The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) works to educate teachers, students and the public at large about the damaging effects bias-based harassment has on youth and adults alike. GLSEN recognize that forces such as racism and sexism have huge impacts on communities, and so they support schools in seeking to redress all such inequities.

GLSEN helps to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution of everyone, which creates a more vibrant and diverse community. Much of the material Inside Out Youth Services uses in its work with school teachers, counselors and other staff is based on the extensive research done at GLSEN. Making the overall climate safer for ALL students means being inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities/expressions.

Why is GLSEN nationally and Inside Out Youth Services locally committed to seeing this philosophy realized in K-12 schools?

A just released report from GLSEN called Strengths and Silences helps LGBT youths in rural or small towns from unsafe school climates. Especially in rural communities, unsafe school climates contribute to poorer grade point averages (GPAs), absenteeism and lowered aspirations to pursue post-secondary education.

The research found rural schools both physically isolating but also isolating for the LGBT youths themselves. According to the report, LGBT youth attending rural schools have limited access to LGBT-related resources, including inclusive curricula, supportive educators, enumerated anti-bulling/harassment policies and access to student clubs commonly known as Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs).

One student made a comment about his experience. “As bad as bullying can be at all schools, it seems to be amplified in the South and magnified in rural communities,” said Morgan Yeager, a high school freshman from Portland, Tennessee. “It still seems impossible for me to be openly transgender. I am fearful of the responses I will get from the people in my school community. But GLSEN has given me the materials and strength to work for change in my community.”

GLSEN reports on their website that for the last 25 years, harassment has grown for the youth of the rural areas. You can find the full report here.

I am glad GLSEN is working on changing young people’s lives and keeping them safe and comfortable in school. It will make a better path for any student. I am really glad that there is a nationwide survey to find out just how safe schools are for any student, but especially for LGBT students because bullying for them is so bad.

Everyone wants to be safe, and we deserve the one place where we spend so much time as young people to be a safe place. Because of Inside Out, I have learned about GLSEN and how they are changing things for the better for LGBT youth and families living in small towns. After reading the brief report about rural and small town’s school climates and the possible physical and verbal injuries that happen to LGBT youth, it made glad GLSEN and Inside Out are doing something to make it better.

It’s nice to have some help when no one has any way of saying “We need HELP!”

Rose Mason,
Inside/Out Youth Services Intern