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Groundspark » Let’s Get Real

Archive for the ‘Let’s Get Real’ Category

Reporting Back From China!



By | Deadly Deception, Let's Get Real, Respect For All Project, Screenings, Straightlaced

classphoto“Tell us about those plots of farmland in front of those old buildings,” I asked the two journalism students who picked us up at the airport in Shantou, China.

“The farmers had a protest against the government because the government plans to take away the land to put up new buildings,” one of them said. “One of our classmates went down to write a story about it, but the police came and took him away to be ‘re-educated’. Then they told our teachers, who announced to our classes that none of us could go near the farmers or we, too, would be taken by the police.”

And so began my weeklong visit to Shantou University as a special guest of the journalism department, along with journalist and historian Helen Zia, and my wife, Nancy Otto. The three of us were very warmly received during our stay, and the students were very excited to engage with us on a wide range of issues.girl-peaceI spent time with several journalism classes and one gender studies class. The students all had started studying English when they were in elementary school and I was quickly humbled by how well they were able to communicate with me given my complete lack of Chinese language skills.

 

As they watched Let’s Get Real and That’s a Family!, students were puzzled about some things, that in the US, we often just assume. “I thought America had a very strong value for equality for everyone and freedom,” one student asked me. “So I don’t understand why is there bullying?” “Why would anyone tell their child that they were adopted?” queried another. “In China, we would never tell a child that.”

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It was fascinating to hear, from first-year students that “there was no bullying in China,” but then in the advanced class, to hear stories pour out about taunting and harassment students had either experienced directly or witnessed among their friends.

Many were intrigued to hear about gay and lesbian couples that had become parents (including many oohs and ahs when I showed a picture of my own family). But when we met with the “Orange Community,” a group not labeled LGBT but one where students knew they could go to talk about gay issues, they told us that it would be impossible for gay people to become parents. That’s because China has a one-child policy that favors married couples (and marriage is not legal between people of the same sex). Anyone who is a single parent by choice or “mistake” is fined the equivalent of one year of salary and charged a much higher tuition for her child to attend school.

On two nights the journalism department had organized large campus-wide events. The first one focused on taking a critical look at the United States: Helen showed excerpts from Who Killed Vincent Chin?, a documentary that chronicles the civil rights questions connected to the 1982 murder of an Asian American man; I showed GroundSpark’s Academy Award winning film, Deadly Deception, which lamblasts the US military industrial complex and the disastrous environmental practices of many major corporations. Both films are crafted to inspire audiences to organize and take action for social justice.

After our sobering arrival story about the student who tried to report on a local demonstration, I wasn’t sure how our night of political organizing 101 would be received. So I was delighted when the students peppered us with questions about equality and environmental protection issues in China. Over and over they asked, “How should we think about these issues here?”

The next night the topic was gender norms, marriage equality, and LGBT identity. Helen showed a Chinese news broadcast covering her own marriage to her partner, Lia, and her testimony in one of the phases of the legal battle to overturn Prop 8 in California. I showed excerpts from Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up. Ching-Ching Ni, the professor who had invited us, told us it was the first time a public lecture had ever been held at Shantou University that addressed LGBT issues—and quite possibly at any Chinese university.

While I have shown Straightlaced to enthusiastic audiences in countless settings, I don’t think I have ever seen an audience as utterly rapt as this one in Shantou. Afterwards the students popped up across the auditorium to share their own concerns, fears, and questions connected to tto the themes in Straightlaced, painting a rich picture for us of where teen/young adult culture in China is falling today.

“I am the only girl to go to the gym to lift weights and everyone makes fun of me”; “Aren’t gay people the reason there is a population decline in the west?”; and most touchingly, “I think I might be lesbian. How do you know if you are a lesbian?”

I wish GroundSpark’s generous network of supporters could have all been in these lecture halls and classrooms with us. I know you would have been as proud as we were that our films were once again igniting change, this time in China.

Thank you for standing with us and for renewing your support this year. And a big thanks to Helen Zia and Ching-Ching Ni for creating this special opportunity!

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!

 

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.

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.

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

Let’s Get Real for No Name-Calling Week



By | Let's Get Real

“I showed Let’s Get Real to my students, many of whom do not want to have these conversations and have a hard time sitting still. They were riveted. The discussion afterward was profound.”
— Kim Carter, director, Monadnock Community Connections School, Keene, New Hampshire

GroundSpark is partnering once again with GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network for National No Name-Calling Week, which runs through January 27th. GLSEN is our longest-running partner organization, and in support of No Name-Calling Week, we’re offering free streaming of our film Let’s Get Real (view the trailer below)!

GLSEN and GroundSpark first started working together back in 1992, when Helen Cohen and I were looking for educators who might have the courage to address anti-LGBT prejudice in their classrooms. We attended one of the first GLSEN conferences (back when the “E” was a “T” for teachers and GroundSpark was called Women’s Educational Media) and told the attendees about our vision for a world where educators would proactively address all kinds of bias, including homophobia, in their classrooms.

The contacts we made at that gathering helped us go on to make It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School.  Groups of teachers all over the country then mobilized to host the first screenings of the film, and in the process, launched many of GLSEN’s first chapters.  Kevin Jennings, GLSEN’s founder, is prominently featured in our follow-up film, It’s STILL Elementary.

Years after the making of It’s Elementary, we decided to take on bullying connected to all kinds of bias, and produced Let’s Get Real, which is now used in thousands of schools across the country. GLSEN also expanded its focus and today is at the forefront of addressing bias-related bullying of all kinds.

GroundSpark has been a No Name Calling Week partner since day one. This year we are excited to offer free streaming of Let’s Get Real for the whole week! It’s a great chance to preview the film and see if it’s right for your school or community organization. Or for parents, to make time to watch it and have a much-needed conversation with your 5th – 9th grader.

Visit our No Name Calling Week page for simple steps to get started!

 

 

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)

Addressing LGBT Bullying?
We Can Do Better



By | It's Elementary, It's STILL Elementary, Latest News, Let's Get Real, Respect For All Project, Straightlaced

As news of five suicides committed by youth who were targeted with homophobic harassment has spread across the country, GroundSpark has redoubled our commitment to helping communities do a much better job of addressing anti-LGBT bias, particularly in school.

We are making some of our tools available for free for the next two months
in an effort to get them out far and wide during this time of intense public awareness.

But we need your help. And I don’t just mean by sending a donation.

We need your help in shaping the public conversation and getting GroundSpark’s powerful tools into the right hands.

Click on this “spark” to share our resources and analysis with everyone you know who works with youth. We’ve made it very easy to insert in an email, post on Facebook, Twitter, or any website.

There is a lot of talk right now about more stringent laws and punishment for bullying. We definitely need strong, federal and state anti-bullying legislation. The full solution, though, involves much more than tough laws and rules.

We need to go deeper and address the underlying ignorance and stereotypes that contribute so painfully to the bullying epidemic. We need to build a culture of empathy and compassion. We need to get everyone on board—every student, every parent, and every adult who works with youth.

In recent days, many excellent new initiatives have popped up to support LGBT-identified students and their allies. GroundSpark is building on the good work of our sister organizations by sharing what we do best: sparking the transformation of whole schools from places of conflict and alienation to communities of respect and support.

We know from experience that people get inspired and motivated when they can see moving examples of honest, caring discussion about tough issues like bias-based harassment.

That’s what GroundSpark—through our films, curriculum guides and trainings—can provide. So for the first time our curriculum guides are available for free online and parents and students can stream our films for free into their homes.

Talking about how all students are negatively affected by anti-gay bias, no matter how they identify, is not easy. Nor is talking about stigmas regarding gender norms, race and class. But we have been doing this work, thoughtfully, and with great success for close to fifteen years.

To do our job well, though, particularly at this moment, we need you to help us spread the word.

You can help us reach out to the parents of the youth who do the bullying, the parents of youth who are scared to death to speak up on a classmate’s behalf for fear of being targeted themselves, and the parents who don’t know what to do when their own kids are harassed.

You can help us reach the science teachers, baseball coaches, janitors, and school bus drivers so they understand that it is an important part of their job descriptions to model how to respond to anti-gay slurs.

You can help us give administrators and guidance counselors support and tools to launch in-depth dialogues and school-wide commitments that address bias and prejudice in serious, constructive ways, and not just through discipline.

Please take a moment to share GroundSpark’s Respect for All Project with everyone you know who cares about youth. We’ve brought together our best tools on addressing bias, particularly homophobia. All we need now is you to join our team and spread the word.

Just click here and you’ll see how easy it is to get started.

We’re committed to change. Join us.

Debra Chasnoff
President and Senior Producer

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.

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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.”