Starting the School Year Off Right

It’s that time of year again! After two uninterrupted months of sunshine and sleeping in, thousands of students are groggily making their way back through the doors and into classrooms around the country. Whether they are just starting Kindergarten or finally beginning their senior year in high school, back-to-school anxiety can leave many students feeling scared and alone. Especially when a bully is thrown into that mix.

For many LGBT teens, back-to-school can also mean back to the teasing and bullying that was avoidable throughout the summer. Luckily for these students, there are a number of new policies and resources to make school a safer and more enjoyable environment for everyone. But it’s going to take more than just one person standing up to end the bullying epidemic that runs rampant through the halls. We all need to do our part to not only combat and eliminate bullying, but also to support those students who feel unsafe at school.

As an educator, one of the most heartbreaking sights is a student, alone and in tears, ducking classes or hiding in the bathroom to avoid a bully. In a place that is supposed to foster creativity and diversity, these students only find fear, hostility, and even violence. While bullying is addressed is many schools around this country, it takes more than a few lessons on respect to drill the point home: it takes parents, teachers, administrators, students, and the entire community standing up against bullying.

One of the greatest tools we have to eliminate LGBT harassment is open communication. Whatever your role, parent, babysitter, teacher, bus driver, coach, school liaison, or something in between, having a dialogue with young people and letting them know that you are a safe and trusted adult and ally is a great first step. Letting young people know that we do not and will not tolerate bullying and harassment and that we will stand beside them if an issue arises can go a long way to make schools safer for everyone.

While September usually means back-to-school sales, lots of homework, and those locker combinations you never seem to remember, if we do our part, it can also mean higher attendance rates and happier, more productive students. By supporting LGBT students and standing up to bullying and harassment, we can make sure that every young person gets the most out of his or her education.

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