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Civic Impact

Why aren't anti-bullying programs working for all kids? First Safe Schools Summit seeks answer

Betty Hill has been puzzled when local schools and foundations report that their anti-bullying programs are working, yet she still hears so often from LGBT students that they're being bullied.
 
"There's something wrong here," says Hill, director of Persad, which runs many programs for LGBT youth. "There's a disconnect that [schools] are not seeing. We want to get people involved and we want to get solutions. We can't just leave behind this whole group of LGBT kids who are not benefitting" from local anti-bullying efforts.
 
That's why Persad is teaming with local chapters of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) and other organizations to hold a Safe Schools Summit -- the first of a three-part effort to bring local resources to bear on this continuing problem. The summit will be held in the Lexus Club at PNC Park on Jan. 16.
 
Nationally, GLSEN has been studying the school climate for LGBT kids for two decades. Their latest survey from 2011, just released, found that 90 percent of LGBT students say they have been verbally harassed, 39 percent physically harassed and 18 percent assaulted in the previous year due to their sexual orientation. Sixty percent report that they feel unsafe in school.
 
Bringing local experts on LGBT issues together with educators will attempt to bridge the gap between general anti-bullying approaches and the needs of LGBT youth. Part of the effort will include conducting the first comprehensive research on the local school climate.
 
The summit will feature national speakers from the Trevor Project (an LGBT youth suicide-prevention hotline), GLSEN, and PFLAG, as well as local school bullying research findings presented by Laura Crothers and Jered Kolbert of Duquesne University.
 
Apparently, says Hill, "kids do not label the negative things done against gay kids as bullying. So they don't use their anti-bullying skills because they don't see the anti-gay things as bullying." Finding out why this goes on, and what to do about it, is the goal of the Summit, whose third part she expects to be later this year. It will include a series of a focus groups with area students, parents, educators, and LGBT community-service groups to discuss local research and ways to proceed from here.
 
Do Good:
Looking for another way to help LGBT youth? Volunteer at the local Gay and Lesbian Community Center.
 
Writer: Marty Levine 
Source: Betty Hill, Persad
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