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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 21, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 42
Students pledge to be allies against anti-LGBT bullying
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Students pledge to be allies against anti-LGBT bullying

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) announced Monday the beginning of GLSENs Ally Week, with more than 2,000 middle and high schools in all 50 states and nine countries taking a pledge to oppose anti-LGBT bullying.

Students founded Ally Week in 2005 as an opportunity for Gay-Straight Alliances and similar student clubs to recognize and encourage people to be allies against anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in their schools and local communities.

Ally Week is important because it seeks to identify, celebrate, and support a vital group within the LGBT community that fulfills a unique purpose in the quest for safe and more inclusive schools, said Carly Friends, a 13-year-old student from Sahuarita, Ariz. Every day, allies offer a much-needed support system to LGBT youth. They speak up for people who, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, do not feel safe doing so themselves. And as a straight ally myself, I cannot stress enough how important this week of action is.

Students participate in Ally Week from Oct. 17 to 21 in a variety of ways, including taking the Ally Week pledge by signing a pledge card in their school or online at www.allyweek.org.

Signers of the Ally Week pledge agree: to not use anti-LGBT language or slurs; to intervene in situations where students are being harassed; to support efforts to end bullying and harassment; and to encourage others to be allies.

While Ally Week is a student-focused event, students have invited their principals, counselors, teachers, and other school staff to participate.

In partnership with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), GLSEN encouraged Ally Week participants to take part in Spirit Day on Oct. 20 as a part of the weeklong event. Spirit Day encourages individuals to take a stand against anti-LGBT bullying and show support for LGBT youth. Spirit Day participants are encouraged to wear purple.

According to the GLSEN 2009 National School Climate Survey, nearly nine out of 10 LGBT students experience harassment at school each year because of their sexual orientation and nearly two-thirds because of their gender expression. Findings also revealed that 61.1% felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and 39.9% because of how they expressed their gender.

Sadly, we know that anti-LGBT bullying has severe consequences on a students chance to excel in school, GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. Allies play a significant role in creating safe learning environments for LGBT students. GLSENs Ally Week invites people to shape a culture where all students feel safe, valued, and respected, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, 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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