Schools are often hostile environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. Nearly 9 in 10 LGBT students report experiencing harassment within the last school year, and 3 in 10 report missing a class – or even a whole day of school – because they felt unsafe.
It’s critical that we work to build environments of acceptance that ensure all students can be out, safe, and respected in school. At One Colorado, our efforts to do just that are directed by research that shows three critical strategies to creating a safe environment:
- A comprehensive anti-bullying policy
- An active Gay-Straight Alliance
- The presence of supportive and understanding teachers
In the winter of 2010, One Colorado called upon the Governor and 2011-2012 legislature to immediately address the problem of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools. We were joined in this call by every major education organization in the state, including the Colorado Association of School Boards, the Colorado Association of School Executives, the Colorado Education Association, and the American Federation of Teachers-Colorado.
A bipartisan group of Representatives and Senators answered our call, introducing legislation to reduce bullying in schools. This bill, which was signed into law in May 2011, explicitly protects LGBT students from the harassment, name-calling, and violence that they so often face in school.
In the months following passage of the legislation, we conducted a scan of school district policies to determine which districts had implemented LGBT-inclusive bullying prevention policies, as required by state law. The results of our scan, which we released on the one-year anniversary of the new law, revealed that only 37% of school districts were in compliance with state law.
To ensure full implementation of the 2011 anti-bullying law, we will work with school districts to enact LGBT-inclusive policies that protect all Colorado students.
Youth Empowerment & GSA Development
In August of 2011, One Colorado launched the Colorado GSA Network, a program to empower lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) students in Colorado. Many young people are eager and ready to create real change in their schools, and we’re working with them to do just that.
The work of the Colorado GSA Network focuses on supporting the development and programming of Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), student run clubs that are proven to combat bullying and harassment against LGBTQ students and their allies. The Network also creates leadership and networking opportunities for students involved with GSAs and provides tools, training, and resources for the growth of GSAs.
Since the start of the Colorado GSA Network, we’ve grown the number of GSAs by 63 percent. Watch this video to learn more about how we’re empowering LGBTQ students and growing GSAs statewide.
Learn more about the Colorado GSA Network at www.cogsanetwork.org.
Trained educators who know how to respond to the needs of LGBT young people are vital to ensuring that schools are safe. Most teachers, counselors, and administrators want to help LGBT students, but they’re unsure how to react when a student comes out or experiences harassment.
To help train educators on how to better serve LGBT youth, we’ve developed a series of trainings on issues including laws and policies protecting students, bullying prevention and intervention, and transgender youth.
Through our partnerships with statewide education associations, during the 2011-2012 school year, we’ve trained more than 1,600 educators.
- Guidance for Educators Working with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students
- Make It Safe: A Resource Guide for Students Combating Bullying, Homophobia, and Transphobia in Schools
- Get It Started: A Guide for Developing Gay-Straight Alliances
- Build It Up: A Guide for Creating Effective GSA Programming