Don’t wait until your district is reacting to a suicide.
Prevent tragedy Through ensuring YOUR school is keeping ALL kids safe! Be sure to scroll down to find helpful links for Educators, students and parents
Although we all experience or observe forms of bullying on a daily basis, and which is so prevalent in our culture, our schools are a place we can make a difference. Like many teachers, I noticed a marked decrease in empathy in my students and an increase in bullying, over the three years I was teaching. My school was not an exception. This is a huge problem across the nation. Collectively we have a cultural problem of bullying (especially on social media) and of discrimination - in all of its harmful forms. However, in our schools we have an opportunity to make this different. Through our schools and our classrooms we can foster kindness and empathy.
Accountability is needed from the upper levels of the State Office of Education. Currently, in states such as Utah, it doesn’t exist and is a situation of voluntary compliance. This means that in many states they are not doing enough to protect ALL students. Find out what your state stats are for bullying and suicide, as well as the state requirements. This information is needed to determine where change needs to happen. Scroll down to Steps For Creating Change in Your School.
Real change must also happen at the state school board level - go to the State Advocacylink to learn more!
The following are steps are designed to help you in creating change in your school district. Some state laws make elements of the Necessary Components impossible… for instance, in Texas, it is illegal to have mental health therapists in schools (or was at the time of writing this). Many laws are biased and rooted in lack of knowledge, or in willful ignorance of evidence and information. Together we must demand that the safety of ALL of our students in our schools… this requires a thorough examination of the laws and policies in place, in every state and in every school.
Many people, who are in positions of power, do not want to face the data. Truly safe schools for ALL requires leaders that are willing to embrace the difficult and often challenging dialogue around issues the data. This is particularly true regarding the compounded risks faced by LGBTQIA youth. We can’t avoid this dialogue. Avoidance is one reason why our youth suicide rates are climbing across the nation; which is especially true in states most resistant to facing what the data tells us. If your state or school is resistant to gathering data (it is quite easy to do anonymously), educate them about how important data is to find solutions and the risks of ignoring it or dismissing it. A thorough look at the data is required if we truly want to know and address how kids are feeling and what they are experiencing.
For specific ways TEACHERS can work to promote change in their classrooms and schools, go to the bottom of the solutionspage.
**STEPS FOR CREATING CHANGE**
Step 1: Educate Yourself
The links on the data page offer critical information which you will need to effectively evaluate your school and request change in your schools if needed. It is extremely common for schools to need to make change. Quite rare if they don't and quite likely they may have something helpful in place, yet may not be implementing it effectively or successfully. Every school can do better and should always be striving for that. Especially when it comes to keeping ALL students safe.
Go to the DATA page to educate yourself about the situation faced by LGBTQIA youth in schools.
ALL links an be found there. There are many but the data and the solutions contained within them are crucial to success.
Step 2 : Gather information
Go to your school district website. Look for the following:
Surveys and results
posted policies on safety
Policies on discrimination and LGBTQIA youth
Copy of the discipline matrix
bullying, cyberbullying and hazing
training required of staff and frequency-- note often these are online, poor quality or simply not in any depth -- ask for information on training.
Accountability and transparency
**NOTE: If you can’t find these, call your district and ask where they can be found. **
Call your district and ask about:
The Necessary Components - if and how they are addressing each part
path of recourse for any parent, student or staff member feeling procedures are not being followed or addressed
**ACCESSIBILITY is important if a district is transparent and open about what is happening. If you have trouble accessing the information ask for help with accessibility, or encourage your school to make this information more easily accessible on their website.
Step 3: Review data - determine strengths/weaknesses
In reviewing the above policies and practices, determine if they contain theNecessary Components and how they compare with the links in the data. Are they using recommended policies and practices? Are they surveying students anonymously to determine the local school culture? If so what are they doing with this information? How are they responding? Are they incorporating mindfulness or Resorative Justice Programs? Do teachers get regularly trained on bullying and suicide prevention practices that are up to date with newest standards for efficacy? Is the training live or online? Do they have licensed therapists in each school? How are schools holding all staff accountable for non-discrimination and for how they respond to and handle bullying when they see it? Those are just a few of the questions which can be fostered by comparing with the Necessary Components list.
If they are not implementing them, talk with school board members and ask them to adopt and incorporate them. After comparing with the best practices outlined, ask them to adopt where lacking. Utilize the resources on the DATA page to educate your school administration and school board.
Emphasize that the Necessary Components are critical to keeping ALL students safe. Until these are included and successfully being practiced, students are not safe, especially ANY marginalized students.
Step 4: Demonstrate the NEED - Ask victims to share their story
Find parents in your area who have experienced suicide, attempted suicide or bullying/cyberbullying/hazing.
Respectfully ask them if they would be willing to share their story with the school board to support the request for change/action.
Highlight areas of policy and procedure which led to the experiences of those who have suffered from bullying.
Suggest changes policies and practices as a solution to the problem. Refer them to theResourcelinks and the specific links on this page.
Ask your board to be committed to the safety and well being of LGBTQIA students. Ask them to demonstrate this through making needed changes to policies and/or implementing theNecessary Components.
Step 5: Find others who care/work together for change
If your school board is reluctant or resistant to adopting the Necessary Components, find others who recognize and care about the problems of bullying, suicide and high-risk factors faced by LGBTQIA youth.
Form or join a coalition or committee focused on these issues.
Make requests for change public -- get media support to be sure your community knows how to get involved and be supportive.
Don’t give up. We have a culturally embedded problem and shifting this will require determination and diligence.
Be prepared to educate your board on the reasons it is critical to adopt these changes. Or bring in a speaker to do this.
There are many consulting companies who will help with this. Again go to theResources page for more info!
Step 6: Peer to Peer support groups and campaigns
Find a student group willing to get trained and to implement a peer to peer prevention and support group
**a natural part of human development, this period of differentiation includes a tendency for adolescents to “deal with it" on their own. Peer to peer advocacy is extremely powerful in working to shift the culture.
Ask your student government, members of National Honor Society, GSAs (Gay, Straight Alliances) to start these programs in your schools. One or all of these groups would be a good place to start. Peer support and buy-in are critical to changing the culture in schools. Students listen to one another more than the adults around them. They are also more likely to report to and confide in their peers.
Ask GSAs or other peer to peer support group to start a Choose Kindness Campaign selling signs to students and the community to raise awareness, raise funds for these programs or funds to bring a guest speaker to educate your community.
Well trained peer support groups can stop bullying, prevent suicide and foster a community and culture of kindness
Step 7: Make support visible to students
If no GSAs (Gay/Straight Alliances) exist in your school - ask the school to start them. Also, ensure that LGBTQ+ school staff feel safe to be out and visible. Students need to see role models in schools.
** GSAs give hope and empowerment to LGBTQIA youth **
ONLINE training is NOT sufficient and is ineffective.
Qualitative training MUST include in person, customized training for each town/district. Educators/staff must be able to ask specific questions and work through how to handle examples of what they are seeing in a way that is effective. One effective program listed below in Resources.
Training must be modernized and address the online and social media elements of bullying. What has been done in the past is NOT working. These children are facing a whole new world that we must address.
In the days after Lily's suicide, someone who is part of the office staff was overheard stating that they were bullied as children and survived, and "these kids need to toughen up." This is a clear example of how out of touch many people working in schools are about the radically different world kids face today. They need to be trained, they clearly need to build their own compassion and empathy and they are likely discriminating. The person who said this is widely known by students as picking favorites, discriminating against any LGBTQIA student and creating a hostile environment in the office - thus adding to the problem of kids not feeling safe to report.
MORE UPDATED RESOURCES COMING SOON!!
Mindfulness programs are proven to be beneficial to everyone. In schools they effectively reduce bullying and many other behavioral issues. In addition they are a critical part of improving school cultures, fostering greater self awareness, respect, responsibility, kindness, managing stress and resiliency. Being tied to understanding our emotions and the brain, they are easily supported and imbedded in cross-curriculum content such as science class. This company offers excellent training and support services at a price that is feasible. MindUP
The Trevor Project:
This is an organization doing critical work in suicide prevention specifically for LGBTQIA youth.
This program has been proven to be 98% effective. It is not yet in the US but we can ask for it. Contact your state suicide prevention coordinator, congressperson, bullying.gov and ask that they bring it to the US!!