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Educators tackle issue of student safety and its effects on achievement

NEA releases report to combat harassment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students


WASHINGTON - June 19, 2009 -

An alarming number of students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT) underachieve academically, miss school, or drop out as a direct consequence of the bullying, harassment or physical abuse that they suffer in school. A new report by the National Education Association provides practical interventions and strategies to improve school environments for all students.

A Report on the Status of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender People in Education: Stepping Out of the Closet, Into the Light also details troubling statistics about the GLBT education experience.

“This report is about young people, their safety and ability to achieve,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. “As educators, we have a professional responsibility to ensure the physical and mental well-being of all students in our charge. This research-based report provides strategies and tools for doing just that.”

Research shows that the adults who work in schools can take concrete steps to create a positive school environment for GLBT students, resulting in increased academic achievement by GLBT students. For instance, schools should adopt codes of conduct and anti-discrimination policies that explicitly prohibit harassment and bullying because of sexual orientation. The report offers six tips to address bullying and harassment.
• Take complaints seriously.
• Report the alleged harassment or bullying.
• Reassure, do not judge.
• Offer professional help when appropriate.
• Stand up and speak out for students in need.
• Do something. Let perpetrators know their behavior is unacceptable.

“Educators must understand the impact intolerance has on all students,” added Van Roekel. “NEA has a long history of confronting prejudice and pushing for equality. This report reinforces our long-standing commitment to human and civil rights.”

The report is the result of research and the findings of an NEA-hosted, national forum on GLBT education issues held in July 2008. The event afforded educators, researchers, and practitioners a rare opportunity to share information and exchange ideas.  A Report on the Status of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender People in Education: Stepping Out of the Closet, Into the Light is the fifth in a series of reports by NEA on underserved groups in education. Previous reports addressed the issues of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Hispanics and Blacks.

The publication can be downloaded at:  http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/glbtstatus09.pdf.

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing
3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Ramona Parks-Kirby (202) 822-7823, rparks@nea.org