In the course of making documentaries about some of the most important issues of our time, GroundSpark staff develops expertise that is highly sought after in the national media. We are proud to be a spark to help change the national conversation to create a more just world.
GroundSpark and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRCF) launched a new initiative today 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 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.
This 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.
“We strongly believe that parents and guardians are the third leg of the stool that must be engaged in order to have a safe school learning environment,” says GroundSpark president and film director Debra Chasnoff. “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. Tand 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.
“This partnership is designed to engage communities with strategies to help support “ally” behavior among students, said Kim Westheimer, director of Welcoming Schools. “The tools provide concrete resources to help adults and students create environments where diversity is respected and celebrated. “
San Francisco, CA, October 12, 2010…. GroundSpark, the national nonprofit behind Academy Award-winner Debra Chasnoff’s highly acclaimed anti-bullying documentaries, is catalyzing school communities to address stigma connected to sexual orientation and gender roles by providing conversation-starting films and curriculum guides for free until the end of November. The materials have opened up dialogue and culture change in thousands of schools and youth programs, and this is the first time that they can be viewed for free.
This offer comes as a response to the recent string of suicides committed by young people who had been targeted with endless anti-gay harassment. It is intended to reach those who have a role to play in bullying prevention but are rarely included in the national dialogue: parents, all school staff beyond just teachers, the youth who do the bullying, and those that see it and stand by and say nothing.
GroundSpark’s tools help open up the discussion beyond the recent focus on youth who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. “Anti-gay bias affects everyone in a school community, and real change requires that everyone is engaged—from the youth who are targeted to the students who do the bullying, the silent witnesses, and every teacher, staff member, and parent,” says Chasnoff, GroundSpark’s president and senior producer. “Getting entire communities to talk about the pressures that led to these suicides will not be easy, but we’ve seen scores of classrooms and staff meetings light up in meaningful discussion and take action after seeing our films. We want others to experience that spark of change as well.”
GroundSpark is making the following films available for free online streaming:
Let’s Get Real – middle school students share their diverse experiences with name-calling, bullying, and bias;
It’s STILL Elementary – students and teachers show the long-term benefits of addressing bullying and bias, and echo a new call to action for safe schools.
In addition to providing films, GroundSpark is making its professionally developed curriculum guides available online for free as well. These lessons and facilitation instructions can help foster change in a variety of settings — from classrooms to church groups.
About Groundspark: GroundSpark creates visionary films and dynamic education campaigns that move individuals and communities to take action for a more just world. GroundSpark’s Respect For All Project facilitates the development of inclusive, bias-free schools and communities by providing media resources, support and training to youth, educators and service providers.
About Debra Chasnoff: Debra Chasnoff is an Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker whose work has fueled progressive social-change movements in many fields. She is the president and senior producer at GroundSpark and co-creator of The Respect For All Project. She is an experienced spokesperson and has appeared on programs from CNN’s Situation Room to NPR’s Bryant Park Project.
Debra Chasnoff and the educational staff of The Respect For All Project are available for interviews about youth bullying culture and how to build safer, more respectful environments.
NATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FILM TOUR WILL CHALLENGE GENDER STEREOTYPING AND HOMOPHOBIA AMONG TEENS
Straightlaced, by Oscar-winner Debra Chasnoff, seeks to enhance gender justice by opening national dialogue among youth and adults
San Francisco, CA, March 10, 2009—GroundSpark, a non-profit that creates visionary films and educational campaigns, is igniting a national dialogue about gender stereotypes and pressures among youth with its new feature-length documentary, Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up.
Straightlaced is directed by Academy Award® -winning filmmaker Debra Chasnoff, and is the latest documentary film production from GroundSpark’s highly acclaimed Respect For All Project. The film will be coupled with an educational curriculum and professional development series to train both professionals and youth to challenge these stereotypes.
Straightlaced, which features unscripted high school youth from around the country speaking candidly about harmful pressures caused by rigid gender roles and homophobia is surprisingly uplifting and entertaining. From girls who dumb down so they don’t intimidate boys, to boys who are sexually active just to prove they aren’t gay, to non-conforming teens who face relentless bullying, the students in Straightlaced show how gender expectations are having unhealthy and often dangerous impact on the lives of today’s teens.
Their diverse stories illuminate the complex links between gender stereotypes and homophobia and raise important questions about how differences in race and cultural backgrounds intersect with those issues. Straightlaced shows how all youth are limited by these pressures no matter how they identify, and models ways to build safer and more inclusive youth cultures.
““No matter where we filmed, students jumped at the opportunity to speak their mind about this very taboo subject,” says Chasnoff, who is also GroundSpark’s executive director. “It was shocking to hear that the same pressures that led to the murder of Lawrence King are being intensely felt by all students, all day, every day.”
In early test screenings at high schools in California, students have given Straightlaced two major thumbs up. “I want EVERYONE to see this film,” one 11th grader at Oceana High School in Pacifica commented. “It could really make them think about what’s really going on in schools and in the whole country.”
“Thank you, Thank you. Thank you,” said another. “This film makes me feel honored to be me.”
The film and educational curriculum will be presented in all 50 US states as well as in film festivals and symposia worldwide. Already seen in Atlanta, Greensboro NC, Columbus OH, and San Francisco, Straightlaced is scheduled to screen in Montgomery AL, Laramie WY, Chicago, Garden City and Dodge City KS, New Orleans, Oakland, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Minneapolis, Boston, New York City, and St. Louis. Events are on the horizon in over 55 other locations across the country. For an up-to-the-moment schedule, please see
About Groundspark GroundSpark creates visionary films and dynamic education campaigns that move individuals and communities to take action for a more just world. Other films include Deadly Deception – which won the 1991 Academy Award® for Best Documentary, It’s Elementary – Talking About Gay Issues in School – which swept the nation as the first film to advocate talking to young children about lesbian and gay people, andLet’s Get Real – the documentary used in bullying prevention programs in thousands of schools across the country.
About Debra Chasnoff:
Debra Chasnoff is an Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker whose work has fueled progressive social-change movements in many fields. She is a the executive director at GroundSpark and co-creator of The Respect For All Project, a program that produces media and training resources to help prevent prejudice among young people. She is an experienced spokesperson and has appeared on programs from CNN’s Situation Room to NPR’s Bryant Park Project.
Debra Chasnoff and many of the teens featured in Straightlaced are available for interviews. Interview information and requests should be sent to the contact listed above. For more information, including a trailer of Straightlaced, please visit: http://groundspark.org/straightlaced
NEW DVD RELEASE RE-IGNITES NATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO DISCUSS GAY AND LESBIAN ISSUES IN SCHOOLS
Groundbreaking film It’s Elementary Re-Released on DVD, Includes Follow-up Documentary, It’s STILL Elementary, and New Comprehensive Teaching/Organizing Guide.
Ryan Schwartz, Media Relations Coordinator
Respect for All Project, GroundSpark
800-405-3322, ext. 305 firstname.lastname@example.org
San Francisco, CA, February 19, 2008….. GroundSpark – formerly Women’s Educational Media – today announced the availability of the DVD re-release of It’s Elementary – Talking About Gay Issues in School. The first film to show why and how elementary and middle school teachers can facilitate age-appropriate classroom discussions that include awareness about gay and lesbian people, this watershed documentary’s 1996 release catalyzed the national movement to build LGBT-safe schools and sparked a spirited national dialogue.
“Ten years after its original release, It’s Elementary is still inspiring educators to address homophobia and create classrooms where all youth are respected,” says Judy Shepard, whose son Matthew was brutally murdered in 1998 because he was gay. “It should be mandatory for all new teachers if we are serious about raising kids to be free of hate and prejudice.”
The DVD re-released version of the film is accompanied by a new documentary, It’s STILL Elementary, that presents fascinating “where are they now?” interviews with students and teachers from the original film, along with commentary from the filmmakers and other educators leaders who look back at the political backlash the original film received and at the tremendous impact it has had on the American educational system.
“When the film was first released a decade ago, It’s Elementary helped spark a movement to make schools safer places for all children to discuss lesbian and gay people in age-appropriate ways,” said GroundSpark Executive Director and Academy Award®-winning documentary filmmaker Debra Chasnoff. “It’s STILL Elementary proves how having that conversation benefits all students in every classroom, and the guide provides invaluable support to teachers, parents, and university educators to put what the film advocates into action,” Chasnoff continued.
The new 140-page edition of the film’s accompanying guide is based on the stories of hundreds of educators, parents, principals and professors who have used GroundSpark resources to promote understanding and respect for all. The guide is a clearinghouse of ideas and resources for using It’s Elementary to make change on many levels in the classroom, in schools of education, with school boards and within communities.
With the release of the new resources, GroundSpark is working with educators throughout the country to ignite new efforts in creating LGBT-inclusive school curricula.
“More than ten years after its creation, It’s Elementary remains an indispensable and unparalleled resource for school personnel,” said National Education Association President Reg Weaver. “Educators must be proactive about addressing prejudice and bias if students are to stay in school and realize their full potential. The NEA strongly encourages educators to use It’s Elementary as a means of ensuring a safe and supportive learning environment for every child,” Weaver added.
Debra Chasnoff is available for interviews. Requests for interviews and review copies of the resources can be sent to the media contacts above.
GroundSpark creates visionary films and dynamic education campaigns that move individuals and communities to take action for a more just world. The Respect For All Project, a program of GroundSpark, facilitates the development of inclusive schools and communities that are free from bias and prejudice by providing resources, support and training to educators and youth service providers.
LETTER FROM DEBRA CHASNOFF ABOUT THE MURDER OF LAWRENCE KING
Dear GroundSpark supporters,
I have some extremely sad news to share. A 15-year old middle school student in southern California was murdered this week by a 14-year old classmate, who apparently shot him because he didn’t like the fact that the student identified as gay and occasionally liked to dress in feminine clothing. We issued the press statement below and are working to use the media coverage, such as this article that appeared in the Windy City Times, around this tragedy as an opportunity to press for more pro-active anti-bias education for all students, starting in elementary school.
I wish we didn’t have to start the holiday weekend with this news, but I thought you would want to know what’s happening.
Please take good care,
GAY MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT KILLED IN OXNARD, CA SCHOOL SHOOTING; HATE CRIME CHARGES HAVE BEEN FILED
Statement by Debra Chasnoff, Academy Award®-Winning Documentary Filmmaker, Leading Expert on Creating LGBT-Inclusive Learning Environments
San Francisco, CA, February, 2008 – Today eighth-grader Lawrence King, 15, of Oxnard, CA, was declared brain dead after a school shooting on Tuesday. King was shot twice by a fellow student while in class at E.O. Green Junior High School. Prosecutors are charging the assailant with murder with a hate-crime enhancement. King remains on a ventilator for organ donation. The victim was openly gay and was reported to have occasionally worn feminine clothing and makeup to school. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that King’s peers attribute his attack to his open sexual orientation.
Media Statement by Debra Chasnoff, GroundSpark Executive Director and Academy Award®-winning documentary filmmaker:
“The murder of Lawrence King, a 15-year-old openly gay student at E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, CA, is a terrible tragedy. It is a horrific reminder that harassment of and violence toward gay, lesbian and gender non-conforming students is still a serious problem in schools across the country and it starts at younger ages than most adults realize. We wish we could say we’ve come a long way since 1998 when Matthew Shepard was murdered when he was in college just because he was gay. But now, similarly-motivated hate crimes are occurring in middle schools.
Today, we mourn the loss of this young student and extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends. We also commit ourselves to redoubling our efforts to prevent tragedies like this from ever occurring again. One of the most important things we can do is support educators and parents to pro-actively help young students cultivate understanding and compassion for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender expression.
Ten years ago we released the educational documentary It’s Elementary-Talking About Gay Issues in School and it helped spark a movement to make schools safer places for all children by encouraging K-8 teachers to weave respectful information about LGBT people into their lesson plans. Ironically, this week we are re-releasing this film because it’s time for a new generation of teachers to get on board to ensure that their schools and classrooms are safe for all students, including those like Lawrence King who don’t fit neatly in a box of the stereotype of how boys are supposed to be. We call on all educators in California, and across the nation, to recognize the seriousness of anti-gay bullying and take appropriate steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all their students.”
Debra Chasnoff is available for interviews through the above media contacts.
GroundSpark creates visionary films and dynamic educational campaigns that move individuals and communities to take action for a more just world.