School Advocacy ​​

 Be proactive...don’t wait until your district is reacting to a suicide. 
Prevent tragedy Through ensuring YOUR school is keeping ALL kids safe!

Although we all experience the meanness prevalent in our culture on a daily basis… our schools are a place we can make a difference. Like many teachers, I noticed a marked decrease in empathy in my students over the past few years. We have a cultural problem of meanness (especially on social media), however, in our schools, we can foster kindness and empathy.

Accountability is needed from the upper levels of the State Office of Education. Currently, it doesn’t exist and is a situation of voluntary compliance. This means that in many districts they are not doing enough. 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.

The following are steps to creating change in your school district. Some state laws make elements of the Five Necessary Components impossible… for instance, in Texas, it is illegal to have mental health therapists in schools. Many laws are biased and rooted in lack of knowledge or purposeful ignorance of evidence and information. Together we must demand that the safety of ALL of our students… and this requires a thorough examination of the laws and policies in place in every state and every school.

Many people are in positions of power who do not want to face the data. It requires being willing to embrace the difficult and often challenging dialogue around the issues the data raises. This is particularly true regarding the compounded risks faced by LGBTQIA youth. We can’t avoid this dialogue. Avoidance is why our suicide rates are climbing across the nation, especially 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.  the data is required if we truly want to know and address how kids are feeling and what they are experiencing.

Step 1: educate yourself

Look up what your state requires for each school district  https://www.stopbullying.gov/

Learn what the statistics are for bullying, adolescent suicide and additional risks faced by LGBTQIA youth at your state health department.

For Utah:   https://health.utah.gov/vipp/pdf/Suicide/youth-suicide-factsheet-12-14.pdf

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 the training

**NOTE: If you can’t find these, call your district and ask where they can be found. **

Call your district and ask about: 

 - accountability practices 
 - information gathering 
 - path of recourse for any parent, student or staff member feeling procedures are not being followed or addressed

**ACCESSIBILITY is important if a district wants to truly know what is happening and be in touch with the general climate/culture in schools.

Step 3: Review data and determine strengths and weaknesses

In reviewing the above policies and practices, determine if they contain the Necessary Components.

If they do not, talk with school board members and ask them to adopt and incorporate them.

Emphasize that they are critical to keeping ALL students safe.

Step 4: ask victims to share their story - demonstrate the need

 - Find parents in your area who have experienced suicide, attempted suicide or bullying/cyberbullying/hazing
 - Ask them to share their story with the school board to further support the request and need 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

 - Ask your board to be committed to creating safe and healthy learning environments for ALL students.

Step 5: find others who care and work together for change

 - If your school board is reluctant or resistant to adopting the Five 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. Go to the consulting/training tab for info on these. 

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. Links coming soon for helpful training programs.

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. 

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.

** GSAs give hope and empowerment to LGBTQIA youth **

Resource for Free and high-quality training for schools:  


 - Bullying/cyberbullying and prevention

 - restorative justice

 - peer to peer programs

 - creating cultures of kindness

 - LGBTQIA youth awareness 

Resource for schools embracing non-discrimination:

Toolkits for policies, curriculum, prevention and awareness

GLSEN: Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network:  https://www.glsen.org/