Posts Tagged ‘bullying’

Free Streaming for No Name-Calling Week



By | blog, It's Elementary, It's STILL Elementary, Let's Get Real, Straightlaced, That's A Family!

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 8.08.40 AM

For the last ten years, Groundspark has proudly partnered with the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) for No Name-Calling Week, a week dedicated to celebrating kindness and working to create safe schools free of name-calling, bullying and bias. In recognition of this powerful decade-long commitment, we’re offering FREE STREAMING of all of our Respect for All Project films during the entire month of January!

Click here to sign-up. 

Our free streams allow you to preview award-winning films challenging limiting social norms and prejudice, like Straightlaced, Let’s Get RealIt’s ElementaryIt’s Still Elementary and That’s a Family!  We’re also offering a 25% discount on the full-quality DVD or educational stream licenses of these films throughout the month (Use discount code NNCW15 when you place your order).

Whether you’re an educator, student, or any other kind of school leader, these films offer an excellent resource for organizing transformative events in your community during No Name-Calling Week, January 19th to the 23rd, and beyond.

“GLSEN and GroundSpark are long-time partners in promoting respect for all in our schools. This year, we are excited to announce an expanded partnership for GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week, giving educators and students free streaming access to all of GroundSpark’s Respect for All Films for the month of January. 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.

Together we can expand this inspiring tradition and continue to work towards ending name-calling and bullying in our schools!

We Do The Math—GroundSpark’s Multiplier Efffect



By | blog, Let's Get Real

Annual-Report-2013-cover1When we first started distributing our Respect for All Project professional development, our focus was on waking people up to how serious a problem bullying is and how critical it is for educators to address the bias issues that often fuel it.

Today, however, most educators get the picture. Now our role is to help them take action. Our strategy is to move the resources into the hands of key organizations working on bullying and do whatever we can to ignite a multiplier effect.

Thanks to you, this calculus is working!

Today for example, at the Olweus program, the nation’s largest anti-bullying program, Let’s Get Real is now a staple in the toolkit that its 6000+ trainers use. We work with PFLAG, Planned Parenthood, GSANetwork, GLSEN and Welcoming Schools. We see youth education are now training teachers-to-be on the importance of creating safe and inclusive school communities—using our materials and sharing them with local school districts. We even see religious schools embrace the films, using them to include LGBT-related content with their congregations.

In short, GroundSpark is now a fundamental part of the equation for success. With you, we have moved very far forward in finding solutions to some of the toughest problems out there.

Enjoy this annual report and see how the numbers add up!

Launching a New Program for Parents and Guardians to Address Bullying and Build Positive School Climate



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

PTA Meetings Here We Come!

flier-imageWhen I was making Let’s Get Real, my oldest son was a middle school student. He had graduated from an elementary school that did a good job at community building but then found himself in sixth grade at a school site that didn’t do anything to acknowledge–let alone address –the vast differences among the student body when it came to economic status, race, language, immigration status and family configuration.

My son came home with disturbing stories about racial tension and homophobic harassment in the hall. I went with a group of parents to meet with the principal. She told us not to worry because she had a simple solution to the bullying problem: “we suspend the bullies.” Period. End of story.

I wished then that there had been a way to bring parents and guardians at the school together to talk about what our children were experiencing and work together toward some solutions. Instead I kept working on Let’s Get Real, hoping it could help change the climate at my son’s school and many others as well.

That’s why I am thrilled to announce that GroundSpark and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRCF) are launching a new initiative to support parents and guardians in addressing bias-related name-calling and bullying in their children’s elementary and middle schools.

Through our Respect for All Project, we are partnering with HRCF’s Welcoming Schools program to provide all the tools and materials needed to present a two-hour evening program for any PTA, PTO, or community group. The program is part of the national effort to address bullying through National Bullying Awareness Month.

The extensive program resouces consist of:

  • a DVD copy and curriculum guide of our highly acclaimed half hour documentary, Let’s Get Real;
  • a new short DVD produced by Welcoming Schools, What We Can Do? Bias, Bullying and Bystanders;
  • a guide to help organizers facilitate a workshop that leads to action at their school;
  • publicity tools, and other support.

I strongly believe that parents and guardians are the third leg of the stool that must be engaged in order to have a safe school. This program and partnership with Welcoming Schools will help strengthen any school’s work with staff and students.

We’ve made it very easy for any group of parents to turn their interest and concern into action. The films and structured activities will help families understand what kinds of bullying students are experiencing and observing and help communities take a serious look at how factors like race, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, economic status, religion, country of origin, physical or learning disabilities are involved in many bullying situations.

To learn more about the program and to sign up for an event and purchase the kit, visit www.groundspark.org/welcoming schools.

Using Film to Address Bias, Reduce Bullying and Improve School Climate



By | Let's Get Real, LGBT, Respect For All Project, Screenings

ibpa-logo

Join us at the 2013 International Bullying Prevention Association conference (November 10, 2013).

I’ll be heading back to the annual convening of the International Bullying Prevention Association this year. Last fall I was honored to be the keynote speaker. This fall I’ll be going back to conduct a special pre-conference intensive session on how educators and other school personnel can use film to help change their school climate to be more welcoming and safe for all students.

Participants will also receive a steep discount on all GroundSpark films and curriculum guides. If you or someone you work with is headed to this year’s IBPA, please be sure to sign up for this special session. http://www.stopbullyingworld.org/images/stories/2013Conference/IBPA-2013conf-brochure.pdf

Jumping Into the Stream



By | It's Elementary

GroundSpark recently offered a complimentary screening of the educational training version of our film It’s Elementary.

In exchange, we asked that users provide us with a brief description of how they would be putting the film to use. Sifting through the numerous responses, it was invigorating to see the viewer diversity that arose from this opportunity.

Streamers ranged from professors teaching Education courses to the next generation of schoolteachers, to a group of therapists in Sanford, North Carolina learning to work with a student with Gender Identity Disorder, to an art teacher at a San Diego LGBT youth center who hoped to “incorporate art projects expressing the ideas presented in the materials.” We even had a current social studies student write-in to let us know that she was using the film of her own volition to “better prepare [her] for [her] future profession as a social worker.”

Much of the feedback stemmed from expected sources: K-12 teachers, guidance counselors, etc…but I was impressed at the number of educators who were truly going above and beyond for their students’ wellbeing. Teachers in Kent, OH, Washington, DC, Fayetteville, AR and Buffalo, NY planned to stream the film for school administrators, fellow teachers, and PTA meetings to boost understanding of LGBT issues among school staff and parents, while a parent of a gender variant child took the initiative to bring the film to school administrators herself in a proactive attempt to put some LGBT-inclusive curricula in place at her child’s elementary school.

Two individuals stood out who were working not only to educate their students about equality, but also to demonstrate to their students how to teach these concepts to others. In St. Paul Minnesota, Lea Favor, Executive Director of Eco Education planned to use the free stream to train youth leaders to explore “intersecting identities and how this impacts young peoples’ relationship with the environment and each other.” Meanwhile teacher Steven Howell hoped to utilize It’s Elementary to educate his class about sexual minorities, allowing the class to make a presentation on their findings to the school administration “in an attempt to include more anti-bullying lessons into the district’s curriculum.”

In light of this week’s election, some of the issues presented by It’s Elementary over fifteen years ago are suddenly thrust sharply back into the limelight. A Minnesota professor who utilized the free stream for a course he teaches entitled “Working with LGBTQA Families” recognized the immediate urgency surrounding the issue of LGBT rights. “It is a powerful video for students to understand the underlying concepts and dynamics of homophobia and discrimination. This understanding is especially critical at this point as Minnesota votes […] on the Constitutional amendment limiting the freedom to marry.

Among those who responded were professors who questioned whether It’s Elementary would be appropriate to stimulate discussion in a college classroom, or whether the age range of the students in the film would make the subject matter too “young” for students in their late teens and early twenties. We answered these queries, of course, with a resounding “YES, It’s Elementary is for all ages!” but I think this truth becomes still more evident after reading the responses from countless professors who continue to use GroundSpark’s films to great effect in college courses.

It was also enlightening to note the effect shifting technologies have had on the interest in streaming, especially on college campuses. More than one educator noted that they already owned It’s Elementary and had previously used the film in their classes, but that a free stream would be more appropriately tailored to their students’ needs, many of which have “difficulty getting to the library to watch videos.”

Given the scope and variety of the projects paired with the free stream, I was impressed that nearly every one of these responses came from individuals who understood that It’s Elementary isn’t a film one can simply sit back and watch.

Why We Can’t ‘Just Say No’ To Bullying



By | blog, LGBT

My concerns are mounting about some of the emerging messaging and organizing around the issue of bullying, especially connected to the film Bully. President Obama, himself, has hailed the director of the film, and Mitt Romney’s anti-gay high school violent behavior is national news. When you factor in the increasing attention to so-called zero-tolerance policies and the frequent announcement of new anti-bullying initiatives, and it is clear that the manner in which our national discourse evolves on this issue couldn’t be more timely — or critical.

Don’t get me wrong. Bully is a moving documentary that deserves the attention it is receiving and one that I, too, would urge parents, in particular, to see. But, when I went to a screening, I left the theater wondering about what message the film is leaving with viewers, particularly with students, its primary target audience.

The closing scene in Bully showcases a rally where people touched by youth-on-youth harassment release balloons and call for an end to bullying. While heart-warming, this gesture is far too simple a solution to a phenomenon that is steeped in and abetted by unexamined bias.

In our quick fix, short attention span culture, shaking a finger is not enough. Just like the much-parodied mantra of the ’80s and ’90s to “Just Say No” to drugs, simply saying “Stop Bullying” will never change deeply entrenched cultural attitudes.

Similarly, harsh “zero-tolerance” policies fail to take on the complex nature of the motives of those who are doing the bullying. They do nothing to develop compassion and respectful understanding of differences among students or staff. What’s more, the students primarily disciplined by zero tolerance rules are disproportionately LGBT youth, students of color and students with disabilities, ironically the same groups that are often the most targeted. Criminalizing and expelling students who bully, without looking at the underlying causes of their behavior, only creates more pain in their lives and the lives of others.

My concern is even more urgent for the young people who go to see Bully who, themselves, are harassed every day traveling to and from school, in their classrooms or in the hallways. The bleak picture Bully portrays of what life is like for students like them is the opposite of a lifeline. Waiting for one’s community, church or family to become more loving and less abusive, without any roadmap on how to get there, will take too long. To a targeted teen who’s on the edge, that’s an impossible dream.

I worry that someone who is subjected to endless abuse every day, with no adults standing up to challenge the culture of bias-based harassment, will choose the route of the youth who are (finally) honored and celebrated in Bully — but only after they took their own lives. With suicide, someone finally pays attention, holds a sign in their honor, and chants their name with respect and love. But only after death. That sends a horrible message, one that can, in some ways, make the option of taking one’s life appealing, prompting what has been documented as “suicide contagion” by experts in the field.

We saw some of that after the tragic death of Tyler Clementi and others; only after losing them did those around them pay closer attention to the school, church, and family cultures that contribute to so many bullying-related suicides. Now, Tyler’s own parents, for example, devout Christians who used to believe homosexuality is a sin, are publicly saying we need to challenge our cultural assumptions about gayness.

Fortunately, the director of Bully is starting to talk more about what needs to happen next after screenings of his film. But I want to urge him, and everyone else jumping on the anti-bullying bandwagon to take their calls for action one step further.

We should be asking how it’s possible for high-achieving students like Dharun Ravi, the roommate who videotaped Tyler’s tryst, to arrive at college still thinking it’s perfectly normal to humiliate a classmate for being gay. What was missing in his K-12 education that would allow a high school student to graduate with that assumption? And how can we make sure that doesn’t happen again?

In most communities, if you don’t fit into some narrowly defined box of how girls and boys are “supposed” to act or look just because of your gender, you are at great risk to be bullied. If you are attracted to students who are the same-sex as you are, you are at great risk to be bullied.

So, why can’t we call it like it is and demand solutions that reflect these facts, which directly address the root causes of so much bullying?

Simply put, there is no way we will stop bullying unless we insist that the curricula in our schools address anti-gay stigma and the pressures to conform to gender norms. Until politicians of all political stripes stop vilifying the LGBT population. Until all “people of God” stop telling children they are evil.

The stories captured in Bully certainly imply for example, that hostility and ignorance about sexual orientation and the pressures to fit into a standard “male” or “female” box are critical factors in almost all of the horrific, senseless deaths it recounts. And if targeted students are like Alex, the film’s central character, and have a mental or physical disability or other characteristic that sets them apart from others, the chances are extremely high that the weapons used against them will also include homophobic or sexist slurs and innuendos.

Yet Bully and other programs and policies like it stop far short of demanding that our schools adopt curricula that is inclusive and respectful of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. They fail to make a strong enough case that parents and educators could transform school climates dramatically if they took the courageous step of challenging behavioral norms for children based on gender. They rarely ask parents to question their own biased attitudes, which they pass down to their children who then turn against their peers.

So administrators, please: be very thoughtful when you ask your staff to go see Bully or sign onto an anti-bullying campaign. Don’t do it unless you are ready to insist that there be changes in your curriculum.

Teachers, be very careful if you take your students to see Bully. Don’t do it unless you can take the next step immediately to begin addressing gender pressures and homophobia in your classrooms and hallways. Please consider how students who are already on the edge may feel after watching this film if you don’t.

Politicians, it’s a no-brainer to support anti-bullying policies. But we need you to also have the backbone to support and fund curricula that is inclusive of LGBT-headed families, youth, and teaching methods that don’t reinforce limited gender norms.

The best thing that could come out of the mass attention to Bully and other new anti-bullying efforts would be that parents, politicians and educators joined together and did far more than put up posters saying “No Bullies Allowed” or offer speeches and incomplete policies that don’t really do the job. We need to roll up our sleeves, take some risks, and open up real dialogue in our school communities about these deeply entrenched, and often politically sanctioned, biases.

 

You can also read this post on The Huffington Post where it was first published.

School District Does the Right Thing:
Vallejo Won’t Let Students “Opt-Out” of Anti-Bullying Curriculum



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

Last night the Vallejo Unified School District 30 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, voted 4 – 1 to continue its anti-bullying curriculum for students in its elementary, middle, and high schools.

The curriculum was put in place as the result of a settlement negotiated by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California on behalf of a lesbian student in the district who was being harassed —by faculty and staff at her school—because of her sexual orientation.

High School Student Takes On Anti-Gay Harassment...And WinsThe district agreed to bring age-appropriate lessons about diversity and standing up against bullying and name-calling into every classroom, and also to provide training to all faculty and staff about anti-gay harassment and discrimination. GroundSpark’s films and educational resources are being used at all grade levels to help implement this plan.

At a contentious board meeting last night, parents were split in their opinions about the curriculum. Many, including the mother of the young woman who had been harassed, applauded the district’s efforts to prevent further harassment.

I saw how it affected her,” Sheree Hamilton said in reference to her daughter, Roxanne. “She fell into a deep depression. She didn’t laugh anymore. She fell behind in school.”

“Teenagers, gay teenagers committing suicide: why? Because this education was not there,” said another parent, Franklin Hernandez.

As has been true in other school districts, the Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative activist organization opposed to any discussion of LGBT people in schools, played a role in organizing parents to oppose the district’s anti-bullying work.

At last night’s meeting, some speakers objected to the district having a curriculum that acknowledges families headed by gay or lesbian parents, or curriculum for teenage students that discusses anything related to sexual orientation or gender norms. Others claimed that the district’s implementation of this curriculum without giving them the option to “opt-out” their children from the lessons constitutes “bullying” by the district.

Despite this vocal opposition, the school board members stood behind the anti-bullying curriculum.

We are very proud that the district is using our Respect for All Project resources to help implement its initiative. Elementary school students watch That’s a Family! which introduces respectful awareness of what it means to grow up in families headed by parents who are divorced, single, different races, lesbian or gay, as well as those who are being raised by adoptive parents or guardians.

In middle school they are watching Let’s Get Real, which helps open up discussion about harassment connected to racial tension, religious differences, anti-gay stigma, difference in family income, immigration status and more.

And in high school, students are watching Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, a proven catalyst for helping all upper level students think about how pressures to conform to gender role norms can lead students to collude with anti-gay harassment, engage in risky sexual practices, or get violent.

As part of GroundSpark’s response to this fall’s wave of media attention on teen suicide related to homophobic bullying and harassment, we have been offering free streaming of all of our Respect for All Project films through the end of the year.

Just click on our anti-bullying spark to find out more.

(For That’s a Family! click here for free streaming in support of National Adoption Day)

Readers Respond to Recent Huffington Post op-ed on Gender Issues in Phoebe Prince Case



By | Latest News
In April, Debra Chasnoff had an op-ed published in the Huffington Post about the underlying gender issues that haven’t been discussed very much in the community response to the suicide of 15 year old Phoebe Prince. (LINK to article). We received a wide range of responses to the article, some published on the HuffPo website, some on GroundSpark’s facebook page, others by email. As always, these issues, and our perspective on them, reach a wide range of people who connect to youth in different ways.
Here are some excerpts from the responses.
• Great article!!  I am so glad you wrote that.  Finally, someone is addressing the core of the bullying — youth are merely acting out the values of society.  It’s striking that most acts of bullying center around a boy – whether it’s competition for a boy, as in Phoebe’s case, or the accusation of being gay, such as in Carl Walker Hoovers case…. I love how you recognize the “problem” as being institutional/societal and the solution as being educational.
• Thank you! – I live in Springfield, MA, I sit in a men’s group in here with men whose children go to the South Hadley schools. I have been watching this closely – with sadness and anger. ??There are good people doing great work out there – like you! And I think that it is time for adult men to go into the shadows of their own adolescence and learn how to help boys become mature, compassionate men. ??I believe that there is a stunning lack of emotional intelligence and basic empathy in our modeling for teenagers – and this case demonstrates how stuck we are. We continue to use ‘carrot and stick’ approaches when these methods of motivating have been shown OVER and OVER to FAIL in psychological & social studies… Our culture is driven by adolescent boy mentality – consume, objectify, compete, detach, blame, hide, attack. ??Boys and girls need to be listened to, accepted, acknowledged, mentored and blessed … every day. In my opinion there aren’t enough adults in our society who know how to do this for each other, let alone for children. I think we need a new movement of adult males. Men who are willing to do the hard emotional inquiry it takes so we can raise the next generations to be healthy, safe and mature men rather than boys in men’s bodies. Ready? www.openmen.org or www.mankindproject.org.
• Arresting and sentencing the students who criminally conspired to torment and abuse a young Irish immigrant will not solve any problems, you are correct in that. However, should the legal system turn a blind eye when peer abuse/bullying includes stalking, statutory rape (it’s a law on the books, and a reason why girls under 16 are called jailbait), and criminal harassment? Do kids get a get out of jail free card for abusing a fellow student? Actions have consequences, sometimes legal ones. Bullying is now 24/7 with social media like formspring.me, facebook, twitter, and texting. Is it time we consider peer abuse to be as harmful to our kids as child abuse.
Dear Debra,
Thank you for this email.  I am a parent of a gay son (who is now thriving in SF as an IT project manager for Wells Fargo), have a local parent support group in Hawaii called Da Moms, and do projects for community outreach and education on GLBT.  We have used It’s Elementary in the past with the state department of education and am working to get greater interest and use of your harassment/bullying, and ofStraightlaced videos.  I am lining up funding and a working committee to hold a 2 day conference for health and social service providers in about a year – and hope to bring in resources from the mainland too.  I plan to make a trip to SF in September and perhaps visit Groundspark then.  You do wonderful work!
Aloha and mahalo (thank you),
• I am an elementary teacher. Very little bullying ever happens in front of me. A LOT happens when adults aren’t looking. There is no perfect way to deal with it. Punishing the bullies makes the victim a bigger target…or provides reason to unleash their henchmen. Shielding the victim would require them being with an adult every second they are at school…totally impractical and it puts another target on their backs. …Ms. Chasnoff suggests schools take a more active role in helping students develop better skills in this area, but the girl who said, “We never get to talk about this stuff,” is correct. Curriculum is all tied to teaching the standards in order to cover the material that will be on the state test. Until educator’s heads are removed from the test guillotine, all the little social extras aren’t going to be done….
• As you know, there are a cadre of trainers who are ready to go to any school to educate faculty about these issues. I am one of the National Educaiton Association trainers and we use your films in our presentations. I believe prevention solves a lot of suffering. If you hear of anyone who needs a training for their staff you can contact PSathrum@NEA.org
Good luck and thanks for taking on this fight.
• Thank you for making the connection to the Prince death; I think these reminders of relevance are very important.    Our middle schoolers know and talk about these events, often seeing them as out there, as if there were little likelihood that their own unkindnesses were of a different order.
• I agree that arresting a few students will not stop bullying at that particular school or any other. I have been following this case closely and it shows that something awful must happen in our society to gain any attention on the issue of school bullying. Despite the attention, the response is not effective; like every aggressive or violent act that occurs, someone must be blamed and punished.
As a public health student, my hope is for prevention. The problem is that prevention is not valued in our society because it does not produce readily observable effects like throwing someone in jail does.

In April, Debra Chasnoff had an op-ed published in the Huffington Post about the underlying gender issues that haven’t been discussed very much in the community response to the suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince. We received a wide range of responses to the article, some published on the Huffington Post website, some on GroundSpark’s facebook page, others by email. As always, these issues, and our perspective on them, reach a wide range of people who connect to youth in different ways.

Here are some excerpts from the responses:

“Great article!!  I am so glad you wrote that.  Finally, someone is addressing the core of the bullying — youth are merely acting out the values of society.  It’s striking that most acts of bullying center around a boy – whether it’s competition for a boy, as in Phoebe’s case, or the accusation of being gay, such as in Carl Walker Hoover’s case…. I love how you recognize the ‘problem’ as being institutional/societal and the solution as being educational.”

Image from "Let's Get Real"

Image from "Let's Get Real"

“Thank you! – I live in Springfield, MA, I sit in a men’s group in here with men whose children go to the South Hadley schools. I have been watching this closely – with sadness and anger. There are good people doing great work out there – like you! And I think that it is time for adult men to go into the shadows of their own adolescence and learn how to help boys become mature, compassionate men. I believe that there is a stunning lack of emotional intelligence and basic empathy in our modeling for teenagers – and this case demonstrates how stuck we are. We continue to use ‘carrot and stick’ approaches when these methods of motivating have been shown OVER and OVER to FAIL in psychological & social studies… Our culture is driven by adolescent boy mentality – consume, objectify, compete, detach, blame, hide, attack. Boys and girls need to be listened to, accepted, acknowledged, mentored and blessed … every day. In my opinion there aren’t enough adults in our society who know how to do this for each other, let alone for children. I think we need a new movement of adult males. Men who are willing to do the hard emotional inquiry it takes so we can raise the next generations to be healthy, safe and mature men rather than boys in men’s bodies. Ready? www.openmen.org or www.mankindproject.org.”

“Arresting and sentencing the students who criminally conspired to torment and abuse a young Irish immigrant will not solve any problems, you are correct in that. However, should the legal system turn a blind eye when peer abuse/bullying includes stalking, statutory rape (it’s a law on the books, and a reason why girls under 16 are called jailbait), and criminal harassment? Do kids get a get out of jail free card for abusing a fellow student? Actions have consequences, sometimes legal ones. Bullying is now 24/7 with social media like formspring.me, facebook, twitter, and texting. Is it time we consider peer abuse to be as harmful to our kids as child abuse.”

“Dear Debra, Thank you for this email.  I am a parent of a gay son (who is now thriving in SF as an IT project manager), have a local parent support group in Hawaii called Da Moms, and do projects for community outreach and education on GLBT.  We have used It’s Elementary in the past with the state department of education and am working to get greater interest and use of your harassment/bullying, and of Straightlaced videos.  I am lining up funding and a working committee to hold a 2 day conference for health and social service providers in about a year – and hope to bring in resources from the mainland too.  I plan to make a trip to SF in September and perhaps visit Groundspark then.  You do wonderful work!”

Image from "Straightlaced"

Image from "Straightlaced"

“I am an elementary teacher. Very little bullying ever happens in front of me. A LOT happens when adults aren’t looking. There is no perfect way to deal with it. Punishing the bullies makes the victim a bigger target…or provides reason to unleash their henchmen. Shielding the victim would require them being with an adult every second they are at school…totally impractical and it puts another target on their backs. …Ms. Chasnoff suggests schools take a more active role in helping students develop better skills in this area, but the girl who said, “We never get to talk about this stuff,” is correct. Curriculum is all tied to teaching the standards in order to cover the material that will be on the state test. Until educator’s heads are removed from the test guillotine, all the little social extras aren’t going to be done….”

“As you know, there are a cadre of trainers who are ready to go to any school to educate faculty about these issues. I am one of the National Educaiton Association trainers and we use your films in our presentations. I believe prevention solves a lot of suffering. If you hear of anyone who needs a training for their staff you can contact PSathrum@NEA.org. Good luck and thanks for taking on this fight.”

“Thank you for making the connection to the Prince death; I think these reminders of relevance are very important. Our middle schoolers know and talk about these events, often seeing them as out there, as if there were little likelihood that their own unkindnesses were of a different order. ”

“I agree that arresting a few students will not stop bullying at that particular school or any other. I have been following this case closely and it shows that something awful must happen in our society to gain any attention on the issue of school bullying. Despite the attention, the response is not effective; like every aggressive or violent act that occurs, someone must be blamed and punished. As a public health student, my hope is for prevention. The problem is that prevention is not valued in our society because it does not produce readily observable effects like throwing someone in jail does.”

Arresting Teenagers Doesn’t Solve Gender Pressures



By | Latest News

I was recently out in western Massacusetts for screenings of Straightlaced and Let’s Get Real. At one of them, the superintendent and assistant superintendent of the South Hadley, Massachusetts school district were in attendance. They were very moved by the films and said they thought they would be very helpful to their work in the district. Bullying, gender, and homophobia must be on their minds a lot right now, because of the suicide of 15-year old Phoebe Prince, who attended high school in their town. Since those screenings I have been following the Prince case closely and today have an opinion piece about it published in The Huffington Post.

We are reprinting it here as well.

Arresting Teenagers Doesn’t Solve Gender Pressures

“It is completely understandable why there has been so much pressure on government authorities in South Hadley, Massachusetts to find someone to blame for 15-year old Phoebe Prince’s suicide last month.

But the issues involved in this case, and in the case of Carl Walker Hoover, the ten-year old boy who committed suicide this time last year a few miles away in Springfield, Massachusetts, are far more complex and cultural than a tale of bullies run amuck who need to be dealt with as criminals.

We can lock up perpetrators and institute all the anti-bullying rules and policies we want, but unless the responsible adults in every community–educators, parents, administrators, and counselors–find a way to open up real, meaningful dialogue about gender and sexuality based pressures and bias–what happened to Phoebe and to Carl is likely to continue.

As a documentary filmmaker who has made several films about youth, bullying and prejudice, I have had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of diverse high school students about the internal struggles they face every day to feel good about themselves in our culture.

Invariably over half the students in every high school classroom I’ve visited–private or public, in rural, suburban, or inner city communities–have jumped at the chance to talk about the pressures they contend with which are connected to societal norms about gender and sexuality.

“Please don’t go,” a female sophomore begged when we visited her history class. “We never get to talk about this stuff but it’s what I think about all the time, every day.”

Phoebe Prince committed suicide after constant bullying at school.

Phoebe Prince committed suicide after constant bullying at school.

When I read about Phoebe, I thought of the many female students we’ve interviewed who have confided about the daily stress they face trying to make sense of the mixed messages they receive from the media, their families, and their peers about how a young woman is supposed to look and act.

Young women are constantly told that their value as human beings is determined by how sexy they are, how much skin they reveal, how close to some ideal of perfection their body curves match. And then they are chastised for crossing some invisible line and “going too far.”

One high school senior told me about the spiral of pressures that led her to turn to serious drugs. “I feel that people are judging me all the time,” she said. “I’m just paranoid, like, what are they thinking, do they think my boobs are big, do they think they are small, do they think my butt’s big?”

If girls fail to tow the line, they are invariably subjected to negative slurs and accusations connected to their sexuality–“slut,” “whore,” “bitch” if they go too far one way, “dyke” if they go the other.

And when it comes to actual sexual activity, it is very challenging to grapple with our culture’s double standard. “Like when a man runs around or sleeps with a lot of women, ” one girl complained. “He’s a player. All the boys give him his props, and they go brag about it. But when a woman tends to sleep around, she’s a whore, a slut or a ripper.”

Similarly, when I read about Carl Walker Hoover last year, I thought about the boys I interviewed who have shared their worries about how they dress, how physically affectionate they can be with their male friends, the expectations they face to lose their virginity and have lots of sexual partners, the way they talk, the way they hold their bodies when they walk–all to fit some unarticulated norm about the proper way to be masculine. They are painfully aware of how one little slip in behavior or appearance could lead to being the recipient of relentless anti-gay slurs.

“Having your sexuality questioned is a very powerful tool in controlling someone,” one male high school junior told me. “And I think that’s mainly why people say (things about that). Because it’s so easy to control someone by questioning something that they don’t know, by making fun of something they can’t help.”

Arresting those who bully may bring some brief consolation to one community. But it does nothing to create a culture where every single student is able to come of age in a supportive, nurturing way.

We need to demand that our school curricula help all students understand that they do not need to play into these destructive cultural messages and they can be allies to each other as they navigate these muddy cultural waters. And we need to work together to ensure that all young people have the space and respect to develop their sexuality and gender expression in authentic, safe ways that match who they really are inside.”

Our whole staff at GroundSpark is working hard to help everyone concerned about “bullying” to dig deeper and start dealing with the sexism and homophobia that fuels so much of it. Please get involved — share this article with your friends and colleagues, and consider making a donation to GroundSpark as well.

Debra Chasnoff Debates!



By | Latest News

Debra Chasnoff was on the Laura Ingraham show on May 19th where she debated Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute about the Alameda School District’s plan to include sexual orientation non-discrimination in their anti-bullying programs.

Chasnoff stated, “Anti-gay harassment is increasingly contributing to some of the worst cases of bullying and of mental health problems in schools. I just want to say really really clearly, I applaud the school district in Alameda for taking pro-active action because in the last month alone there have been two children…who hung themselves in their own closets at home because of suffering from anti-gay bullying that the schools were doing nothing about.”