Chat

Gay and Lesbian Students: Finding Their Voices

Guest: Kevin Jennings, executive director, Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network

Nov. 30, 2005


See Also
Continue this discussion on our TalkBack readers' forum: “Making Schools Safe for Gay and Lesbian Students”

Mark Toner, Teacher Magazine (Moderator):
    Welcome to Teacher Magazine's live chat. I'm Mark Toner, the magazine's senior editor, and our guest is Kevin Jennings, the executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, which celebrated its tenth anniversary earlier this year. A native of North Carolina, he is a graduate of Harvard University and a former high school teacher. Along with advocating for safer schools, GLSEN is best known for supporting students starting gay-straight alliances, school-based clubs that foster discussion of issues surrounding sexual orientation. Jennings is profiled in "Straight Talk," an article in the November/December issue of Teacher Magazine.

We're happy to have Kevin with us today, and we have many questions to get to, so let's get started.


Question from ray parker, education reporter, arizona republic:
    what are the most common barriers, both obvious and subtle, to students forming gsa clubs?

Kevin Jennings:
    The most obvious barrier is administrative resistance. I find this is motivated less by bigotry and more by either a misunderstanding of the purpose of the club or (usually unfounded) fear that such a club will prove controversial. In the former, explaining the mission of the club -- which is to rceate a safer school for all studets -- can go a long way. For the latter, it is importantt to remind administrators that the law does not allow them to "pick and choose" which clubs exist, due to the Federal Equal Access Act, and their efforts to constrain clubs they perceive as potentially unpopular or controversial can land them in even hotter ater. The National Schools Boards Association has published a useful guide to these and other legal issues regarding sexual orientation and gender identity that can be found at http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/library/record/1742.html.

The more subtle barrier is fear among students that they will be socially stigmatized for speaking out on LGBT issues. A 2004 study by Widmeyer Communications (available at http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/library/record/1724.html) found that 66% of high school students routinely say things like "that's so gay" themselves, so speaking out can feel frightening to students. But students generally find more support than they expect when they speak up, as most of that commentary is more thoughtless than cruel. That first step can be hard to take though!


Question from Linda Harvey, Mission America:
    Why does it seem that so often, there is zero tolerance from your organization and its supporters for those who have religious views opposed to homosexuality? Do you really believe that ALL such people are a threat unless they are silenced? If so, how can you maintain a position of advocating "tolerance" or do you really mean that tolerance only should extend to some people and not others?

Kevin Jennings:
    First let me say that GLSEN believes - and as a person of faith whose father was a minister , I personally believe - that our children should learn to respect and accept ALL people, regardless of their faith, religious affiliation, race, ability -- and yes, their sexual orientation or gender identity.

I am sorry that you have the impression that somehow GLSEN is hostile to people who have religious views opposed to homosexuality. GLSEN is committed to making sure that every child feels respected at school and our latest report From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America addresses harassment based on religious identity in addition to issues like sexual orientation and race (http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/1859.html) as part of that commitment.

As a former high school history teacher, I feel that a major function of schools in a democratic society is to teach students how to understand and appreciate points of view different from their own, and how to express differences in views in a respectful manner. LGBT issues are a great "laboratory" for doing so. Of course students who are opposed to homosexuality (for any reason) should have the chance to express that viewpoint: teachers need to make sure that any and all viewpoints can be expressed. They also have an obligation to teach them how to do so in a way that does not degenerate into demeaning those who hold different views or outright name-calling. For example, I would support a student saying "My religion teaches me that marriage is between a man and a woman, and therefore I am opposed to marriage equality for same-sex couples": I would have a problem with one who said "Gay people are all going to hell so why should we bother to let them get married?" The former is respectful and appropriate, while the latter is demeaning and creates a hostile environment for those who hold different views. That distinction is an important one (particularly since so many media personalities are making careers these days out of yelling at people...) and we need to teach it to students, while upholding their first amendment right to express their own views.




Question from Keisha Lee, Teacher, NYC Public Schools:
    When and how should LGBT teachers come out to students? Does that help LGBT students? Why or why not?

Kevin Jennings:
    Each teacher has to do it "their way." I collected a great set of recent stories by LGBT educators in my new, second edition of One Teacher in Ten which you can buy online or at bookstores to have some examples.

Our 2003 National School Climate Survey (http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/library/record/1413.html) found that having openly gay and/or supportive teachers greatly increased an LGBT student's sense of belonging at school and that studnts who had such teachers had GPA's a full letter grade higher than those who did not. So yes, it makes a big difference!


Question from D. Morgan, Educator:
    How can educators help these young people continue to remain focused on learning as they examine their sexuality?

How can we and they (adolescents) be certain of their sexual preferences at such a young age?

Is there a chance that many adolescents are still uncertain and because of this uncertainty do we as educators "push" them to what should be their own choice by establishing clubs that focus on this issue?

Kevin Jennings:
    Well, the high school teacher who can always keep adolescents (of any sexual orientation) focused solely on their studies and never thinking about their sexuality obviously is more entertaining and skilled than I ever was in my ten years of teaching high school history! :-)

What distracts studnts from learning has been, in my experience, anxiety around how people will react to their disclosures about their sexual orientation or bullying and harssment based on it. By providing a climate where such behavior is not tolerated and where adolescents knwo they will be treated equally and fairly regardless of their sexual orientation, we can reduce those sources of distraction. In fact, the 2003 GLSEN National School Climate Survey of LGBT high school studnets found that LGBT students who were frequently harassed had grade point averages almost a full letter grade lower than those who did not experience such mistreatment. So stopping that mistreatment will have a major positive impact.

In terms of clubs, the beauty of Gay-Straight Alliances is that students do not have to label themselves anything to belong to one. They can come, find a supportive enviornment, and thus feel more like they belong in their school (and feelings of belonging correlate strongly with improved academic achievement and aspirations).

Studies show consistently that young people come to know their sexual orientaion between ages 8-11 (2nd-5th grade)and, if they are LGBT, are now disclosing that information early in high school (obviously, heterosexual studnts have always "come out" in high school, but it's a relatively new thing for LGBT students to do so). We're not going to chnage these facts by ignoring them, and the onyl responsible choice is to deal with them by creating safe and inclsuive enviroments for all students, regardless of whether we feel they have the "right" sexual orientation or gender identity (or religion or race, for that matter!). Our job is to support students, not judge them.




Question from John Elfers, Program Coordinator, San Luis Obispo County Office of Education:
    How can GSA's address important reproductive health issues for LGBT youth without being perceived as a sex club?

Kevin Jennings:
    Personally I don't believe sexuality behavior education is the mission or purpose of a GSA. GSA's exist to reduce prejudice based on sexual orientation and to create a safer shcool climate. In addition to beign otuside the purview of a GSA, sexual behavior education in schools in some states is governed by laws sometimes called "abstinence until marriage" laws, of which a GSA could run afoul if it ventured into this arena.

That being said, we at GLSEN do feel that every student -- including LGBT students -- has the right to medically accurate and age-appropriate sexual education. I'd recommend the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (http://www.siecus.org/school/index.html) as a good resource on that issue.


Question from Karen Robinson, Professor of Mathematics, Aims Community College:
    Our school has no GLBT student organization. I've tried to support the formation of one, and have been told there's not enough student interest. But I feel that "if we build it, they will come". Is this something a few interested faculty members can get going, or should it come from the students? We have a thriving International Student organization, and a Latino student organization.

Kevin Jennings:
    I think that the leadership should come from students, but that educators can be important allies. One way is to start a "safe space" program at your school (go to http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/educator/library/record/1641.html). Students will not assume you're supportive if you're silent: they will assume you're disinterested or even hostile. By taking a more visible stand, you may help students who right now want to speak up but are afraid to find the courage of their convictions.


Question from Jeanne Stanley, Ph.D. - Director, The Bryson Institute:
    Do you see any differences between lgbtq youth in the suburbs and rural areas compared to the city in terms of their coping strategies, resiliency, and re: "finding their voices. Thanks.

Kevin Jennings:
    The primary issues here are ones of access. Urban youth are more likely to have community-based support groups (a good place to find local programs is the website of the National Youth Advocacy Coalition at http://info.nyacyouth.org/nyac/program_search.lasso) Suburban and rural youth are less likely to have such resources, which makes school-based ones like Gay-Straight Alliance clubs all the more important. Making sure that internet filtering use din schools and libraries software does not screen out age-appropriate LGBT resources is especially important for rural youth, who may have only the Internet to turn to for support and information.


Question from Tim Knudson, teacher, Peninsula High School:
    What specific things can be done to empower a local chapter of a Gay Straight Alliance? One of the things that has occurred at my school is that the organization became a hiding place for marginalized kids. I spoke before the group, warning them that their cozy, comfortable silence was further endangering them, as anti-gay legislation fomented anti-gay feelings among our student body. I encouraged them to speak out and while they don't need to out themselves, they do need to publically address their gender preferences, or risk being marginalized further.

Kevin Jennings:
    GLSEN's Jump Start resources (http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/custom/jump.html) are designed to help GSA's be more effective. I wudl also urge you to get any GSA's you knwo to register with us so they can keep abreast of new resources.

That being said, I think sometimes people need a safe space to give them the confidence to then take on the hostile world outside it. So dont be too hard on these kids. It can be overwhelming to be 14 or 15 and see how much hateful stuff is going on. Heck, I find it overwhelming somtimes at 42!


Question from Melissa Crossley-Faulkner, Lead Teacher, Hunt Intermediate School, Columbus, Mississippi:
    If we, as teachers, know that a child is gay, should we encourage the child to openly discuss his opinion of the matter?

Kevin Jennings:
    That's tricky, as a child may have very real safety concerns -- such as possibly getting thrown out of their home -- that mean "coming out" is not a good idea. I think teachers need to recongize and monitor their own "heterosexism" which s the unconscious assumption we all make that students are heterosexual until "proven otherwise." Using incluisve language that indciates that you recognize that not everyone is hetersexual may open the door for an LGBT student who needs someone to talk to. What you can do, whether it is by doing a safe space program (http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/library/record/1641.html) or just through your language choices, is let students know you're receptive to having that door opened. In the end, though, they have to open it.


Question from Judy Hoff, Safe Schools Coordinator, PFLAG:
    What would be the most effective step community allies could take to support educators in providing safe school environments for GLBTQ youth?

Kevin Jennings:
    Community members need to make sure that state and local laws against bullying and harassment that include "protected classes" like religion and race also include sexual orientaion and gender identity so that LGBT studnets have the same guarantees of a safe school environment in which to learn. Sadly only 8 states currently do so: GLSEN's 2004 State of the States report (http://www.glsen.org/binary-data/GLSEN_ATTACHMENTS/file/338-3.PDF) is a good resource for finding out what the situaion is in your state.

The vast majority of parents -- 83% in a poll done by the DC-based Lake Snell and perry firm -- want their schools to have policies that protect LGBT students from discriminaiton and harassment. Unfortunately too often these parents are silent so that the voices of the small minority that oppose such protections are the only ones school boards and state legislators hear. Get the facts and get involved!


Question from Deborah M. Anderson, Violence and Harassment Prevention Specialist, ISD 709, Duluth Public Schools, Duluth, MN:
    How can we help teachers recognize, acknowledge and support GLBT families when they may not be very familiar with gay/lesbian families and may not feel comfortable themselves for fear of saying something wrong?

Kevin Jennings:
    The Family Pride Coaltion has a great resource entitled Opening Doors: Lesbian and Gay Parents and Schools (http://www.familypride.org/atf/cf/{2A2C5E24-92CC-41DF-B4AA-448C71B7ED7D}/opening_doors.pdf) whihc can help teachers in this situation. GLSEN also has a reources called Is this the Right School for Us? which helps LGBT aprents assess schools (http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/library/record/1674.html).


Question from Janet L. Steinhauser, Faculty UAA College of Education:
    How can we help students become activists? Our atmosphere can be so hostile, GSA's remain safe, private spaces (which is great!) for students, but not places where sustainable changes for school climate are initiated. What are your thoughts?

Kevin Jennings:
    It can be very scary for students to take on "the system" when they have found that few adults listen to them or care what they think. We have a great resource in our Jump Start library about how to organize a campaign for change (http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/1751.html) that gives students a framework to use to choose an issue and do organizing around it. Building those skills is key.


Question from Jeannie Horton, Mother, St. James Academy:
    Do you consider yourself a Christian? If so, how do you reconcile the gay lifestyle with the Bible as Christ himself condemned it?

Kevin Jennings:
    My father was a minister and I attend Church regularly myself, so my answer would be "yes."

I don't mean to be a "school marm" but the fact is that Christ does not condemn hosmexuality in any of the Gospels (or anywhere else in the Bible for that matter). The Biblical citaitons most often used are from the Old Testament book of Leviticus, which also condemns the eating of shellfish, the pracice of shaving, and the wearing of garments of "mixed raiment" (like a poly-cotton blend), none of which I find people getting too upset about nowadays, making me wonder at why they pick some rules but not others...

Here's my personal opinion, since you asked for it. While Jesus is mum on the subject of homosexuality, he is quite vocal on how we should treat one another, constantly preacing "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Given that none of us wishes to be the victims of prejudice or discriminaiton, it strikes me that he would want us to oppsoe any form of bigotry, including that based on sexual orientaiton or gender identity. The New Testament goes on to say (1 John Chapter 2 verses 7-9, 11, 20-21) "Beloved let us love one another; for love is of God; and everyone that loves is born of God, and knows God. He that loves not knows not God; for God is love. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to also love one another. If a man says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he that loves not his brother who he has seen, how can he love God who he has not seen? And this commandment have we from him, that he who loves God loves his brother also.” So to me the commandment is pretty clear, and it doesn't include bigoted behavior.

While I myself am a Chrsitian, I also think it is important to recongize that not everyone is, and there are differences of opinions even among Christians from time to time. My religious beliefs lead me to believe that schools should actively fight this kind of bigotry, but I know that others feel differently, and that is their right. That being said, I think we all have an obligation to make sure our public schools are places where every child can get an educaion, not just thsoe we happen to agree with or like.


Question from Wiley Franks, Superintendent, Erie County School System:
    A majority of parents, teachers, and students in my distict don't approve of your efforts. What legal recourse do we have in such cases to promote homosexual education in our school system?

Kevin Jennings:
    First of all I hope no one is "promoting homosexual education" (or "promoting hetersoexual education") as it is not the place of a school to pass value judgements on the sexual orietaion of students, staff, or families. Schools do have an obligation to promote safe learning climates and have been held legally liable for not doing so when it comes to LGBT students. A good resource on the legal obgliations schools have is put out by a consortium of education groups led by the national School Boards Association and can be found at: http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/library/record/1742.html.


Question from Hollie Ashworth, parent:
    Hi Kevin, In my years of working with kids I have seen a number of young people who struggle with their sexual identity because of issues like abuse; as well as some kids who just want to be rebellious in all areas of life. How does someone walk that fine line between support, at the same time helping students to sort out their identity issues? I see lots of "transitory" gay students. Later living very heterosexual lives. Can there be room for talking to young people about causes of their orientation which may not involve genetics? I get concerned about maintaining a balance in how we deal with this very difficult issue.

Kevin Jennings:
    Obviously students can engage ins exual behavior that is not consistent with their sexual orientaion, i.e. a homosexual student may have a sexual experience with someone of the other gender or vice-versa. The crucial thing is to remove stigma aroudn sexual orientaion issues, as the current atttiudes make questioning students fear they will arrive at the "wrong answer" (omsoexuality or bisexuality) and thus they are afraid to talk to anyone at all for fear of being stigmatized. I generally feel that adults should be sympathetic, non-judgemental listeners and, if we do that, kids will sort out what the "right answer" is for themselves. I did write a chapter about "questioning" students in my book Always My Child: A Parent's Guide to Understanding your Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning Son or Daughter which might give you more helpful tips.


Question from Jennifer Lynch, ESOL Program Coordinator, Brookhaven National Laboratory (and a community college adjunct):
    Are teachers in school districts being overly cautious and closeted for fear of being fired? I know teachers who practically don't go out of doors with their life partners for fear of "being caught." I teach in higher ed, so I sometimes find this behaviour odd.

Kevin Jennings:
    I think, in the end, these folks are their own worst enemies, as they let fear rule their lives. Soem good resources for higher ed people are the report Making Colleges and Universities Safe for Gay and Lesbian Students of the Massachusetts Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Yoth (http://www.mass.gov/gcgly/PublicationsoftheCommission.html)and the National Consortium of Directors of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Resources in Higher Education (www.lgbtcampus.org).


Question from Terri L. Miller, Ed.D., Assistant Principal, Northwest Classen H.S., Oklahoma City, Ok.:
    I am the sponsor of the Northwest Classen High School Gay-Straight Alliance in Oklahoma City. Myself, physicians, and several organizations are asking our board of education to add sexual orientation to the district's non-discrimination policy. The board does not appear to be responsive to our request. My question: Does adding sexual orientation to a district's non-discrimination policy give greater protection for our GLBT students and greater direction not only for those who are expected to enforce policy, but also for those who are expected to comply with district policies?

Kevin Jennings:
    The new report From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America found that schools with policies that included categories like sexual orientaion and gender identity not only had less name-callign and harassment of LGBt studnets but also less harassment based on characteristics like apperance, religion, and family income(http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/1859.html; see pp. 56-58). GLSEN's national school climate survey foudn that LGBT studnts who were frequently harassed had GPA's nearly a full letter grade lower than thsoe who weren't (http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/library/record/1413.html, see p. 24). I think these kinds of facts help school board members understand that this is, in the end, an issue about education, not sexual orientation.


Question from Brandon Bomsta, Student, Des Moines University:
    You profess that the purpose of your organization is to promote safety for all, but do you really think that sexual preference puts more kids in danger than say gangs? If you are so interested in everyone's safety why are you so stigmatized on sexuality? Do you think the statement of your purpose is misleading and just a pretty name to camoflage a furacious organization?

Kevin Jennings:
    We do believe that every student has a right to a safe school, no matter why they are being harassed or bullied, and thus just released the most comprehensive report on this subject in our nation's history, From teasing to Torment: SchoolmClimate in America (http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/1859.html) and have helped develop programs like No Name-Calling Week (www.nonamecallingweek.org) which combats all kinds of name-calling. That being said our particular expertise is on issues of sexual orientaion and gender identity, which is thus where we focus. Some excellent groups doing work on issues like race- and religion-based harassment include the Anti-Defamation League (www.ADL.org) and the National Conference on Community and Justice (www.NCCJ.org), while gun violence is effecively addressed by Pax: Real Solutions to Gun Violence (http://paxusa.com/). I urge you to check those resources out if those are the most pressing issues in your community.


Question from Anne Nowak, Family Support Center Coordinator, Sweet Home Central School District:
    I volunteered to be the advisor of our High School's GSA last year and we made great strides in establishing a solid organization. Unfortunately, our membership has dwindled to two this year. Any suggestions of how to "advertise" or rename the GSA to encourage new membership? Thank you

Kevin Jennings:
    I find this is a common apptern with not only GSA's but all student clubs: when i was a teacher, for example, I was the advisor for SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving), which had its good years and its bad years. I think waxing and waning is a natural part of the lifecycle of clubs. The resources in our Jump Start library (http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/custom/jump.html) may give you some good ideas, though!


Question from :
    How can we prepare parents, the school community, and the concerned students for the people's expectations when the gays/lesbians let known their true or real identities?

Kevin Jennings:
    I believe based on your question that you are asking about school staff like teachers. I believe most parental anxiety about "coming out" of school staff stems from confusion betwen the terms sexual orientaion and sexual behavior. Parents who are concerned generally envisage that "coming out" somehow involves talking about sexual behavior or "what you do in bed," rather than your sexual orientation, which is about who you are, not who you sleep with. Of course it is inappropriate for a teacher -- whether heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual -- to discuss their sexual behavior in class. But teachers do discuss their sexual orientation all the time -- or at least heterosexual teachers do, by revealing they are married etc. There's no reason for a double standard on this: if we allow heterosexual teachers to "come out," lesbian, gay, and bisexual teachers must be allowed to do the same. Adminstrators need to be clear with parents that they hold all teachers to the same standards, regardless of sexual orientaion,and that they will not make demands of or create restrictions on lesbian, gay, and bisexual teachers that they do not make of heterosexual ones (and vice-versa). But I truly think that, once parents udnerstand that you have discussed issues of orientaion, not behavior, and in a manner similar to the approiate ways heterosexual colleagues do, only a few have an issue.

At the risk of being immodest I recommend the all-new second edition of my book One Teacher in Ten, avaliable at amazon.com, for a variety of stories about how educators navigate this issue.


Question from Sissy Jochmann, 2nd grade teacher, Moon Area School District, PA:
    Kevin, As I was returning from the NEA convention in LA this past July, on the plane home,I sat next to a young boy, 15 yrs old, who through our conversation, discovered he was on his way to an all expense paid 5 day training workshop in Atlanta sponsored by GLSEN. He informed me that he was going to be trained on how to be an effective leader in his school's Gay, Straight, Alliance club. When I asked him the age range of students who were attending, he indicated that the age of students who would be attending this training were ages 13 -18. My question to you why are we encouraging our students to adopt a gay identity at such a vulnerable time in their lives...adolescence. Kids that age are dealing with so many confusing issues, particularly their sexuality. Just because some might be experiencing same sex attractions during this sensitive time in their lives I believe it is wrong to encouraged them to identify themselves as gay..so young!! Your comments??? Sissy Jochmann, PA Teacher

Kevin Jennings:
    First of all, you are assuming all of the stduents in GSA's are LGBT, which I know from first-hand experience is not true. In fact, straight students are well-represented on GLSEN's National Student Leadership Team. What students in GSA's are doing is trying to reduce bigotry, and that is a perfectly appropriate thing for anyone 13-18 to do.

All that aside, it is important to know that studies of LGBT youth show that they "know" they are LGBT at a median age of between 8-11. Most straight people I know will tell me the same thing if I ask them: people by and large know their sexual orientation at a young age and don't "choose" it. Today's LGBT students are "coming out" often while still in school and still at home, and we have an obligation to support them and help them get an education like any other student.




Question from Philip Kell, Attorney:
    Since we do not yet have difinitive scientific evidence that sexual orientation is determined at birth, and that it may well be influenced by a variety of social and experiential events, couldn't schools be open to lawsuits by parents or students who claim that other students, teachers or school curriculum encouraged a minor student to experiment with their sexuality in a way that led to emotional and/or physical harm?

Kevin Jennings:
    For more information about issues of sexual orientation and its "causes" among young people, the publication Just the Facts about Sexual Orientaion and Youth (http://www.glsen.org/binary-data/GLSEN_ATTACHMENTS/file/446-3.pdf) out out by a consoritum including the American School Health Association, may be useful.




Question from Politically Incorrect, Teacher, Anywhere USA:
    Do not assume that I am homophobic, straight, gay, religious, secular, or any other politically correct stereotypical adhominem argument used to silence people for having their own opinions. I think my question is a good one and a serious one.

"What is wrong with keeping private things private?"

What business does it have in school outside of sex education?

We don't give special consideration for straight students' concerns, so why are gay and lesbian students special?

Focus on issues like this simply supports even promotes agendas.

Kevin Jennings:
    Because kids are getting hurt.

The GLSEN National School Climate Survey (http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/library/record/1413.html) foudn that 4 out of 5 LGBT studnets routinely gets harssed while at school, resulting in lower gades and lower educaional aspirations. Furthermore, the Massachusetts Department of Educaion found that LGBT students were 6 times mroe likely to attempt suicide than non-LGBT ones, in part because of the hostile conditions they face at school. We talk about (hetero)sexual orientaion all the time at scool (rememebr the prom? Romoe and Juliet?): our silence on issues of homosexual orientation is costing kids their educations and their lives. I do have an agenda I want to promote -- more happy, healthy well-educated kids -- and we aren't going to get there by sticking our heads in the sand on LGBT issues. It hasn't worked so far, so let's try "plan B" which is honest, open, respectful dialogue.


Question from Marta Guevara, Assistant Principal, Amherst Regional High School, Amherst, MA:
    I'm very concerned about the alarming number of GLBT students of color that find high school life particulary oppresive and how they drop out and "disappear from our community". Our GSA has been addressing many issues in our school, but this is one that doesn't get the attention it should. Are you aware of specific efforts in our country/state to support these young kids who face multiple obstacles to succeed?

Kevin Jennings:
    I share your concern and that is why we published the first-ever report on this subject, Understanding the School-Related Experiences of LGBT Youth of Color (http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/library/record/1679.html). Anoher good resources is from the national Yoth Advocacy Coalition and is entitled Poverty, Race, and LGBT Youth (http://www.nyacyouth.org/nyac/PRRAC.pdf).

I wish I had a magic bullet, but I don't. We still have much to learn.


Kevin Jennings:
    I want to thank Teacher Magazine for inviting me to address this very important subject.

I want to let readers know that, duirng this chat, I have heard from various students in distress, including one in danger of being thrown out of his home. It was depressing to have this reminder of how important this work remains.

Thank you to those of you who asked questions and those who "listened in": wish I could have gotten to them all!


Mark Toner, Teacher Magazine (Moderator):
    Well, folks, our time is up. I want to thank Kevin Jennings for participating in this enlightening chat, and all of you who've asked great questions and checked in with us this afternoon. The transcript of this chat will be posted shortly on our Web site, teachermagazine.org. Until next time -- so long.







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