Be an Affirming Teacher or Peer: No More Silence, No More Bullying, No More Discrimination

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From a joint statement issued by GLSEN (Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network), PLFAG (Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and The Trevor Project (crisis and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth):

Recently, there has been heightened media attention surrounding the suicides in NewJersey, Texas, California, Indiana, and Minnesota of several youth who were known to be bullied relentlessly because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. * * *

The end to bullying and creating a culture of respect for all isn’t a one-step or one-sided effort. It is critical that concerned friends, family and community members know they have the power to take action to help at-risk youth right now. Studies show that when a young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) person knows there is an affirming teacher, school nurse, clergy member or parent they can trust, they are much more likely to turn to them for help when they are bullied or depressed. Similarly, when a school or community has a Gay-Straight Alliance or other affirming and accepting group, young people are less likely to feel isolated and can turn to peers and faculty advisors when they need help. Knowing the warning signs and how to help someone who is suicidal are also key to preventing a suicide crisis.

The horrible instances of school bullying that have led young people to take their own lives reflect the growing need for a change in our culture to value the differences of our youth. That cultural shift must begin now, in communities, schools, and at home by recognizing and addressing the needs of LGBTQ youth, and letting them know they are not alone. It is now up to all of us to make sure it happens.

GSLEN is sponsoring “Ally Week” October 18-22, 2010 (planned long before the recent suicides).  For professors and law students wondering how to take concrete action, this might be a way to get started.  More info here.Ally Week - October 13-17, 2008

Many of the suggested activities — anti-bullying pledges, etc. — could easily be adapted to the law school setting.  Law students could invite their future-lawyer peers to take a  to never use anti-LGBT language in the classroom or office, to speak up when others do, to volunteer time to support proposed student nondiscrimination acts or anti-bullying legislation.

-Bridget Crawford

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