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Today, We Stand Up


By | blog, Latest News, LGBT, Respect For All Project

Today is a very sobering day for so many reasons. But it is also a line in the sand over which we will not—we will never—go back.

I am heartened by the map I saw this morning that showed that if the election had only been decided by those 18-25, the outcome would have been dramatically different.

Together, we have been succeeding in supporting new generations to understand that without respect for all, we have no way forward.

We are not giving up. We are standing up.

For 20 years you have helped teachers all over this country bring compassion, inclusiveness, and an end to bigotry into their classrooms.

You have been with us as our Respect for All Project has made it safer for children growing up in all different kinds of families to stand tall with their classmates.

For middle school youth to find smarter ways to be powerful rather than resort to bullying and prejudice.

For teens to redefine what healthy masculinity looks like, to understand how feminism is key to their mental health, to embrace their true nature no matter what the media or those in power try to tell them.

So today, I just want to say thank you, again, for your courage and commitment and big hearts. I hope you get out and get some fresh air and share as much love as you can.

And tomorrow, let’s get back to work.

Time For A New Kind Of Locker Room Talk


By | blog, Latest News, Straightlaced

Read this entry in the Huffington Post or below.

I have a hard time believing the men who are coming forward now and saying that they have never heard guys talk like Donald Trump in their locker rooms. Why? Because when I interviewed high school students for a documentary about the pressure to conform to gender norms, Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, I heard that kind of talk all the time—in every type of school, all over the country.

In fact, most of the male students I interviewed confided to me about the pressure they face to prove their masculinity by bragging about sexual conquests, fabricating the number of female students they slept with, and making demeaning comments about young women’s bodies.

I sent my (male) camera crew into one high school locker room to see what happened, and it didn’t take long for the basketball players to start naming the females on the cheerleading squad that they were going to “get” any day now.

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“It’s hard for me to act in a different way,” one high school senior told me, “when all I know is the way I’ve been taught….I’ll go back to school and grab a girl’s ass and say, ‘you look really nice in those jeans. And not in a flattering way…in a fully sexual way.”

The pressure on boys to talk trash about girls and to view female bodies as theirs to grab whenever they feel the urge starts early on. It’s sewn into the fabric of our culture’s messaging about what you need to do to be a real man, to not be perceived as gay, to be the king of the crowd.

It’s so insidious that now the man who is one step away from the presidency thinks he can brush away his behavior by labeling it “locker room talk” as if that chatter has no impact on women’s lives, or men’s values.

There will always be #lockerroomtalk, but how about we change what that banter is all about? Boys can grow up to see women as peers instead of animals at their disposal to be stalked and conquered. Men can find healthy ways to feel powerful that don’t require a sexual scorecard.

We’ve seen an explosion of rage about the impact on women of Trump’s sexual assault bravado. But let’s also look at where this behavior starts, and what it will take to really move the dial on the pressure men feel to act like Donald Trump and Billy Bush on the bus. It certainly isn’t going to change with Trump as role-model-in-chief.

Learn more about Straightlaced at www.straightlacedfilm.org. GroundSpark also provides professional development for school districts on gender norm issues.

Start Streaming GroundSpark’s Award-Winning Documentaries Today


By | blog, Choosing Children, Deadly Deception, Homes and Hands, It's Elementary, It's STILL Elementary, Let's Get Real, One Wedding and A Revolution, Straightlaced, That's A Family!

If you are affiliated with a college or university, you may now have a way to access all of GroundSpark films and share them with your students, colleagues and staff on campus. Hundreds of colleges and universities are subscribed to Kanopy, a streaming service for institutions of higher education. If your academic institution is subscribed, you can get instant access to our films at no extra cost to you or your students. Explore all the GroundSpark films:

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Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up

A69C0585.JPG Phyllis Lyon, left, and Del Martin, who have been together for 51 years, embrace after their marriage at city Hall.

One Wedding and…a Revolution

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It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School

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It’s Still Elementary

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Let’s Get Real

That’s a Family!

8kanopy

Choosing Children

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Homes and Hands: Community Land Trusts in Action

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Deadly Deception—General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment

Learn more about each of these films here and please contact us if you have any questions about how Kanopy streaming works for these titles!

New Short Film: Unlocking Investment in Rural America


By | blog, Brittney Shepherd, Policy Moves, Producer, Latest News

There’s a worn woolen blanket hanging in the opening of the old trailer. It’s the door through which Maria Alaya, her husband, and four children go in and out of their home. The insulation is falling out in big chunks, a sheet of plywood covers up huge holes in the floor. “The water comes down right here,” Maria told us, “And it pours in over here.”

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GroundSpark was in Brownsville, TX a few months ago filming a short documentary to help the Obama administration address persistent rural poverty. Working with the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), we created a 10-minute film that makes the case for expanded public and private partnerships that can channel desperately needed funding into long-neglected regions of the United States.

Today, we are thrilled to share this short film, Unlocking Investment in Rural America, with you.

“Groundspark is our filmmaking partner of choice for their ability to frame a social issue with power and complexity, engage viewers and lead them to action. Their work for the Uplift America Fund—a new initiative to invest in persistently poor rural communities—succeeded in elevating an issue too long ignored—bringing it to leading philanthropists, policymakers and investors and engaging them in the solution. Their ability to listen to the customer, adapt to the needs of the stakeholders, and create a product of beauty is unequalled.”

— Andrea Levere, President, CFED

In July, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) unveiled the Uplift America Fund, a pool of $500 million that can be used to build much-needed infrastructure projects in communities that have suffered for decades from persistent poverty and underinvestment.

Unlocking Investment in Rural America is helping explain why the fund is needed and how public and private partners can get involved.

It’s part of POLICY MOVES, GroundSpark’s initiative to use film to make important progressive public policy more accessible and inspiring. We partner with public interest organizations, government agencies and private funders to bring the best policy efforts to life, igniting change through film.
It was a fascinating challenge to boil down research reports, dozens of statistics, the needs of the USDA, and combine those with good storytelling about the US/Mexican border, Appalachia, the Cheyenne River Reservation and the Mississippi Delta.
We are delighted that the result is helping community organizations access the new Uplift America funds and motivating other government agencies, investors, and philanthropies to find creative ways to work in persistently poor rural areas. You can watch the film here and find out more about Uplift America.

Please take a moment to learn more about POLICY MOVES, GroundSpark’s program to accelerate progressive public policy with high quality documentary filmmaking.

What’s New for Ally Week 2016?


By | blog, Events, LGBT, Straightlaced

What’s new for Ally Week 2016? This year we are focusing on supporting schools to help students examine how race, class, culture, and ethnicity impact any person’s experience when it comes to gender and sexuality.

Faces of Four Racially Diverse Youth

Faces of Four Racially Diverse Youth

Put yourself in the shoes of these high school students who appear in the film and analyze how their experience of gender norms is affected by their particular backgrounds.

Once again we are proud partners with the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Gay Straight Alliances everywhere for Ally Week, which will be September 26 – 30, 2016.

We are making our award-winning documentary, Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up available to watch for free for the entire month.

 

Watch TrailerAlly Week 2016 (1)

Sign Up for Free Streaming

Order DVD and Curriculum Guide

Make Connections: Race, Culture, Gender, and Sexuality

You can also purchase the DVD and our comprehensive curriculum guide at 50% off for the entire month just by using discount code AWGS16 when you make your purchase.

Each DVD set comes with a free, 165-page curriculum guide on how to use the film to open up critical classroom discussions for middle, high school, and college students about the gender binary, homophobia, dating pressures, and much more.

The activities in the guide are correlated to National Sexuality Education Core Curriculum standards as well.

During Ally Week, participants across the country will consider what they can do to become an even better ally to another person, or group of people. Straightlaced, which explores the pressures that ALL teens face when it comes to dealing with gender norms and sexuality, is the perfect tool for sparking dialogue and community action around these issues. What’s new for Ally Week 2016? This year we are focusing on supporting schools to help students examine how race, class, culture, and ethnicity impact any person’s experience when it comes to gender and sexuality.

How We are Helping Reduce Suicide in Georgia


By | blog, Latest News, LGBT, Professional Development, Respect For All Project, Straightlaced

Did you see the recent New York Times article about how difficult daily life is for students who identify as LGBT? It’s alarming.

The Center for Disease Control finally did a study of high school youth who identify as LGBT.

40 percent of them have considered suicide.

Why?

  • They are three times more likely than straight students to have been raped.
  • They skipped school far more often because they did not feel safe;
  • At least a third had been bullied on school property.
  • They were twice as likely as heterosexual students to have been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property.

That’s why GroundSpark is stepping up our efforts to help prevent suicide among youth and young adults. Our professional development program which is centered around using Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up is proving to be an excellent way for educators to grasp what they can do to make school safer for all students who don’t conform to the so-called norms of gender and sexuality expression.

Mental health professionals who work in colleges and universities across the state of Georgia recently formed the Georgia’s College Suicide Prevention Coalition.

For their very first event, GroundSpark teamed up with our partner, SOJOURN (the Southern Jewish Resource Network), to provide a three-hour training.

GroundSpark Facilitators Serian Strauss and Eileen Nathanson introduce our Pyramid of Peace

Participants

  • learned the statistics about how heteronormativity increases suicide risks;
  • reflected on the early messages they received about LGBTQ people;
  • practiced responding to LGBTQ issues that commonly arise in their work setting;
  • unpacked stereotypes, assumptions, and concepts related to identity and intersectionality.

Scenes from Straightlaced brought youth perspectives into the room and helped jumpstart the dialogue.

Our lead trainer, Eileen Nathanson, knows that these kinds of exercises help mental health providers to understand what their clients may have experienced as well as increase their own self-awareness. “As a psychotherapist,” Eileen says, “I see the ongoing mental health impact of growing up in a world that largely communicates that we must hide or bury ourselves if we are to be safe and loved. Expanding our thinking about the impact of homophobia and rigid gender stereotypes allows us to better partner with students in all aspects of their healing.”

 

Participants stand back-to-back, waiting for their next prompt in our “pair-share” exercise. In this activity GroundSpark trainers present real life scenarios so participants can practice spontaneous responses to provide support or advocacy involving LGBT students or colleagues.

 

Do you want to bring a GroundSpark training to your university or network? For more info or to schedule a workshop or presentation in your area, please email us at info@groundspark.org and tell us a little bit about what you are looking for.

Victory! It’s Now Elementary in California


By | blog, It's Elementary, It's STILL Elementary, Latest News, LGBT, Professional Development, Respect For All Project
We did it! After years of advocating that our schools adopt LGBT-inclusive curricula, I am thrilled to share news of a great victory that just happened in California.

GroundSpark, through our Respect for All Project, is part of a coalition that has persuaded the California State Board of Education to adopt a new history and social science framework that is inclusive of LGBT people. The FAIR Education Act went into effect in 2012, but many teachers and schools have been waiting to comply until they received guidance from the California Department of Education.

The new History­ Social Science Framework provides the guidance educators have been waiting for and ensures that important contributions by LGBT Americans are no longer excluded from history education. The framework includes LGBT content such as key historical figures and essential moments in the struggle for equality for multiple grade levels throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Lessons about people with disabilities will also now be included in the frameworks as well.

GroundSpark has been calling for LGBT-inclusive curricula since the 1996 release of our landmark documentary, It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School. Twenty years later, this is a critical step forward. Now teachers in at least one state will have the official support to teach LGBT history. And we know, as California goes, so goes the nation—eventually!

It’s Elementary is still the go-to resource to inspire educators to address anti-LGBT prejudice with their students. Our pioneering documentary shows that children are eager and able to wrestle with stereotypes and absorb new facts, helping them develop compassion and a foundation for respecting differences of all kinds. Now, thanks to the CA Board of Education, students in California will have the opportunity to do just that.

Watch the It’s Elementary Trailer
Order a DVD and Curriculum Guide for Educational Use
Order a DVD for Personal Use
Watch Now
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Here’s Why Teachers Are Talking About Gender & Sexuality


By | Straightlaced

Teachers are inspired and motivated by our Straightlaced Gender and Sexuality Training!

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Bring our Straightlaced training to your school

Do you want to see more education and activities about gender and sexuality in your school community? GroundSpark’s customized trainings address pressing educational and social issues related to gender, sexuality, and race in an engaging way, bridging the divide between information and action. Since 2003, we have trained more than 15,000 people from schools, school districts, health service organizations, after school programs, universities, and community initiatives throughout the country.

Learn More

Hear it from the Teachers:

Feedback from participants at our February 2016 districtwide training for San Diego Unified School District.

“I want to weave Straightlaced and Let’s Get Real (film & curriculum) into the 10th grade Sexuality Education Curriculum.”

“I appreciated the honest discussion in the video and outside the video that explored the variance in gender identity and gender expression.”

“Overall a very impactful training! The trainers created an open and inclusive environment by revealing their own personal stories, which set the stage for participants to share their ideas and experiences more freely. They also led interactive and engaging activities which prepared the participants for viewing Straightlaced with greater empathy and understanding of the students in the film. Whether shown in a large group setting, small classroom environment, or a staff meeting, we are confident that Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up will make our students feel safe and supported district-wide.”

– Rachel Miller, M.Ed., Program Coordinator/Resource Teacher, San Diego Unified School District

A Peek Inside Our Straightlaced Training for the San Diego Unified School District

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In February, Groundspark trainers Serian Strauss and Eileen Nathanson traveled to San Diego to provide a two day training on creating an inclusive schools climate, with a particular focus on addressing issues related to gender identity and expression. Attendees ranged from school guidance counselors, to math and science teachers, to community advocates working on behalf of LGBTQ youth.

Teachers raved about the useful tools they took away from the training and appreciated the opportunity to connect with other educators who share their commitment to address these issues.

San Diego Unified Schools are part of a national cohort funded by the Center for Disease Control to increase efforts to support LGBTQ students and combat bias in schools. The training came about because of GroundSpark’s partnership with Gay Straight Alliance Network.

Contact us to Discuss your District’s Training Needs

Four Victories You Can Celebrate


By | It's Elementary, Let's Get Real, Respect For All Project, Straightlaced, That's A Family!

“I’m ready for 2015 to end!” Have you been thinking that? Some days, I do too. But I want to remind you of four fantastic things that happened this year—in small part because of GroundSpark’s culture changing work—and because of your support.

When we started our Respect for All Project 20 years ago, the idea that marriage equality would become the law of the land wasn’t even a pipedream. So, at the time, it was stunning when we filmed fourth graders for It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School having a reasonable classroom discussion about whether or not gay people should be allowed to marry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.youtube.com/watch?v=EH5gfqC8V6g&feature=youtu.be

THIS YEAR, the Supreme Court finally settled the debate the students are having in this scene!

     (Click photo to see the scene) 

What’s more, the number of colleges of education ordering educational streaming licenses for It’s Elementary continued to grow—which means the next generation of K-12 teachers is learning how to support their students to develop critical thinking skills and a passion for justice.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=EH5gfqC8V6g&feature=youtu.be  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fifteen years ago, when we produced a film that modeled how to talk to children about all different kinds of family structures—including those with gay or lesbian parents, it was still illegal for gay people to adopt children in many states. No wonder That’s a Family!struck a nerve in school district after school district.

<<< (Click to watch trailer) 

 

 

THIS YEAR, couples in Mississippi, the last state in the country that still bans gay couples from adopting, filed suit to challenge that law. It’s gratifying to see schools in more conservative areas coming around to use That’s a Family! Now they really have no excuse but to be inclusive of all different kinds of families.

When we were making Let’s Get Real, our documentary about bias-based bullying, I remember people scoffing. “That’s just the way kids are. And that’s the way it will always be.” Only a handful of states had any laws or policies addressing the bullying epidemic.

  (Click to watch trailer) >>>>

 

 

THIS YEAR, Montana finally became the 50th state to get on board. It has become completely unacceptable for schools to ignore this issue any more. And GroundSpark launched a new campaign to reach out to PTAs to use Let’s Get Real to help parents and guardians understand what they can do to help the climate at their children’s schools.

When we were filming Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, one of the gay students in the film talked about how, by appearing on camera, he was putting his Eagle Scout award at risk because the Boy Scouts had a ban on gay members and troop leaders.

(Watch!) 

 

 

THIS YEAR, the Boy Scouts finally dropped the ban, something we could barely even hope for when we made the film! And hundreds of teachers took advantage of the Straightlaced free streaming for Ally Week and No Name Calling week that GroundSpark provided with the help of our donors.

As 2015 comes to a close, let’s honor these victories. Please take a minute to renew your support to GroundSpark with as generous a gift as you can. You can help insure that we will be able to ignite change with film just as successfully in 2016.

What Teachers Really Thought After Our Day With Them


By | Latest News, LGBT, Professional Development, Respect For All Project, Straightlaced

Serian finger up

I am reading the evaluations from the day-long professional development days GroundSpark conducted two weeks ago for the Jefferson Union High School District, which serves the cities of Daly City, Brisbane, Pacifica, and Colma in Northern California. And I’m thinking of you.

Why? Because it’s thanks to the generosity of you and the rest of the GroundSpark community that we are able to provide this kind of in-depth support to teachers, guidance counselors and administrators. Together, we are helping schools to better address gender pressures, support students whose gender idenity is in flux, and prevent homophobic harassment.

I hope you are as proud and moved as I am to read the feedback from these two days!

Jefferson training feedback adjusted

 Because of you, teachers in the district now have enough copies of Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up to use with all of their students.

But even more importantly, they left the GroundSpark training much better equipped to be better allies to their students, and to support their colleagues to do the same.

I invite you to renew your support of GroundSpark this holiday season with a gift of any amount. Let’s do whatever we can to help make sure teachers in more school districts are able to have this same opportunity

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