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. Scroll down to Steps For Creating Change in Your School.

The following are steps to 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. 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.

Steps For Creating Change

Step 1: educate yourself

** Go to the DATA page to educate yourself about the situation faced by LGBTQI A youth in schools. **

Go To https://www.stopbullying.gov/  To learn about the requirements around bullying policy in the schools in your state.

Learn what the statistics are for bullying, adolescent suicide and additional risks faced by LGBTQIA youth as well as information about the climate in schools at: 

State Health departments have information on Suicide statistics. Some states do not include information about LGBTQIA youth.
For Utah:   https://health.utah.gov/vipp/pdf/Suicide/youth-suicide-factsheet-12-14.pdf

if you aren't able to find data on the state health dept website - go to the DATA page and research the data in your state!
** Many state health Depts. Are NOT including information specific to LGBTQIA youth***

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.
Below are a couple of helpful links, Go to  Training & Consulting  &   Resources

**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 and how they compare with the links on this page and the data.

If they do not, talk with school board members and ask them to adopt and incorporate them. After comparing with the best practices outlined by the resources, ask them to adopt where lacking. 

Emphasize that the Necessary Components 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. Refer them to the Resource links and the specific links on this page.

 - Ask your board to be committed to the safety and well being of LGBTQIA 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. Again go to the Resources page for more info! Click the buttons below for links to effective Training and resources for those working with youth. 

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. Also, Ensure that All school staff feels safe to be out and visible. Students need to see role models in schools. 

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


Real change must also happen at the state school board level - go to the
State Advocacy link to learn more!

Model School Policy
Nat'l Association of School Psychologists
Gender Inclusive Schools
Critical Data and Tools for ALL Educators
2018 LGBTQ Youth Report
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
"The Role of High School Teachers in the
Prevention of Suicide"
Lifeguard Training - Educator Specific Resources
Training for Youth Serving Professionals