Posts Tagged ‘latest news’

Staff Training & Community Workshops from Respect for All Project



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

classroom2School’s in full swing and so is our program to help schools ensure community wide respect for every student.

Our highly skilled facilitators help open up dialogue, expand staff expertise and strengthen community support for:

  • Cultivating a safe school climate
  • Preventing violence
  • Addressing bias-based bullying
  • Closing the achievement gap
  • Improving emotional health
  • Welcoming family diversity
  • Promoting character education
  • Empowering youth to develop positive identity around issues of gender, race and sexual orientation
  • Tackling homophobia through LGBT inclusive education

Learn more

Respect for All Project workshops are centered around our highly acclaimed award-winning documentary films, including Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, Let’s Get Real, It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School, It’s STILL Elementary, and That’s a Family!

Every workshop ends with a concrete action plan, customized for your school or organization—because we know you don’t just want to talk, you want to act. Participants leave with the tools, including curriculum, for individuals and groups to create more safety and opportunity for all young people.

  • Contact us for a preliminary call so we can understand your needs and suggest an appropriate workshop for your school, district or association. Some partial subsidies may be available thanks to the generosity of our funders and donor community.
  • See where we have trained.
  • Learn about our impact.
  • Contact us about a professional development workshop or community forum today.

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)

One For The History Books….



By | Respect For All Project

GroundSpark has been keeping our eyes on textbooks the past few months, as new guidelines about their content were enacted across the world. Schools rely heavily on textbooks, and the information they contain forms the building blocks for how youth see each other and the world.

As we optimistically shared to our Facebook fans, the Taiwan Ministry of Education has decided to begin including positive mentions of LGBT issues and people in 11 different content areas beginning in 2011. The Ministry of Educated justified the move by saying, “Students should be able to grow up happily in an environment of tolerance and respect,” and further recognized that teaching materials need to adequately reflect social diversity — two core inspirations for the work of our Respect For All Project.

Unfortunately, closer to home, a dramatic debate played out in front of the Texas State Board of Education. In considering over 300 proposed changes to the events, people, and philosophies that students learn, the Board rewrote history with a profound conservative and Judeo-Christian bias. Among some of the revisions: removing references to ‘the separation of church and state,’ deleting Cesar Chavez as an important historical figure and adding Rush Limbaugh, and highlighting the work of Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the anti-gay Eagle Forum. One frustrated board member said the new rules, “Pretend this is a white America and Hispanics don’t exist.”

The changes, which were voted on and approved this week, will have a ripple effect across the country. Texas is one of the largest markets for educational materials, and the state’s new textbook rules will change the content available to other states. In light of this news, GroundSpark remains even more committed to working tirelessly to ensure accurate and inclusive curriculum is available in every classroom. Stay tuned to our facebook page, blog and Twitter account to keep abreast of the ways our films and resources are being used across the country.

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.

Can karate classes combat bullying?



By | Let's Get Real, Straightlaced

I’m Sukh, an intern for GroundSpark and a student of public health interested in the issue of school bullying as a public health concern and novel ways of preventing it.

Two weeks ago on KGO News Radio, I heard David Lazarus discussing the topic of bullying with listeners. Some questions that came up include, what makes bullies bullies? What makes victims victims? How can victims defend themselves? Many listeners pointed to self-defense classes as a way not only to build self-esteem, but as a technique for protection in case a bullying incident arose.

Bob Gordon, a member of my cohort in the San Francisco State University MPH program, emailed in and suggested that listeners watch a copy of Let’s Get Real and David Lazarus shared this advice with listeners…Thanks Bob!

So, can karate classes combat bullying? In the field of public health, there is a lot of emphasis on PRIMARY PREVENTION, which is targeting the entire population to prevent a negative outcome (i.e. bullying). While self-defense has its benefits and can be helpful in many ways, I don’t think these classes are the way to prevent bullying. Rather I feel that self-defense is a method of treatment—after the roles of bully and victim have been identified and the relationship between victim and bully has been established.

KidsKarate

Methods such as those of GroundSpark’s are ones that are really effective in identifying the root of the problem. GroundSpark films Let’s Get Real and Straightlaced touch on the issue of bias, which takes form in racism, classism, sexism, and various other isms. Creating awareness of diversity and highlighting the need for respect can create an atmosphere of inclusiveness and acceptance. As a result, children can develop healthy relationships with each other that don’t involve bullying in the first place and karate can be valued as an extracurricular activity rather than a necessity.

Greensboro, NC Educators Take Respect for All to the Next Level



By | Latest News

Last year I went to Greensboro, North Carolina to screen Straightlaced, It’s Elementary, It’s Still Elementary, Let’s Get Real, and That’s a Family! for several different groups of educators in the community. As often happens after these events, attendees left very inspired to take the next step in their communities to put these films to work so that the culture can change to create more safe, inclusive, and successful school environments. People who never before thought that they could take steps to pro-actively address homophobic and other kinds of bias change right before our eyes, and become empowered to take action. Take a look at some of the audience’s reaction to the film:

[vPIP class=”hVlogTarget” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” onclick=”vPIPPlay(this, ‘height=240, name=STLPremiere_VideoFootage, flv=true’, ‘bufferlength=5’, ”); return false;”]North Carolina Straightlaced Premiere!

Audience reactions to the Greensboro, NC premiere of
Straightlaced — How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up in 2009.
Join our Straightlaced group on facebook!

So, I am was very excited to learn that last week, educators in Greensboro did indeed take it to the next level. Annette Green, one of the main organizers, sent us this report:

Respect In Our Schools Training a Success!

“Outstanding!” “Awesome!” “Excellent!” “Great!” “Amazing!”

These were words written on evaluations by the Guilford County Schools teachers, counselors, social workers, media specialists and administrators to describe the Respect In Our Schools training they attended on February 27. The six hours spent at Wesley Long Education Center were jam packed with thought provoking presentations, exercises and discussions to help them understand the issues involved with creating safe and welcoming schools, and give them some tools to do it. GSAFE, along with PFLAG and other community groups organized the training, which was largely sponsored by a grant from Guilford Green Foundation. Presenters were volunteers from GSAFE, Equality NC, GCS, Guilford College and the NC Association of Social Workers .

In addition to learning what state law and GCS policy require in terms of protecting LGBT students, training participants viewed films from GroundSpark’s “Respect For All Series” (by filmmaker Debra Chasnoff) and practiced how these could be applied to various grade levels in the schools. They also worked in teams to identify problems and create Action Plans for their schools.

There was tremendous excitement and a sense of empowerment among participants to take what they learned back to their classrooms. Some other comments on evaluations included:

“Thank you for holding this workshop!”

“Great to get a practical, useful tool to use with my students.”

“I do not feel so scared about backing up GCS policy with my administration.”

“Please continue to do more!”

WE WILL!!!

Dear Sporty Hot Dog Girl



By | Straightlaced

Last week we received an email from a woman named Monique Marshall. Apparently she had attended the Straightlaced premiere in Los Angeles last March. Monique purchased a copy of the film and then took it home to watch with her ten-year-old daughter, Moreau.

Moreau wrote a letter to T’Uh from STRAIGHTLACED

Moreau wrote a letter to T’Uh from STRAIGHTLACED


T’Uh, “the Sporty Hot Dog Girl” in STRAIGHTLACED

T’Uh, “the Sporty Hot Dog Girl” in STRAIGHTLACED

After seeing the film, Moreau asked her mother if she could write a letter to one of the young people in Straightlaced. This is Moreau’s letter to “Sporty Hot Dog Girl:”

Ms letter to TUh1

In the film, after constant badgering from others to look different and act “the way ‘young ladies’ are supposed to,” T’Uh stands firmly by her choice to look different and be herself in the world–“I do what I want. I like being different.”

I went ahead and sent the letter to T’Uh over the weekend and she had this to say in response: “The letter touched my heart and gave me chills. I’m going to write to my new buddy right away.”

Thank you Monique, for sharing Straightlaced with your daughter! The culture change that we need for our young people to be their fullest and brightest selves will take the work of many–especially parents.

In memory of Hannah Landers



By | Straightlaced

At every screening of Straightlaced where there is a Q and A afterwards, someone always, understandably, asks, “Who is Hannah Landers?” Because at the end of the film, a title comes up that says:

In memory of Hannah Landers
September 28, 1990 – May 6, 2008

Hannah_Landers

In May of 2008, Sue Chen, my co-producer, had booked a plane ticket for Hannah and her mom to fly out to meet us in San Francisco so we could film a second interview with her. But days before they were supposed to come, Sue received a horrible phone call, and learned that Hannah had been killed in a car accident. We all were devastated.

We finished the film without that extra interview and all knew immediately that we would dedicate Straightlaced to Hannah’s memory, and by extension, to the spirit of her activism.

Then we started working on the world premiere. Much to our surprise, Hannah’s parents, Richard and Michelle Landers, were really excited to fly out to San Francisco to be there; they wanted to be part of the big audience that would be seeing the film for the first time.

Hannah had told us that her dad was an administrator at a Baptist church. I confess that of few of us here had some preconceptions about what kind of views a person who held that job might have about the point of view in our film.

We wondered: how would the Landers feel about the film? How would they feel being in a theater filled with close to a thousand Bay Area activists?

It turned out our concerns were for naught. The Landers’ response was so moving to me, and taught me a powerful lesson about my own stereotypes.

“We enjoyed the entire evening and sincerely appreciate the time we spent with you and the other Groundspark board of directors members and staff,” Michelle wrote to one of our board members. “Everyone was so wonderful, gracious and hospitable – we are very glad that we made the trip.”

“The film is fantastic and we are even more proud of Hannah than we could have imagined. She was incredibly passionate and wise for someone her age and she spent a lot of energy fighting what she saw as the injustices of the world. She was a champion for the underdog and a spokesperson for those who wouldn’t or couldn’t speak for themselves. We miss her terribly, but are very inspired that her words and actions will continue to help young people.”

Fast forward several months. I am so proud to be able to tell you that on January 9th, Straightlaced will have its Kentucky premiere on January 10th, 2010 at the State Theater at the Kentucky Theater at 10:15am. Richard and Michelle have worked with Rebecca Woloch, the mother of another student in whose memory the memorial garden in the film is dedicated, to organize the screening. They will be doing a fundraising pitch at the event and want the proceeds to be split between GroundSpark, the Hannah Landers Memorial Scholarship Fund, and a local suicide prevention group doing work in Josh Shipman’s memory. Please download the event flyer for more information on the event.

We, too, are also inspired that Hannah’s words and actions are helping so many people—of all ages—along with those of all the courageous young people who appeared in Straightlaced, and all of our other Respect for All Project films.

Our new year’s wish for you is that you continue to feel inspired and courageous. To look inside yourself, to challenge your own stereotypes, and to find the strength to be a champion for those who can’t or won’t speak for themselves.

Thank you from all of us at GroundSpark. Let’s stick together in 2010.

Debra Chasnoff
President and Senior Producer

Help GroundSpark bring the stories of courageous young people like Hannah to communities across the country in 2010, by making a donation to GroundSpark today!

GroundSpark films make a great gift! Please buy one today or donate a film to a school that can’t afford one.

Why I joined the board by David Kundtz



By | Latest News

Hello to all the friends and fans of GroundSpark. I’m the new guy on the board of directors. Brittney Shepherd, our staff producer, asked me to introduce myself and answer the question: Why did you join the board?

David Kundtz, GroundSpark's newest board member

Meet me, David Kundtz, GroundSpark's newest board member!

To learn more about my background and and our other amazing members of our board of directors, go here.

I’ll begin with John Hume and David Trimble, contemporary heroes of mine. Both politicians, Hume is from the Republic of Ireland and Trimble from Northern Ireland. They are rightly accredited with bringing about peace to the long and violent conflict in Northern Ireland with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Here’s a quote from Hume:

“Difference is of the essence of humanity. Difference is an accident of birth and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict. The answer to difference is to respect it. Therein lies a most fundamental principle of peace – respect for diversity.”

And here’s a quote from Trimble:

“There are two traditions in Northern Ireland. There are two main religious denominations. But there is only one true moral denomination. And it wants peace.”

We all want peace. Everywhere in the world. It’s possibly the most sought after and the most elusive of all human desires. And if you’re like me, you’ve often wondered, But what can I do to bring about peace? The thought can be overwhelming; I’m only one little person with very limited resources.

Which brings me, finally, to the answer to Brittney’s question: Why did you join the board? To increase and support and create peace. GroundSpark is a practical and real embodiment of the conviction that, in Hume’s words, “respect for diversity is an essential way to peace.” There will always be many factions, identity groups, and denominations but, in the words of Trimble, “there is only one true moral denomination. And it wants peace.” The work of GroundSpark is something we can all do to bring about peace. “Respect for All” says it all.

That’s the main and underlying reason for accepting the invitation to join the board. But there are many more. A few of them: Being part of a group of amazingly talented and caring staff and board members; being part of an organization respected and influential throughout the country and world; helping to give voice to children and families who are often invisible and ignored. Grateful and honored is how I am feeling as we look to the opportunities offered by the challenges of hard economic times and changing cultural realities. GroundSpark is doing immensely important work. May it continue and prosper.

Thanks for the chance to share some thoughts.

Sincelerly,
David Kundtz