Archive for the ‘Latest News’ Category

GroundSpark to Help Address Students’ Fears in Michigan



By | blog, It's Elementary, Latest News, Let's Get Real, Professional Development, Respect For All Project, Straightlaced, That's A Family!

“Our immigrant students thought they’d need to pack their bags because they would have to leave America.”

That’s just one of the reasons Julie, Mushing, the diversity coordinator for Kent County, Michigan, has decided to have GroundSpark conduct a two-day Respect for All Institute for teachers and staff.

Students come from 89 different countries in this district
Photo courtesy of Kentwood Public Schools

There are 20 public school districts in the county including Kentwood, where there is a significant refugee population, students speak 61 different languages, and come from over 89 different countries.

Ms. Mushing started to field calls throughout the presidential campaign, but once the election happened and after November 8th, the situation has gotten much worse. “There is a huge fear among our Muslim students that there will soon be a national Muslim registry,” she says. “Even our African American students think they are going to be sent back to Africa.”

One of the county’s school districts is in a rural area that has a predominantly white middle-class farming community. In recent years, families of other racial and ethnic identities have moved in, and, of course, their children go to school. “People there have the mindset that these kids are not part of the community,” Mushing says. “I wish we could have this training next week!”

During our Respect for All Institutes, our education team uses our documentaries That’s a Family!, Let’s Get Real, Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, and It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School to help teachers become more skilled and comfortable creating safe learning environments. All participants are provided with copies of the films and their teaching guides.

“I hope the teachers who attend will take what they learn back to their schools and help others who work in their building support those students who don’t fit some kind of social norm.”

For the Kent County institute, we’ll be focusing on supporting educators to be more inclusive of students from diverse family structures and to address bias-based bullying.

A portion of the expenses for the Institute will be covered by a generous gift from Irene and Regina Dick-Endrizzi.

If your school district is facing an uptick in bias-based bullying connected to the election, please contact us. We’re here to help.

Free Streaming for No Name Calling Week 2017



By | blog, It's Elementary, It's STILL Elementary, Latest News, Let's Get Real, LGBT, Respect For All Project, Straightlaced, That's A Family!

As you have probably heard, students across the country have been experiencing increased levels of bias-based bullying connected to the tenor of the presidential race and its aftermath. That’s why this year’s No Name Calling Week is more important than ever.

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GroundSpark is proud to partner with GLSEN for No Name Calling Week 2017. To help create safe schools free of name-calling, bullying and bias, we’re offering free streaming of all of our Respect for All Project films during the month of January!

Sign Up for Free Streaming

Our free streams allow educators and youth group leaders to preview five highly acclaimed documentaries, each crafted for targeted age groups:

All titles are excellent discussion starters for college students and professional development as well.

Whether you’re an educator, student, or another kind of school leader, these films are excellent resources for organizing transformative events in your community during No Name-Calling Week.

“GLSEN and GroundSpark are long-time partners in promoting respect for all in our schools. GLSEN connects teachers and students with the tools they need to make a difference, and when used leading up to and during No Name-Calling Week, these powerful films can help foster respectful dialogue around issues of bias and bullying.”
                            –Eliza Byard, Executive Director, GLSEN

Help us spread the word about this amazing opportunity! Share the news on Facebook and Twitter or pass this email along to a friend who works with youth.

We’re Bracing Ourselves—We Need Your Help



By | blog, Latest News, Let's Get Real, Respect For All Project

Last week I got a call from a guidance counselor at a middle school in Cincinnati. “We are having a lot of problems since the election,” she said. We’re looking for something to help us get our students’ attention about bias and bullying. Can you tell me about your films?”

After a little more conversation I learned that the harassment was centering on the students who are first generation immigrants, so I told her about Let’s Get Real and the activity in our curriculum guide around racial and ethnic slurs. “Perfect,” she said.

As we look toward Donald Trump taking office next month, we are bracing ourselves for a storm of new challenges in our school communities.

Using our films to train suicide prevention counselors in Georgia this year.

Our donors help us support guidance counselors and teachers all over the country, and oftentimes in other nations as well.

Can you help us get ready for 2017?

Your support will enable us to provide free streaming of all of our Respect for All Films next month in conjunction with No Name Calling Week. We anticipate hundreds of schools will come into contact with our films and curriculum guides for the first time.

Your support helps us respond when schools reach out to us for professional development to help their staff address bias-related bullying and suicide prevention more effectively—like the work we did in Georgia this past year with all the suicide prevention staff at the state’s colleges and universities or the district-wide training we did in the San Diego public high schools about gender and sexuality pressures.

Please, sign on to the GroundSpark honor roll by making your tax-deductible gift to GroundSpark, today.

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.

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.”

unlocking
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.

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.

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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

GroundSpark Partners with SF Jewish Film Fest to Take Action



By | Latest News

SFJFF35

We’re thrilled to announce that GroundSpark will be on the ground at this year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF), as part of the festival’s Take Action Day!

On July 31st, at the Castro Theatre, GS president/senior producer Debra Chasnoff will moderate a special panel, “Taking a Stand,” featuring four festival documentary filmmakers in conversation around activist filmmaking, Jewish identity, empowerment and community engagement. Debra also will be involved throughout the day on the 31st, interviewing filmmakers and sharing ideas about how to take action on the issues covered in the day’s line up of films.

Now in its 35th year, the SFJFF is the oldest and largest Jewish Film Festival in the world. GroundSpark is honored to be a part of such a prestigous event and for the opportunity to further ignite change through film.

Learn more about the FREE panel for Take Action Day here! You can also purchase a special “Take Action Pass” to watch all the films on the 31st, or buy individual tickets here.