Study Proves We Were Right! and Other Spring News
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March News Update


  From Our Blog

by Debra Chasnoff, President and Senior Producer

Straightlaced Goes to the Head of the Class

GSA Network’s Study Proves Inclusive Curriculum Makes Schools Safer

Many years ago when Helen Cohen and I were producing It’s Elementary—Talking About Gay Issues in School, we came up with a list of all the reasons why it is important for educators to find age-appropriate ways to incorporate respectful discussion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people into K-12 curricula. We knew it was critical to help those young people who were in the process of coming out or who would some day. It was important for all the children who have LGBT family members to feel like they were included in the school community. It was essential knowledge that today’s students need to function well in our diverse society. But the bottom line, number one reason was that talking about gay issues and people in school is absolutely essential is creating a safe learning environment.

Now, there is a study that proves that reasoning is true.  
Screen%20Shot%202013-01-08%20at%201.55.49%20PMThe report, “Implementing Lessons That Matter: The Impact of LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum on Student Safety, Well-Being, and Achievement,” is distributed by one of GroundSpark’s longtime partners, the Gay Straight Alliance Network.
“The report clearly shows that LGBTQ-inclusive lessons increase school safety,” says Stephen T. Russell, an author of the report and University of Arizona Professor. “At a time when there is more concern than ever about LGBTQ bullying and safety in schools, this research confirms that students need to see themselves reflected in lessons. When they do, they feel safer and more connected at school – and the school climate is healthier for everyone.”
The research primarily took place in California after the passage of the FAIR Education Act, which updated state education guidelines to end the exclusion of LGBT people and people with disabilities from social studies and history classes. Despite the many obstacles teachers still face in being able to successfully implement this kind of curricula, the results were impressive.
Read more on our blog >>

One School District Goes Deep
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“How do you balance the need to get students to conform to school rules with themessage we are trying to put out to them to ‘be themselves’?“ was one of the excellent questions that emerged during the training we conducted this month for Oakland Unified School District. Thanks to a grant from Target, OSUD was able to send representatives from every high school to a professional development session on how to open up dialogue around gender norms and homophobia.

Using excerpts from Straightlaced—How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up, GroundSpark facilitators Joel Brown and Amy Scharf encouraged the group to explore the ways that racial and cultural backgrounds of their students intersect with messaging around sexuality and gender to create diverse and unique pressures. “Students of color may have a hard time breaking out of their cultural norms to feel comfortable stepping into their true identities,” Joel explained, because they don’t have the safety of having a “white” identity to protect them.”

The teachers, attendance clerks, and social workers in the district had many “aha” moments during the training. “It seems to be easier for girls than boys. Why is that?” “I’m getting that the basic step of giving them the language and creating the space to talk about it is a critical step.” “It’s crazy that if you don’t conform to the gender box you are immediately targeted with an anti-gay label.”

Attendees each left with a Straightlaced DVD and curriculum guide but more importantly with a commitment from the district to support them in using the film in their schools. “We love GroundSpark’s films,” says Olivia Higgins, the district’s LGBT anti-bullying consultant. “This is great.”

Movement in Motorcity

Unknown 2Debra Chasnoff was the keynote speaker at the Michigan Sexual Orientation and Gender Issues in Education conference in March. Networking with district superintendents, state education officials, and Oakland University board of trustees and education department staff, Debra came away impressed with the determination of educators in the state to improve the way LGBT issues are handled in schools. “Michigan does not have basic non-discrimination laws in place, let alone enumerated anti-bullying legislation,” she says, “so it’s impressive to see the commitment for change despite the lack of government support.” Detroit City Council president Charles Pugh was very taken with Debra’s presentation, particularly the way that she addresses all the reasons why educators make excuses for not addressing homophobia in schools. “I’m going to get her to come back and meet with all the Detroit principals. This is a message they need to hear and delivered in a way that I know they can hear it."

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