Spirit Day, on October 17, takes place during National Bullying Prevention Month. It’s a day when people wear purple clothing to stand proudly with LGBTQ youth and speak out against bullying.
The facts are staggering: 70 percent of LGBTQ students report being verbally harassed at school; more than 50 percent of LGBTQ students do not feel safe at school because of their sexual orientation, and 71 percent of LGBTQ students report of hearing homophobic remarks from staff members at school.
This is the reality many of our youth face every day, and it reminds us of the work our communities still need to do to protect them.
However, there are also significant shifts in the way LGBTQ youth and allies are facing these challenges. The Los Angeles LGBT Center’s school-based programs, Community Action Network (CAN) Program and OUT for Safe Schools, are witness to how some of our LGBTQ youth and allies are mobilizing on their campuses.
The LGBTQ club at Hollywood High School, for example, will be creating its first gender-neutral bathroom on campus. Earlier this year, the Center’s CAN Program, along with some of the school’s administrators and youth leaders, participated in a walk-through to determine a safe location for this restroom. With the insight of the club leaders and guidance of staff, the school was able to assign a restroom that was highly visible and close to the safety of allies and staff members.
To add on to this achievement, the school’s LGBTQ club—which proudly boasts more than 40 members—is already planning their annual LGBTQ assembly in front of more than 1000 students to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
These youth present their assemblies brimming with courage, maturity, and a lot of panache.
At another school the Center works with, a group of student leaders and staff will be handing out cards that contain resources for youth who are facing depression and bullying. The goal is to share vital information with vulnerable peers, who may not know the resources that are available to them. Another group of LGBTQ youth created a large poster that contained affirming messages for their peers and allies.
Support from school administrators, teachers, and guardians is inherent in preventing bullying on campus. There is power in publicly identifying oneself as an ally or a community member, and our newest OUT for Safe Schools partner, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, did just that as their teachers and administrators proudly took selfies of themselves wearing their OUT for Safe Schools badges on their campus. When LBGTQ youth see symbols of acceptance and solidarity on these teachers, it will only embolden them to be braver to step in their schools and be who they are. Check out all their beautiful faces on Instagram @outforsafeschools
When National Bullying Prevention Month and Spirit Day come around, the question often asked is: “What do our LGBTQ youth face on campus?”
School climates differ from one school to the other, but the statistics are true. They remind us to carry the spirit of this month every day in order to champion and stand as pillars for our LGBTQ youth. It’s important to highlight the resilience, confidence, and grit our youth embody when they are just simply going to school.
by Ani Cooney
CAN Community Liaison Program Specialist
Los Angeles LGBT Center