Editors' note: Laura Matanah is the publisher and executive director of Rainbow Rumpus, an online magazine for kids and teens with LGBT parents. She is also a former elementary school teacher. If you're at the Creating Change conference today, you can catch her 3 p.m. workshop, "Bullied at the Ballot Box: Fighting Back with New Messages About Kids and Families."
On the 100th day of school:
- Students nationwide celebrate the 100 things they've learned with the help of dedicated teachers.
- Schools receive funding for every student who has attended for 100 days.
- Hundreds of young people have endured a daily torrent of anti-gay bullying. (To be more accurate, they've been bullied based on their real or perceived gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender identities or sexual orientations of the people they associate with - this language is important to have in laws and policies because it covers the full range of reasons students are bullied - because of who they are, who their friends or family members are, or who people think they are.)
As we work together to create safe school climates, it's important to recognize that schools are not the enemy. Teachers, administrators, and district leaders all know that students need to feel safe to learn and are focused on creating positive school climates. The vast majority want to create these climates for all of their students. The question is, "How can we help?"
In the next hundred days, there are simple steps we can take that can save the lives of hundreds of young people.
Students can reach out to fellow students who feel isolated. They can confront kids who are bullying others, tell adults about the problem, and create and spread positive messages through projects like GLSEN's Creative Expression Contest.
Parents can educate themselves and their children about cyberbullying. They can actively support schools' efforts to end bullying, support LGBT students, and support LGBT families. If they live in districts where school personnel are making anti-gay remarks or refusing to address the issues, they can speak up and be a voice for LGBT youth and LGBT families.
Citizens can support laws and policies such as the Student Non-Discrimination Act, and the Safe Schools Improvement Act that will assist schools in eliminating harassment based on how students, their friends, or their parents identify.
School personnel can start educating early by using resources like AMAZE's Families All Matter Curriculum, the Welcoming Schools curriculum, and Rainbow Rumpus's printable picture books. Those who work with youth can create opportunities for student leadership in anti-bullying efforts.
Students, families, and the greater community have shed hundreds of tears over the tragic suicides of so many of our LGBT youth. Together, in the next 100 days, we can take the hundreds of actions that will ensure that all students - those who are LGBT, those with LGBT friends, those with LGBT parents, those who don't fit into neat gender boxes, and those who do - can spend every school day in a safe space, doing what they should be: learning.