Posts Tagged ‘homophobia’

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.

These Pros Were Happy to Give Up Their Saturday. We would love to make you happy on your day off too!



By | Professional Development, Straightlaced

eileen-and-trainees-webOn a beautiful sunny Saturday, forty professionals showed up to watch Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up and learn strategies for how to open up conversations about gender and sexuality with their students. They came from 10 counties and wore many different hats: foster care program coordinator, health education specialist, teacher and director of curriculum and culture, nurse practitioner, director of diversity and inclusion, social emotional counselor.  Some came to deepen their expertise; some had never had any professional development before about these topics and many had previously avoided addressing these sensitive issues with youth.

Immediately GroundSpark facilitators Serian Strauss and Eileen Glaser set the tone for the day. This was going to be a safe place to practice talking about tough issues.  Everyone would leave with a concrete action plans. And,  we were going to have fun!

trainee2-dancing-webFor six hours the group examined the messages that young people receive about how to act, think, look, love, and learn—depending on their gender and culture. Using the stories of the real high school students in Straightlaced, they then learned and shared ways to support the youth they work with who are going through the same kinds of things. They practiced how to handle difficult scenarios on the fly—like hearing homophobic language in the hallways or talking with colleagues who are uncomfortable with a transgender student. Finally each person brought all the resources and learning together by sketching out personal action plans that made sense for their workplace…not to mention a great Thai food buffet for lunch!

I showed up at the end to say hello and was heartened to see so many glowing faces.  As we handed out Straightlaced DVDs, curriculum guides, and movie posters to participants on their way out, they were effusive:

” I would love for any day of professional development to be even 50% as enriching as the conversations led today!”

” I so appreciated your care, inclusiveness and organization. You created a safe space that modeled a wonderful example for us as educators.”

“Now I have a structure for how I will start, as well as a deeper understanding of the race/gender expression issue.”

“Serian and Eileen did an amazing job facilitating a multi-layered, sometimes difficult topic.”

GroundSpark was able to provide this free training thanks to generous funding from the San Francisco Foundation. Now we are looking for opportunities to bring this kind of professional development program to other areas in the country. If you are connected to a funder or organization that could host this kind of professional development, please get in touch with our education program coordinator, Eileen Glaser, at eglaser@groundspark.org!

STL-training-group-web2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We would love to make you happy on your day off too!

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.

The President Gets a ‘B’ on Bullying — Grading The White House Conference



By | Straightlaced

Originally published in The Huffington Post

Hats off to the Obamas for drawing national attention to the problem of bullying in our school communities. Hosting a conference at the White House to draw more media attention to bullying is an excellent step forward.

Like most symbolic White House gatherings, though, this conference recommended some good steps forward but also carefully avoided some important strategies that need to be put in place if we are ever going to truly stop bullying.

Here’s my report card on what I heard on the live feed from the White House Thursday.

Raising the level of public awareness about the importance of addressing bullying in schools:

A+

“Bullying is not just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up,” the president said. “We can take steps — all of us — to help prevent bullying and create a climate in our schools in which all of our children can feel safe; a climate in which they all can feel like they belong.”

I couldn’t agree with him more.

Drawing attention to the fact that bias issues underlie many bullying incidents.

B

The president deserves credit for acknowledging that many students are targeted because of some aspect of their identity. “[Bullying] is also more likely to affect kids that are seen as different,” the President said, “whether it’s because of the color of their skin, the clothes they wear, the disability they may have, or sexual orientation.”

He acknowledged the families of two youths who committed suicide last year, one of them, Carl Walker Hoover, because of being tormented by homophobic harassment.

But he failed to explain that bias-infused harassment affects all youth, not just those who have are seen as “different.” Anti-LGBT stigma and the pressure to conform to gender norms, for example, affects all girls and boys regardless of how they may identify sexually at any point in their lives.
Calling for system wide efforts for curricula that address rampant anti-LGBT stigma, racial and ethnic stereotypes, mental and physical disabilities, religious differences, and pressures to conform to gender norms.

C

Acknowledging the families of those who endured bias-based harassment is not the same as calling for pro-active education that prevents that bias from developing in the first place. It is definitely possible to pull school communities together to take initiative against bias. I know we can because we have been helping to do that for years with GroundSpark’s Respect for All Project.

Shifting the focus from individual responses to bullying to communitywide culture-changing ones.

B-

The selection of experts on the panel that spoke after Mr. and Mrs. Obama were focused primarily on psychological and behavioral factors, which, of course, contribute to bullying. But only one, Professor George Sugai, encouraged the discussion to focus on sociological factors, namely changing the culture in schools.

Advocating for funding and programs that train every teacher on how to address bullying and the bias that underlies it.

C

One speaker mentioned that we need more teacher training. While another commented on the fact that while 40 states have anti-cyber bullying laws, none of them have provided funding to enforce them. Lack of training for individual teachers and for school staff as a whole is probably the single most significant stumbling block to changing school culture.


Moving from rhetoric to action

B

The White House announced several programs that Facebook, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and others are launching to step up ways to address bullying.

And kudos are deserved for the federal government’s launch of www.stopbullying.gov, which amazingly includes a section for LGBT youth. But the website has no resources to help schools and educators address bias issues, or to help train teachers or to help with a systematic approach to change school climate.

Overall Grade Point Average

B

Areas for Improvement

1. Tie federal funding for education to mandatory anti-bias and anti-bullying training for school personnel that focuses on school wide culture change, not just stronger discipline.

2. Bravely call for more pro-active curricula that help students learn about why all kinds of stigma, including homophobia, are harmful to everyone and how they can be allies to stop it.

Mr. President, you made significant progress during this grading period, and we hope you can realize your full potential in the semesters to come.

 

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)

Sobering Start to our Let’s Get Real Training in Asheville, NC



By | Let's Get Real

At the end of April, our Respect For All Project facilitators, Nancy Otto and Scott Hirschfeld, led a training in Asheville, North Carolina centered around our anti-bullying film Let’s Get Real. The training was organized by Safe Schools for All, an emerging alliance in western North Carolina of organizations committed to addressing bias-based harassment in the region’s schools. Scott kicked off the session by sharing a gripping suicide note of a 14-year old boy, named Hamed who, after being relentlessly tormented by his peers with slurs like big-nose, four-eyes, geek and fag, 14-year-old Hamed became so depressed that he saw only one way out.

IMG_0506

GroundSpark trainer Nancy Otto (standing) facilitates a small group discussion

The training attendees—teachers, after school youth service providers, principals, parents, and a couple of clergymembers—asked if we could share Hamed’s last note to his parents, which Scott read out loud at the training. And so we are reprinting it here below. It was printed in the book Cyber Bullying: Issues and Solutions for the School by Shaheen Shariff (Taylor & Francis, Inc.).There is an article about Hamed online.

Here is the excerpt from Hamed’s five-page suicide note explaining his decision:

“Dear Mom and Dad, The first thing is, I love you Mom and Dad, but you didn’t understand why I had to commit suicide.  There was so much going on and I tried to cope with it, but I couldn’t take it anymore…It was horrible.  Every day I was teased and teased, everyone calling me gay, fag, queer, and I would always act like it didn’t bug me…But I was crying inside me.  It hurt me so bad ……and when people said it, my own friends never backed me up.  They just laughed…  I know that you are going to miss me and that you will never forgive me, but you will never understand.  You weren’t living my life.  I hate myself for doing this to you.  I really, really hate myself, but there is no other way out for me…I love you Dad and Mom.  Please, please tell the people at school why I did this.  I don’t want somebody else to do what I have done.  Mom, after my death please, please go to schools and talk to kids that bullying and teasing has big consequences…Please visit my grave often so I’m not lonely.”

After watching Let’s Get Real and going through the training, the 65 trainees were each eager to start working on the action plan they developed for their own schools and community groups. “It’s an intense way to start off,” Scott reflects, “but it certainly gets us all on the same page about how high the stakes are and how important it is that we all work harder to address these issues.”