“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.
THIS YEAR, the Supreme Court finally settled the debate the students are having in this scene!
(Click photo to see the scene)
What’s more, the number of colleges of education ordering educational streaming licenses for It’s Elementary continued to grow—which means the next generation of K-12 teachers is learning how to support their students to develop critical thinking skills and a passion for justice.
Fifteen years ago, when we produced a film that modeled how to talk to children about all different kinds of family structures—including those with gay or lesbian parents, it was still illegal for gay people to adopt children in many states. No wonder That’s a Family!struck a nerve in school district after school district.
<<< (Click to watch trailer)
THIS YEAR, couples in Mississippi, the last state in the country that still bans gay couples from adopting, filed suit to challenge that law. It’s gratifying to see schools in more conservative areas coming around to use That’s a Family! Now they really have no excuse but to be inclusive of all different kinds of families.
When we were making Let’s Get Real, our documentary about bias-based bullying, I remember people scoffing. “That’s just the way kids are. And that’s the way it will always be.” Only a handful of states had any laws or policies addressing the bullying epidemic.
(Click to watch trailer) >>>>
THIS YEAR, Montana finally became the 50th state to get on board. It has become completely unacceptable for schools to ignore this issue any more. And GroundSpark launched a new campaign to reach out to PTAs to use Let’s Get Real to help parents and guardians understand what they can do to help the climate at their children’s schools.
When we were filming Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, one of the gay students in the film talked about how, by appearing on camera, he was putting his Eagle Scout award at risk because the Boy Scouts had a ban on gay members and troop leaders.
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.
When 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.
The 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.