For teachers and students alike, May means the beginning of the end. The school year is winding down, SAT’s are done and over with, and both prom and graduation are mere weeks away. While the final weeks of school can be difficult, they also bring with them the hope for a better tomorrow, for a world where people are not bullied. For too many LGBT young people, the mere mention of school makes them retreat and hide, being forced to deny who they are and constantly having to look over their shoulders. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where that fear is replaced by love and acceptance, where words of encouragement and support are thrown around instead of hate and bigotry? If we all work together, we can make that dream a reality.
While schools around the country have made great strides to protect this nation’s youth from bullying and harassment, there is still a lot of work to be done. Zero Tolerance policies need to be reviewed and revamped; teachers and administrators need to be trained in how to spot, stop, and combat bullying, especially cyber bullying; and parents need to understand the true effect bullying and harassment has on victims. Those might seem like daunting tasks, but they are ones that need to be implemented and enforced if students are going to be able to feel safe at school.
Thankfully, we educators don’t have to take these tasks on ourselves. With the backing of the Department of Education, which has recently released a final draft of school improvement plans that now includes specific goals to help protect LGBT students, school districts around the country now have an extremely powerful ally in the fight to end bullying. Throw in the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act, both of which have been publicly endorsed by President Obama and will be voted on this year by Congress, and it seems like this country is definitely headed in the right direction.
And while the end of the school year is quickly approaching, the end to LGBT bullying could be within our sights as well. If we all work together and take a stand against bullying, harassment, and discrimination, our schools will be better off and our students will finally be able to walk into school with their heads held high and be proud of who they are.