Properly executed, they can be mutually reinforcing.” NEA, in turn, promises to provide those caring adults with the resources they need to provide solace and support for the bullied student, ask the right questions, and take the appropriate actions needed to stop the bullying. School staff and counselors were even told by the administration that they could not address LGBT issues with students, even if a student approached them with questions. “The district sent out a directive basically saying that if students came up to us in the elementary setting and discussed having two moms or two dads, we could not affirm that or talk to them about that,” Beck says. “So that’s where my role as the school counselor came in, because I found that incredibly unethical.” Beck reached out to a number of state and national organizations to help combat the district’s new policies. These caring adults will agree to listen carefully to the bullied student who comes to them. While the district still maintained its ban, Beck was able to successfully get family diversity resources returned to the counseling offices of schools across the district. In the past, because a higher percentage were immigrants, language proficiency was obviously a challenge.” Ponjuan and other experts stress that improvements in the dropout rate, however encouraging, paint at best an incomplete picture that doesn’t address the complexity of the issues facing students of color. It wasn’t that long ago that the words ‘dropout’ and ‘crisis’ seemed permanently intertwined, so this trend is encouraging news. They know homophobic behavior is wrong, but without a clear policy, they don’t know how parents, the community, or even the administration will react if they make an issue out of it.” He says it’s clear that all educators want to create a space where everyone can learn – no matter what their personal values might be.
He also recommends that educators minimize harassing language and attitudes that can lead to more severe bullying with a three-step process he calls, “Name it, claim it, stop it.” What about when a student says “fag” or “that’s so gay”? Russell says educators should explain that there are gay and lesbian students in their school, that they deserve the same respect as everyone else, and that kind of language is not acceptable and cannot happen again. “That’s why the policy is so important,” Russell says. “So educators know someone has their back when they intervene. Census Bureau that the high school dropout rate has fallen to a record low. In our study we see the effects of school victimization up to a decade later or more. His efforts paid off. The decline in the dropout rate for African Americans has also been significant. Russell, who is also the president-elect of the Society for Research on Adolescence, helps schools and educators with anti-bullying strategies.
Luis Ponjuan, an associate professor of educational administration and policy at Texas A&M University, agrees but says other factors also help explain the steep decline in dropouts. The ban extended to all GLSEN materials, family-inclusive reading materials, and the district’s schools’ participation in the widely endorsed and GLSEN-backed No-Name Calling Week. Beck acknowledges that it’s an ongoing fight to ensure that the school community does not marginalize students and families because of their differences, but he knows that it’s worth it. Some experts believe, for example, that a focus on building student resilience and tenacity provides another excuse for education leaders to ignore more fundamental problems – lack of access to critical resources and supports, for example – facing public schools in disadvantaged areas. “I’m not hearing in the conversation acknowledgments of the effect poverty, income inequality and the opportunity gap has on student achievement,” says Pedro Noguera, professor of education at New York University. “All the grit in the world can’t compensate for the obstacles that face so many students in low income communities.” In addition, a new report on student motivation by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching pours a little cold water on some of Duckworth’s findings. Pew also speculated that Hispanic students and their families recognize that staying in school and perhaps moving onto college is critical, especially in this very tight job market.
The authors of the study, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Adolescent School Victimization: Implications for Young Adult Health and Adjustment (published in the Journal of School Health), say that it clearly demonstrates the importance of addressing and preventing LGBT victimization in schools and emphasizes the need for anti-bullying legislation to help protect this vulnerable population of students. “We now have evidence of the lasting personal and social cost of failing to make our schools safe for all students,” says lead author, Stephen T. When kids from marginalized groups see themselves in the curriculum, it’s a key predictor in their success. In 2013, just 7 percent of 18-24 year olds dropped out of school, down considerably from 12 percent in 2000. He says the question he gets most often from educators is, “What can I do?” “They wonder how they can really make a difference in the complicated lives of teenagers,” he says, “and what I try to help them understand is that they can make a huge difference by showing that they care.” He points to a young person from a very small town in California who said that when he heard an adult say the word “gay” in a way that wasn’t derisive, it made a very positive difference in his life at school. He was also able to spearhead his school’s continued participation in No-Name Calling Week, leading to a successful week of anti-bullying efforts to help teach students about the power of their words. That adult was his teacher. By providing students with the resources and guidance that they deserve from their educators, Beck believes that an entire school community can, and will, benefit. “It creates a positive environment, and It affirms students for who they are,” Beck says. “The research clearly demonstrates that students will have so much more success in schools if there is an environment that fosters acceptance of others.” New research has found that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students who are severely bullied in middle and high school carry serious health and mental health problems into young adulthood, including depression, suicide attempts, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and risk for HIV.
Working closely with GLSEN, The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, and the Illinois Education Association, Beck took on his district’s hardline stance on GLBT issues. As we recognize Matthew as our Educator of the Year, we not only celebrate his commitment and perseverance in doing what’s best for his students, but we thank him for being such a steadfast partner in our work.” Beck’s advocacy began in 2012, after the Erie Community Unity School District school board banned all elementary school resources that taught respect for all students, including efforts to address bullying associated with anti-LGBT name-calling. At the GLSEN Respect Awards in New York City, Beck shared the stage alongside actor Kevin Bacon and NBA basketball player Jason Collins. “In our efforts to ensure that every school is a safe learning environment for all students, GLSEN relies a great deal on the commitment and partnership of local educators,” Dr. And when the school continued it’s ban on GLBT-oriented reading materials, Beck organized out-of-school family reading nights to bring students and parents together who valued the effectiveness of these tools. While Beck was able to make a meaningful difference in his school and district community, the district has still not lifted its ban on all GLBT resources. Learn more at nea.org/bullyfree.
On the heels of the good news about the U.S. graduation rate comes word from the U.S. Even after Beck was recognized as GLSEN’s Teacher of the Year, the district would not acknowledge Beck’s award and told teachers they could not discuss it with their students. And as the Pew Research Center pointed out in its analysis of the data, “the decline in the size of the Hispanic dropout population has been particularly noteworthy because it’s happened at the same time that the Hispanic youth population is growing.” Dropouts have decreased even as the population has almost doubled from 2000-2013. Ponjuan has written extensively on the challenges facing Latino youth in secondary and higher education. “Schools are making a better effort to engage with parents in helping them understand why students need to complete their education,” Ponjuan explains. “So we’re seeing some benefits of that effort.” Ponjuan, however, also points to the “greater sense of awareness” across the educational system about Latino students. “In the past few years, folks have recognized that these students are representing a larger and larger part of our community and that we need to create a better mechanism to address their unique needs.” Greater language proficiency on the part of the large number of second generation immigrants has also played a role in bringing the dropout rate down, explains Ponjuan. “We have a lot of Latinos that are not immigrants who are part of our system. The dropout rate for Non-Hispanic Whites has not been as dramatic. On May 20th, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a national organization that focuses on providing safe schools for all students, recognized Matthew Beck—a school counselor at Erie Elementary School in Erie, Illinois—as its 2013 Educator of the Year. Dr.
It is clear that there are public health costs to LGBT-based bullying over the long-term.” The authors examined school victimization of 245 LGBT young adults, ages 21 to 25. According to GLSEN, “The Educator of the Year award recognizes an exceptional education professional who has enriched his or her community by ensuring that all students, particularly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, are safe from bullying and harassment.” Beck, a member of the Illinois Education Association, was honored for the extraordinary efforts he took in his own school and district to foster an environment that was supportive of all students. They can incorporate LGBT issues into curriculum, by studying an LGBT poet in literature, for example, or an important figure in history. Robert McGarry, GLSEN’s Director of Education, said in a statement. “Matthew’s story reminds us of how incredibly challenging the work of these partners can be in many places. They cite an analysis by the University of Texas that found “grit taps into highly effective learning in a structured environment, but not necessarily in someone who thrives on different interests,” including writing, visual arts, and even scientific ingenuity.
In 2000, 32 percent of Hispanic students left school. LGBT males were bullied more than LGBT females, and those who were victimized in were 5.6 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.6 times more likely to report a suicide attempt that required medical care, 2.6 times more likely to report clinical levels of depression, and more than twice as likely to have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease and to report risk for HIV infection, compared with peers homework market who weren’t bullied. Russell, Ph.D., a professor of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Arizona. “Prior studies have shown that school victimization of LGBT adolescents affects their health and mental health. Although the dropout rate remains the highest for Hispanic students, the decline in that demographic was the most startling. He says educators should set expectations about bullying at the beginning of the year and explain what the school policy is.
What kind of education, for example, are they actually receiving? Furthermore, although college enrollment for Hispanics has improved in recent years, they’re still far behind in earning four-year college degrees. Unfortunately, as she is now finding out, her research is in danger of being appropriated by policymakers who have bad ideas but no grasp of nuance. “I’m hearing about school district superintendents getting very interested in things like character and grit, and wanting to evaluate teachers based on them,” Duckworth recently told National Public Radio. “I feel like the enthusiasm is getting ahead of the science.” But critics say that the grit discussion is troublesome on a much broader scale. Educators can also help establish Gay-Straight Alliances at their schools, which says to students that their school is safe, open and accepting. Still, Headden and McKay believe that the examination of how specific non-cognitive traits affect achievement should not be dismissed. “Society cannot ignore the underlying problems of poverty and other toxic stresses in the hope that simply working hard and getting “gritty” disadvantaged students will be able to surmount the serious hurdles that such problems present,” they write. “But these missions are not mutually exclusive.
What Else Can Educators Do? Russell says educators can also support federal policies, such as The Safe Schools Improvement Act and The Student Non-Discrimination Act, to help provide guidance for dealing with anti-LGBT actions and bullying. “We have really good research that finds that laws and policies create an environment where principals feel like they have guidance and support, and teachers feel like they have policy on their side when they intervene,” says Russell. Authors Susan Headden and Sara McKay highlight the limitations of the very specialized environments (spelling bee finalists, for example) in which Duckworth tested the Grit Scale. Even educators who don’t feel comfortable with openly LGBT students most likely still want them to be safe from harassment and physical harm and to do well in school. “It’s about providing an education for all children,” Russell says. They will also agree to take action to stop the bullying.
But the most important thing an educator can do is to care. “It may seem like a no big deal, but the most resilient kids who experienced bullying said that the one thing that helped them was a single caring adult who cared for them even though they didn’t have to,” Russell says. _________________________________________________ The National Education Association’s “Bully Free: It Starts With Me ” campaign aims to identify caring adults in schools and communities who are willing to help bullied students. They found that LGBT young adults who were victimized in school because of their sexual identity reported much higher health and adjustment problems, while students with low levels of school victimization had higher self-esteem and life satisfaction as young adults. By 2013, that figure had fallen to 14 percent.