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) report states that over 45 million people suffer from different mental illnesses in the U.S. and less than 40 percent receive help or treatment. It also shows that there is a cultural stigma associated with discussing mental health and a significant percentage of Americans that may have needed treatment have not received any. There is the assumption that they will suffer negative social consequences for discussing their issues.

Disorders and problems linked to mental health and substance abuse are shown as a serious public health issue affecting youth and adults across the United States. The emotional and monetary costs and burden of treating mental health problems are high for the individual, family and community. Data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’ (AHRQ) spanning a ten year period from 1996-2006 shows this significant rise in Americans paying for and using mental health services. The total expenditure on services also rose 63.4% over this period.











These rising costs have placed a greater focus on methods and practices promoting prevention across different settings. Interventions and best practices to help younger populations combat this threat have emerged in environments like schools and the child welfare system to address the broader needs of the diverse populations that they serve.

The Children’s Trust Partnership summarizes the need for action in promoting the emotional well-being of youth in the following ideas:

  1. The good emotional health of children and young people is vital to them as individuals
  2. The good emotional health of children and young people is vital to society
  3. We know what works in improving emotional health
  4. Developing these approaches and interventions should save money later
  5. Developing these approaches should help meet other priorities in communities
  6. This is not a new policy area

Read more about this case for action here.

The Safe Start Center also supports the promotion of interventions to improve positive behavioral and emotional health in children and young adults.

Understanding Children’s Exposure to Violence Brief #1 shares some ideas about program types and interventions that can both enhance resilience and reduce risks for children and young adults exposed to violence and traumatic events.

  • For all children, participation in high-quality early care and education programs can enhance physical, cognitive, and social development and promote readiness and capacity to succeed in school.
  • For at-risk families, early identification of and intervention with high-risk children by early education programs and schools, pediatric care and mental health programs, child welfare systems, and court and law enforcement agencies can prevent threats to healthy development by detecting and addressing emerging problems.
  • For children and families already exposed to violence, intensive intervention programs delivered in the home and in the community can improve outcomes for children well into the adult years and can generate benefits to society that far exceed program costs.
  • Outcomes improve when highly skilled practitioners provide intensive trauma-focused psychotherapeutic interventions to stop the negative chain reaction following exposure to traumatic stressors (e.g., child abuse and neglect, homelessness, severe maternal depression, domestic violence).

For further information check out the full issue brief here. Please continue to join us this week and month as we continue to promote awareness about the importance of good mental and emotional health!

Join us for CEV Week April 15-19!

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We are facing one of the most significant challenges to the future of America’s children that we have ever known. Our children are experiencing and witnessing violence on an alarming scale.

 —Defending Childhood Task Force co-chairmen Joe Torre and Robert Listenbee, Jr.

According to the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV), 60 percent of American children are exposed to violence, crime or abuse in their homes, schools and communities. Be it bullying, domestic violence or child abuse, exposure to violence – particularly multiple exposures – can interfere with a child’s physical, emotional, and intellectual development.

To stress the point that everyone plays an important role in CEV prevention, the theme for this year’s CEV Prevention and Awareness Week is “Every Person. Every Day.

Wondering what role you can play? You can:

Tweet with us! Feel free to join us on Twitter using #CEVweek to post interesting articles and resources related to children’s exposure to violence. Also, we’re having a Twitter chat with psychologist and NatSCEV researcher Sherry Hamby at 2 p.m. EST Wed. April 17. Learn more here.

Learn with us! On Thurs. April 18 we will host a webinar, Unlocking the Development of Children Exposed to Violence. Panelists will discuss how exposure to violence impacts a child’s development and ways that schools and the child welfare system can better respond to trauma. Register here.

CEVWeek TwibbonTake a picture! Throughout April we are running a photo sharing campaign, asking individuals and groups to take a photo with the week’s slogan, “Every Person. Every Day.” We’ll collect these photos into an album on Facebook and share on other social media outlets to show others’ support of the idea that preventing and treating childhood exposure to violence involves everyone. Print out the CEV Week logo here, take your photo with it and send it to or tag us on Facebook (Safe Start Center) and Twitter (@safestartcenter).

Get social! Visit the CEV Week campaign page to spread the word on social media. There you’ll find sample messages and graphics to show your support for CEV Week.

We hope organizations and community groups such as law enforcement, mental health practitioners, child welfare organizations and domestic violence victim advocates will share knowledge online and offline about how to prevent CEV and reduce its impact, as well as how to take action in their communities. Facts and resources to support you at every step are available in the CEV Week Toolkit and the Chicago Safe Start website.

You have the power to educate others, change behaviors, and help shape the future for children. We look forward to working with you to observe this important week and keep the momentum going!

Child Abuse Prevention: Protecting Our Kids

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and in the U.S. parents, communities and agencies continue work to reduce and eliminate abuse and neglect.

One of the most recent efforts by the federal government is the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012, written “to establish a commission to develop a national strategy and recommendations for reducing fatalities resulting from child abuse and neglect.” This legislation’s efforts are coming to life through the recent creation of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities. The hope for these efforts is that they can help answer one of the biggest issues facing child abuse prevention efforts  – the lack of a systematic approach and strategy to prevention.

Renewed prevention efforts are vital to children in the U.S.. Although child abuse rates have fallen, child abuse fatalities have not. According to the Every Child Matters education fund “15,510 children are known to have died between 2001 and 2010, which is about 2½ times the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Even more troubling is the acknowledgement that these numbers are actually considered a severe underestimation of the actual number of fatalities because there is no standard national reporting system for tracking. The commission will be working to find ways to bridge the reporting gap between state and federal child welfare agencies and improve the quality of data collection.

In spite of needing ongoing improvement in prevention efforts, the U.S. is still a leader in child abuse prevention. In March 2013, Ghana announced participation in International Child Abuse Month to improve prevention efforts in the country citing the U.S. example of reducing abuse statistics through public awareness events, education and ongoing research.

For a look at what some of these prevention efforts look like, check out this video:

Pinwheels for Prevention 2013

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