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Empathy in action: GLSEN helps educators uproot bias

Laura E. Saponara serves as a Senior Communications Consultant for Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit.

School climates where anti-gay ire is tolerated make it very hard for kids to be able to be themselves with the spontaneity and joy that are their birthright.

As the organization GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network) has been pointing out for nearly 25 years, a hostile school climate also affects students’ academic success and mental health.


Photo: Tiph Browne/GLSEN
Photo: Tiph Browne/GLSEN

GLSEN has just released its 2013 National School Climate Survey report on the middle and high school experiences of LGBT youth, with a focus on 29 states.  The good news is that the school climate for LGBT students has improved somewhat over the years.  The bad news is that schools continue to be places where young people experience verbal and physical aggression and are deprived of a realistic sense of the contributions of LGBT people, past and present.


The question becomes, what do teachers need to help create safe and affirming school environments for all students, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression? And what types of policies should school leaders adopt to fuel this goal?

Through research and partnerships with national education associations, and with input from countless educators, GLSEN has spent 25 years honing answers to these questions.  The array of those resources and the creativity therein is astounding.

Photo: GLSEN
  • Looking for guidance on how to be more inclusive of LGBT content while meeting teaching and learning standards?  See GLSEN’s LGBT-Inclusive Curriculum Guide.
  • Need an Educator Events Calendar to keep track of key LGBT, social justice and diversity dates throughout the school year, including GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week?  Check.
  • Can you use classroom materials that include positive representations of LGBT people, history and events?  Check.   How about lesson plans that will get students talking about bullying, bias and diversity?
  • Wish you had a Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month Heroes downloadable flier?  Check.
  • Would you benefit from being part of an educator network created to spur professional development in relation to equity and inclusion? Register.

We still have a long way to go for our society and our schools to become truly inclusive. But thanks to GLSEN, schools have an ever-expanding cornucopia of exquisite resources at their disposal to help.

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