Posts Tagged ‘Straightlaced’

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

GroundSpark’s Film and Facilitation Helps Melt the Ice in Alabama



By | blog

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With an unusual ice storm bearing down on the city, blowing in from Tennessee, 65 brave souls came to a late February evening event, hosted by the Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham, Alabama for a unique opportunity to bring together organizations that serve LGBT people in Alabama, parents and family members, allies, and middle and high school youth for a screening of Straightlaced— How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up.

While the cold had our California-based teeth chattering, the warm reception my training partner, Serian Strauss, and I received from the JCC staff and the appreciative community members made it more than worthwhile. With the popcorn machine crackling not too far away, we got the group started with an icebreaker that mixed the diverse participants into varying pairs to share parts of their experience with others’ assumptions about them connected to their gender. 

One middle school student had come with his parents and two ally friends, traveling more than 30 miles to get to the screening.  His father has spent many volunteer hours trying to change school policies to create a safer climate in his area.  He reviewed our Respect for All Project films and curriculum guides with interest, and wondered, “Are teachers allowed to teach this stuff here?” 

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The gratitude, hope and excitement to have so many people present and so many different organizations beginning to provide resources, support and advocacy for LGBT youth and adults in Alabama were palpable.  Representatives from Alabama Human Rights Commission, the Magic City Acceptance Project, AIDS Alabama, PFLAG and the Safe Schools organization were present in addition to board members from our organizing partner, SOJOURN, and other volunteers. Representatives from these organizations had the opportunity share a bit about their work and their resources and make new connections.

We were impressed by the age diversity present and also by the dedication and passion shown by volunteers who are working to open hearts and minds in their communities, some of whom are spending their retirement working for social change.  We thanked one of these leaders for helping to spread the word about the even, saying “folks are here because of you.”  She responded – “No, no.  I am here because of them.” 

We remembered the long history of civil rights activism in Birmingham and were honored to be a small part of continuing that legacy.  Much wonderful work has begun in Alabama, much education and advocacy is left to go, and GroundSpark hopes to continue to be a resource for the change-makers there in the future. 

This event was part of a series of programs that GroundSpark organized with SOJOURN, with funding from the Amy Mandel and Katina Rodis Fund and our generous other supporters.

Teaching Sex Ed Just Got Easier



By | Latest News

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Each year, in classrooms around the country, teachers of all kinds are tasked with implementing the National Sexuality Education Standards – a list of seven learning objectives established by leading health officials, researchers and educators in 2011. Yet many of those educators continue to struggle to find engaging and effective tools to teach what can often feel like a complicated topic.

That’s where Straightlaced comes in.

“One thing that continues to impress us about Straightlaced and the accompanying curriculum is that there is nothing else like it out there. We can’t think of anyone else who is addressing gender in such a meaningful way with young people. And gender must be addressed if we’re going to make real change when it comes to dealing with sexism, homophobia and transphobia.”
– Lucinda Holt, Director of Communications, Answer, the national sexual education training organization

In an increasingly diverse world, where harassment, bullying and relationship violence are all too common experiences for high schoolers, teachers need to be ahead of the curve when it comes to discussing gender and sexuality. So we’ve aligned our award-winning documentary film-based curriculum and resource Guide with the national sex ed standards, to make it easier for high school educators to engage their students!

“We believe firmly, as these standards outline, that addressing the constraints of gender norms will help all students live healthier lives.” said Debra Chasnoff, founder of GroundSpark. “Aligning Straightlaced with these standards is about working towards achieving that goal.”

Through our alignment we’ve outlined the specific activities, video clips and lesson plans that can be used to meet the requirements for various grade levels. And because everything connects to our award-winning youth-focused film, we know these interactive lessons are especially likely to resonate with teenagers.

We also know that we can’t afford to wait any longer to implement these ideas and improve sexuality education.

According to a 2011 Dove study, 72% of teen girls feel enormous pressure to live up to society’s beauty ideals. While the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network reports that 85% of LGBT youth in the U.S. are verbally harassed at school each year. These factors can lead to diminished self-esteem, absenteeism and lower grades.

GroundSpark is committed to improving school environments for youth everywhere, and our Straightlaced Curriculum and Resource Guide, now aligned with the National Sexuality Education Standards, is a powerful tool to help us all create safer, more inclusive classrooms.

Download the guidelines here.

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2014 Ally Week – Oct 13 to 17



By | blog, Straightlaced

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Monday marks the beginning of Ally Week, the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) national week of action to identify new allies to LGBT youth, and a chance for us all to reflect on our own role in the movement for equality. In recognition of this week-long campaign, Groundspark is proud to partner with GLSEN to offer free streaming of our award-winning documentary, Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, from October 13th through the 17th!

Click here to sign up for your free stream

During Ally Week, participants across the country will consider what they can do to become an even better ally to another person, or group of people. Straightlaced, which explores the pressures that ALL teens face when it comes to dealing with gender norms and sexuality, is the perfect tool for sparking dialogue and community action around these issues.

twitter Starting Monday, join us in using #BetterAllies and #AllyWeek on Twitter to spread the word about the free stream and to share how you’re committing to allyship!

GLSEN’s Ally Week pushes us to reflect on how we can all use our privilege to move the safe schools movement forward, and a reminder that being an ally to LGBT youth isn’t just something to be proud of, but a lifelong responsibility to speak up more, intervene more, and demand equality for all.

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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!

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

Groundspark Launches First Ever Respect for All Institute; Educators Applaud Hands-On Workshop



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

rfap-training-smOne by one, rocks with words like courage, humor and perseverance began to pile up. The participants of the first-ever Respect for All Institute introduced themselves, and brought these stones, on which they had written their strengths, to a common table. This activity, “We Rock,” was just the first of many that would build attendees’ skills, capacity and leadership to address bias, deal with bullying dynamics, support diverse students and families, and thereby help all students succeed.

Just like the Institute brought together a group of dedicated participants – teachers-in-training, seasoned educators and administrators, school counselors, curriculum planners and social workers – and their many assets, for the first time Groundspark brings together all of the nationally celebrated films in the Respect for All series in a two day intensive institute.

While we have offered workshops and professional development about important issues such as family diversity, prejudice, bias and bullying, and the pressures young people face around issues of gender and sexual orientation, since 1992, this new Respect for All Institute brings together all of these subjects in a comprehensive training for educators and other adults working with youth.

“This program allows me to be a change agent in my communities, both professionally and personally,” praised one of 35 educators and school staff, who attended this pilot program hosted at the University of Connecticut and in partnership with the National Network for Educational Renewal (NNER).

“Groundspark’s films and guide books provide a wonderful opportunity to discuss challenging topics. I also appreciate the hands-on approach to work with and respond to the diverse constituencies in my school,” she continued.

Groundspark’s approach to creating safe and inclusive schools is about modeling safety and inclusiveness and cultivating a positive, energizing, and hopeful tone in all of our efforts. “I enjoyed the different activities that allowed us to meet other people, role-play and simply be in a vulnerable room where we could all share and relate to our experiences,” offered another participant.

In this environment, participants found that they could more easily explore how identity-based bias manifests and is perpetuated in many areas of school life, laying the foundation for bullying, harassment and violence of all kinds. “I am taking away realizations that bias is all around whether regarding race, culture, family structure or gender,” another educator reflected at the end our work together, “I have to be a leader and teach my faculty about addressing these biases.”

After viewing That’s A Family, participants were invited to draw what a family meant to them. As each shared their drawings, some with laughter and others with tears, the group realized how the definition of family could be a broad one. Raised by a single mom and growing up on her own, one educator realized how her own academic achievement was connected to her family experience and how recognizing the strengths and needs of all families would impact her own students. A light bulb went off as another participant pointed out that even the name; “Parent-Teacher Conference” was not welcoming to the constellations of family members that support some of her students.

Later in the workshop, participants practiced applying the principles of inclusion and safety ideas to students dealing with issues of race and sexual orientation from Let’s Get Real, by brainstorming strategies and solutions they could implement at an institutional level to support similar students at their own schools.

At the end of two full days, educators and administrators devised actionable individual and community plans to take back to their own schools. We hope that leaving the institute with a concrete road map – complete with due dates, strategies for working with colleagues for mutual support and follow-up steps – will springboard inspiration and new learning into powerful action.

One teacher said, “While my school climate is far from perfect, I feel confident that we have an abundance of resources, especially people to make it an inclusive community. I am encouraged by the words and ideas of my colleagues and others who do the work I do. I feel more people share my values than I thought.”

Leaving our first Respect for All Project Institute, participants were excited and empowered to make their schools a place where students and teachers have respect for all. I shared in their excitement and can’t wait to bring this new, comprehensive model to more educators across the country in 2014! We will be hosting a Respect for All Institute in the Bay Area in the Fall of 2014 – let us know if you would like to participate!

 

“Why Should I Be the One To Leave?”



By | blog, Straightlaced

One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is calling donors to say thank you for their gifts. I can’t call everyone, but when someone makes a significant gift that’s a big jump from their previous contributions, I try to be sure to pick up the phone. Last week I called Leslie and David Lagerstrom in Edina, MN. All I knew about them is that they had driven into Minneapolis a couple of years ago to attend the Twin Cities premiere of Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, our documentary about teenagers grappling with pressures to conform to gender norms.

I had to leave a voicemail for them and then received this from Leslie:

Dear Debra,

I tried to return your call but wasn’t able to reach you so I thought I’d drop you an email. You had called to thank my husband and me for our donation to your wonderful organization, which was our pleasure!

You also mentioned that you were curious about our interest in your organization, which I am happy to share. Our 15 year-old son Sam is transgender. Born female, he has told us ever since he could speak that he was really a boy, and when he was 12 years old he began to transition. As you know from your work, life for kids like this is incredibly hard – society seems to have such a hard time grasping this concept and therefore what they do not understand they must persecute.

Sam has experienced so much bullying and rejection over the years, yet he remains strong and true to himself. Quite honestly, I don’t know how he does it. He is an ‘A’ student in one of the best school districts in the nation (Edina, MN). We investigated switching schools when the bullying was at its worst, but when Sam posed the question to us, “…why should I have to be the one to leave?” we decided to allow him to stay put. He is a member of the high school debate team, recently winning the JV State of MN tournament and in the winter he volunteers to teach downhill skiing to developmentally disabled youth. He’s a good kid but it is hard for people to see past the fact that he is transgender. That is why we believe your work is SO important! The more we can educate society about LGBT issues, the more likely we are to reduce and hopefully remove the stigma surrounding these communities. At least this is our hope.

I started a blog last July that chronicles our experience raising Sam – you can find it at www.transparenthood.net.

Keep up the great work at Groundspark! It is appreciated more than you know!

Since we released Straightlaced, we’ve seen more and more parents become visible advocates for their transgender and gender non-conforming children. Sam’s story makes us more determined than ever to get Straightlaced screened in as many high schools as possible this year.

Wisps of Change in Idaho



By | It's Elementary, It's STILL Elementary, Screenings, Straightlaced

As the organizers were closing up the main meeting room Friday night at the Northwest LGBTQ Youth Conference for Hope, in Meridian, Idaho, one of them approached me and whispered, “there’s a young woman in the audience who is in tears and she’s asked to speak with you.”

I looked up and saw her. Cute with spiky blond hair, her eyes red from crying. I had noticed her earlier, burrowed into the arms of a tall transgendered woman who was slated to speak on a panel the following day.

The room cleared out and Kyle (not her real name) finally stopped sobbing. She told me she was going into eighth grade next fall and that she just didn’t know what to do. “I’ve lost so many friends, just because of the way I am.”

She had asked for me because I had just facilitated a discussion after screening our film It’s STILL Elementary as the kickoff for the conference.  It tells the story of why Helen Cohen and I made It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School back in 1996, what happened to many of the students in that original film, and how we had coped with vicious attacks from conservative right wing organizations that had tried to stop the film from airing on public television. (The only other time I have been to Idaho is when I came in 2006 to interview the staff at Idaho public TV about how they handled the pressures around the broadcast.)

The group had stayed afterwards for almost two hours after the credits rolled. It’s STILL Elementary opened up a floodgate of topics they wanted to discuss: Idaho politics (because some of the most heated battles were right here in their state), coming out, organizing Gay-Straight Alliances in schools, reading books with two moms, gratitude for supportive parents, and a wide array of teens’ experiences in Idaho’s high schools today.

“It’s a Christian school,” Kyle explained. “I just wish there was something at my school that was like you showed in the movie.” At her school, there is no GSA, no curriculum that fosters awareness of and respect for LGBT people, and not a single teacher at the school who she could imagine going to with her pain and loneliness. She said she knows there are many kids in the school who are LGBT or Q, but there is nothing to connect or support them.

“My mom is great though,” she said. “She’s here with me.” We agreed that maybe her mom could speak with other parents at the school and see if they could get something to happen.

The next day we screened Straightlaced, and when the audience questions were just about over, a middle-aged man took the microphone and haltingly told us that the part of the film that affected him the most was one of the last interview clips, when a student looks into the camera and reveals that he could lose his Eagle Scout status with the Boy Scouts because of coming out on camera in the film.

“My son was on track to get his Eagle Scout,” he said in almost a whisper, “but he wouldn’t do it because he was afraid they would do something to him. Why? Why would they do anything to my son?” No one in the room made a sound.

“He has all the leadership qualities they want Eagle Scouts to have.” It was clear that his heart had been broken to see his talented son back down from his goals because of the Boy Scouts’ homophobia.

I later learned that this father, who is Mormon, had attended the conference at his son’s request. “It’s amazing that he’s here,” the organizers told me.

When I meet people—like this father, like Kyle and her mom, and like Emilie Jackson-Edney, who proudly shared her experiences changing gender in the workshop after mine—in places as conservative as Meridian Idaho, I feel the arc of change bending. These are all good Christian people, who are struggling with their churches, their schools, and their community groups to ensure that all children are safe and loved.

“Do you think if you made It’s Elementary today that you would face as much opposition as you did in the early ‘90’s?” one person asked. I’m not sure, but I don’t think so.

We’re inching forward, but there is no going back.

Announcing Our National Straightlaced Partners!



By | Straightlaced

Announcing Our National Straightlaced Partners!

Last week, the White House hosted a conference on combating bullying. The same day, both houses of Congress reintroduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act to protect the rights of LGBT and gender non-conforming students in our nation’s schools.

We can’t think of better timing to proudly announce our national partners for the expanded outreach and education campaign for documentary film, Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, about the pressures teens face today because of gender role expectations and homophobia.

We’re honored to have such an esteemed group of organizations working with us to share Straightlaced as a critical tool to help improve school social climates, particularly when it comes to addressing stigma and social pressures connected to gender roles, sexuality, and sexual orientation.

Our partners include: 

Anti Defamation League
ANSWER
California Partnership to End Domestic Violence
COLAGE
Facing History & Ourselves
Gender Spectrum
Girls For A Change
Girls Incorporated

 

GLSEN: Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network
Gay-Straight Alliance Network
National Youth Advocacy Coalition
National Center for Lesbian Rights
True Colors
PFLAG: Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays
Safe Schools Coalition
Teaching Tolerance

They are helping spread the word about the film, showcasing it at their conferences, writing about it in their newsletters and websites, promoting its distribution with partner discounts, and working with GroundSpark in a variety of exciting ways.

You can help too. Is there a school you know that could use a copy? A social service agency or community group? Does your organization want to become a Straightlaced partner?

Order your copy of Straightlaced today. Or stream a copy and watch it right now.

Contact us to explore partnership opportunities.

Or make a gift to help GroundSpark keep reaching out.

Thank you for helping us, as always, ignite change through film.

Debra Chasnoff, Founding Director & Amy Scharf, National Program Director

P.S. Please check out the amazing work that all of our Straightlaced partners do each day. It’s an honor to be collaborating with each of them.

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.