To raise awareness and provide support to local school districts that want to help prevent bullying—particularly against students who are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer—the Human Rights Campaign
and the YWCA
partnered to lead the second annual Greater Cincinnati Anti-Bullying Summit in February.
According to Kristin Shrimplin, HRC Diversity & Inclusion co-chair and director of the Family Violence Prevention Project for the YWCA, bullying prevention has been “on the front page for educators to pay attention to,” but there’s a gap in the community. Schools have been trying to prevent an issue without acknowledging that LGBTQ students are at the forefront.
“I think they were just too scared to really examine some of the ways the kids were threatening other kids—either verbally or physically—and all those words or actions were based around homophobia and gender stereotyping,” Shrimplin says.
According to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s 2011 National School Climate Survey
, eight out of 10 LGBT students were harassed at school, while more than 60 percent felt unsafe and nearly 30 percent missed a day of school because of safety concerns.
“That was a huge issue for us,” Shrimplin says. “So we said we can talk about these issues, but we need to offer solutions.”
So the organizations brought 170 educators together to work toward finding better ways of addressing these predicaments within their schools.
, which is a national HRC project, was the primary focus at the event, as it is the only evidence-based curriculum available to schools that is inclusive of LGBT issues, ensuring all students, regardless of sexual preference or gender identity, receive a quality education and feel comfortable in their educational environments.
“It’s very comprehensive, and it offers tools, lessons and resources, and it focuses from a very young age on what family diversity can look like,” Shrimplin says. “As we discuss all the different types of family structures, we also include that just as a grandmother may be raising her grandchildren, let’s show that there can be two moms or two dads raising a child.”
In addition to incorporating discussions about LGBTQ acceptance in the curriculum and providing teachers with ways to address and eliminate name-calling, Welcoming Schools also encourages schools to enumerate their policies on an administrative level.
“If you name it, you can really claim it,” Shrimplin says. “Put it in your policy that homophobic bullying, harassment and intimidation against students perceived to be LGBTQ or harassed because maybe their parents might be, is not allowed at the school.”
At the local level, Oyler
is the first school to have implemented the program within its buildings.
“In Cincinnati, you have to understand that’s huge because it was just a few years ago that we had a law on our city books called Article XII, and it had been there for over a decade and it literally said you are prohibited from passing a law to protect individuals who are perceived to be LGBT,” Shrimplin says. “But we had a waiting list of vice principals trying to get in to the Summit, and it really told us that the schools involved are ready—they’re ready to address this.”
• Support LGBTQ ally programs in schools, and let people know you care for and accept them. Contact the local chapter of GLSEN
, and get involved.
• Contact Kristin Shrimplin
or a Welcoming Schools expert
if you are a school that is interested in the project.
• Encourage your local school district to implement inclusive language and to enumerate its policy regarding the prevention of LGBTQ bullying. Contact GLSEN
if you need assistance or support.
By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a teacher at the Regional Institute of Torah and Secular Studies. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.