“The White House named GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, a Champion of Change for the organization’s two decades of pioneering work to fight bullying, violence and stigma directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in K-12 schools, and its contributions to efforts to prevent suicide among at-risk youth.”
The “Champions of Change Series: Winning the Future Across America” is a White House initiative that honors Americans and organizations making an impact in issues of critical importance to the nation and helping it address today’s challenges.
Last week, Eliza Byard, the executive director of GLSEN and public policy manager Alison Gill were invited to the White House to meet with representatives from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services. The meeting also included eight other award recipients. They discussed their initiatives and shared the best way to practice the ideas.
“This White House honor recognizes the amazing work that the staff, volunteers and student leaders of GLSEN have done for more than two decades to alert the nation to the ways that anti-LGBT bias in our schools is a serious barrier to both educational excellence and individual well-being. My colleagues and I are dedicated to identifying and implementing solutions to the problem that work for schools and for students, instilling hope and staving off despair. It is so gratifying to gain this kind of recognition for our efforts to create better, safer schools for all.”
GLSEN is most widely known for beginning the first gay-straight alliances in schools. But they do so much more. The organization works to reduce anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and violence in K –12 schools
One of their successful programs is called The Safe Space Campaign…a program that promotes visible support for LGBT students in American middle and high schools. Their goal is to place a Safe Space Kit in all middle and high school in the United States. The kits contain Safe Space stickers and posters along with a guide for steps that individual school staff members can take to build support for vulnerable students and reduce anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) bullying and harassment in their school.
According to their website:
GLSEN’s proven programs and initiatives have earned the organization the partnership of most major national education associations, including the American Association of School Administrators, the National School Boards Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Education Association. GLSEN is also a member of the National Human Service Assembly and its National Collaboration for Youth, ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative, and the America’s Promise Alliance.
In November of 2010, Clay appeared in a video for GLSEN to promote the “Safe Space” kits for schools.
Clay also visited Washington DC in November, 2010. He spoke in support of two important bills that were coming up for votes. He spoke in a public forum to Senators Bob Casey and Al Franken and Representatives Jared Polis and Linda Sanchez. Clay said:
I never had someone who told me that it was OK to be different…that it was okay to be me. What I did hear was that it would get better once I was out of high school…that things would get better. But from where I sat, I could not possibly believe that to be true. We need federal leadership from Congress to encourage all states and districts and each and every school to create safe learning environments where all students can learn and succeed.
GLSEN and Clay Aiken make a great partnership. They both work hard to make sure that all students are valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
CONGRATULATIONS TO GLSEN! The honor is most deserved!
For more information, visit the GLSEN website.