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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 25, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 12
GLSEN launches new program to address LGBT issues in K-12 sports
Section One
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GLSEN launches new program to address LGBT issues in K-12 sports

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

In an effort to make K-12 sports and physical education safer and more inclusive for all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) and a diverse coalition of athletes, journalists, and sports figures launched 'Changing the Game: The GLSEN Sports Project' on March 17.

'I am really excited to be working with GLSEN to create a sports project that will help to make sports and physical education a great experience for every student, no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression,' said GLSEN Sports Project Director Pat Griffin, former director of It Takes a Team Education Campaign for LGBT Issues in Sport at the Women's Sports Foundation.

According to GLSEN officials, the list of Advisory Group and All-Star supporters includes Hall of Fame, Olympic and National Champion athletes, award-winning journalists, former college athletic directors, and current professional, college, and high school coaches.

Among them: Hall of Fame tennis players Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova; ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com columnist LZ Granderson; Olympic softball medalists Jessica Mendoza and Lauren Lappin; current NFL player Scott Fujita and former NFL player Wade Davis; WNBA player Candice Wiggins; Toronto Maple Leafs President and General Manager Brian Burke; National Center for Lesbian Rights Sports Project Director Helen Carroll; three-time All-American wrestler Hudson Taylor; Outsports.com co-founder Cyd Zeigler; WNBA coach Lin Dunn; Rugby player Ben Cohen; former MLB player Billy Bean; and former NBA player John Amaechi.

With few existing resources or programs designed to address homophobia and Transphobia in K-12 sports, Changing the Game fills a critical gap and adds a vital new dimension to GLSEN's work to create a world in which every child learns to accept and respect all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

Nearly nine out of 10 LGBT youth (84.6%) said they'd experienced harassment in school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and nearly two-thirds (63.7%) were harassed because of their gender expression, according to GLSEN's 2009 National School Climate Survey. Additionally, 61.1% said they felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.

When asked if there were particular spaces at school they avoided because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable, 35.7% of LGBT student said locker rooms - the highest percentage of any place at school.

'GLSEN is committed to the principle that all students should have equal access to the services, supports and opportunities of a K-12 education,' GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. 'Changing the Game is designed to help schools, coaches, athletes, and families create a healthy atmosphere of respect in PE classes and competitive athletics. Sports and PE were a central part of my life growing up, and are critical for student health and wellbeing. Every child today should have the opportunity to participate fully and safely in every aspect of school life.'

GLSEN's Changing the Game website (http://sports.glsen.org) features a collection of 'Game Plan' resources for athletes, athletic administrators, coaches, and parents; a Game Changer video project (youtube.com/GLSENsports) to raise awareness about people making a difference in the sports world every day; and the Team Respect Challenge pledge for teams to commit to treat all teammates with respect.

Additional Changing the Game programs will be introduced in the coming months.

The program also will highlight the important work student-athletes are already doing across the country to promote a simple theme that is at the heart of Changing the Game said officials.

'The sporting world is a place where many children and teens grow into the person they will become,' said Brad Usselman, a cross country athlete at Skyview High School in Vancouver, Washington, and a blogger along with two other high school LGBT athletes at http://bradrobertben.wordpress.com. 'Acceptance needs to be promoted so that we can foster a generation that does not care if someone is LGBT. They look past the fact of someone's sexuality and instead try to see who the person truly is.'

GLSEN is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs, and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.

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GLSEN launches new program to address LGBT issues in K-12 sports
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