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January 21, 2014 0

‘That’s So Gay’: Language That Hurts, and How to Stop It

The phrase “that’s so gay” has per­sisted as a way for stu­dents to describe things they do not like, find annoy­ing or gen­er­ally want to put down, while it is promis­ing that fewer stu­dents are hear­ing homo­pho­bic slurs than in pre­vi­ous years.

The phrase is used so com­monly that many stu­dents no longer rec­og­nize it as homo­pho­bic because it is “what every­one says.” When edu­ca­tors and other adults inter­vene, com­mon stu­dent responses include “I was just jok­ing,” “I don’t mean actual ‘gay peo­ple’ when I say ‘that’s so gay’” and “My friend is gay, and she doesn’t mind.”

This year marks the 10th anniver­sary of the Gay, Les­bian & Straight Edu­ca­tion Net­work (GLSEN) No Name-Calling Week. In its 2011 National School Cli­mate Sur­vey, GLSEN’s find­ings remind us of the work that still needs to be done.

  • 84.9% of stu­dents heard “gay” used in a neg­a­tive way (e.g., “that’s so gay”) fre­quently or often at school, and 91.4% reported that they felt dis­tressed because of this language
  • 71.3% heard other homo­pho­bic remarks (e.g., “dyke” or “fag­got”) fre­quently or often
  • 61.4% heard neg­a­tive remarks about gen­der expres­sion (not act­ing “mas­cu­line enough” or “fem­i­nine enough”) fre­quently or often

These kinds of responses rep­re­sent the slip­pery nature of bias and how eas­ily youth can reflect larger social atti­tudes about dif­fer­ence. Biased lan­guage, when it isn’t checked, can esca­late to harsher behav­ior like bul­ly­ing, and may con­tribute to an emo­tion­ally, and poten­tially phys­i­cally, unsafe school environment.

Here are three things adults should con­sider when inter­ven­ing against biased language:

  1. Assume good will. Bias is per­va­sive, and in all like­li­hood a stu­dent is unknow­ingly reflect­ing a bias they heard from peers, the media or fam­ily mem­bers. The stu­dent will likely be open to feed­back and dia­logue. If they do not believe LGBT peo­ple should be mis­treated, their lan­guage should reflect that.
  2. Stay focused, and do not allow your­self to be immo­bi­lized by uncer­tainty or the enor­mity of the topic. Inter­ven­ing in homo­pho­bic remarks does not require a dis­cus­sion about sex­u­al­ity or the his­tory of anti-LGBT slurs. It is about using lan­guage appro­pri­ately and in a way that shows respect for diversity.
  3. Be clear about the bias behind the words. Good peo­ple some­times say cruel things. It doesn’t mat­ter if the stu­dent didn’t intend to be homo­pho­bic, because a neg­a­tive com­ment about any group has the poten­tial to hurt indi­vid­u­als and whole com­mu­ni­ties. While inter­ven­ing doesn’t require a dis­cus­sion about sex­u­al­ity or teach­ing about the his­tory of LGBT peo­ple and/or slurs, the teacher may decide that some class­room instruc­tion in these areas is useful.

 

For more resources, visit ADL’s addi­tional resource page and Cur­ricu­lum Con­nec­tions to down­load Unheard Sto­ries: LGBT His­tory cur­ricu­lum resource.

 

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January 14, 2014 0

Watershed Federal Guidance on School Discipline Seeks to Dismantle School-to-Prison Pipeline

Sus­pen­sions and expul­sions are among the best pre­dic­tors of which stu­dents will drop out of high school.  Stud­ies show that a stu­dent who has been sus­pended at least once is more than three times more likely to drop out of high school in the first two years than a stu­dent who has never been sus­pended.  A young adult who drops out of high school is more than 63 times more likely to become incar­cer­ated later in life than some­one who grad­u­ates from col­lege, feed­ing the pipeline from the school­house to the jail­house.

Last week the Depart­ment of Jus­tice and the Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion jointly issued ground­break­ing guid­ance on school dis­ci­pline, tak­ing a cru­cial, pos­i­tive step toward dis­man­tling the “school-to-prison” pipeline.  As the Dear Col­league guid­ance noted, harsh school dis­ci­pline poli­cies dis­pro­por­tion­ately impact stu­dents of color, stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties, and LGBT stu­dents.  Recent data from the Civil Rights Data Col­lec­tion (CRDC), an impor­tant annual fed­eral school sur­vey wel­comed by the Anti-Defamation League, found that African-American stu­dents with­out dis­abil­i­ties are more than three times as likely as their white peers to be sus­pended or expelled from school.  Research sug­gests that these racial dis­par­i­ties can­not be explained by more fre­quent or more seri­ous mis­be­hav­ior by stu­dents of color.  To the con­trary, fed­eral inves­ti­ga­tions have found “cases where African-American stu­dents were dis­ci­plined more harshly and more fre­quently because of their race than sim­i­larly sit­u­ated white stu­dents.”  Other stud­ies con­firm that stu­dents of color tend to receive harsher pun­ish­ment for less seri­ous behav­ior, and are more often pun­ished for sub­jec­tive offenses, such as “loi­ter­ing” or “disrespect.”

Why are some stu­dents of color, stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties and LGBT stu­dents treated more harshly than their peers for sim­i­lar behav­ior? Some might sus­pect overt racism, but uncon­scious bias and latent prej­u­dice per­pe­trated unin­ten­tion­ally may often lead to harsher pun­ish­ments, even when teach­ers, admin­is­tra­tors, or school resource offi­cers are unaware of what is hap­pen­ing. Cur­rent research tells us that uncon­scious bias plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in our daily inter­ac­tions and under­stand­ing of daily occur­rences.  Poli­cies alone will not change that. The best pre­ven­tion is edu­ca­tion.  Bias is learned and can be unlearned. Cre­at­ing safe, inclu­sive schools requires edu­ca­tors, stu­dents, and the com­mu­ni­ties to under­stand what hap­pens when bias goes unchecked. We urge edu­ca­tors to uti­lize the Depart­ment of Education’s Guid­ing Prin­ci­ples of Reform to Improve School Cli­mate and Dis­ci­pline, which offers con­crete action steps nec­es­sary to sup­port the spirit of the new pol­icy. Among other help­ful rec­om­men­da­tions, the fed­eral Guid­ance urges schools to pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive train­ing for all school per­son­nel and law enforce­ment offi­cers sta­tioned in schools.

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April 17, 2013 1

Bringing Holocaust Education to Alaska

Echoes and Reflec­tions staff trav­eled to a remote area of Alaska to deliver the program’s first pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment pro­gram in the state. The Echoes and Reflec­tions pro­gram has now offered pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment in 47 US states and Dis­trict of Colum­bia. The pro­gram has pro­vided edu­ca­tional resources on the Holo­caust to over 18,000 edu­ca­tors and com­mu­nity members.

Deb­o­rah Batiste, Project Direc­tor for Echoes and Reflec­tions, trav­eled from her office in Mary­land to Kodiak, Alaska to con­duct an in-person train­ing pro­gram that would be broad­cast by video-conference to other remote loca­tions so that addi­tional edu­ca­tors could take advan­tage of this pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment opportunity.

Nine­teen local edu­ca­tors attended the train­ing pro­gram in per­son and an addi­tional six edu­ca­tors par­tic­i­pated vir­tu­ally from addi­tional loca­tions at vil­lage schools on Kodiak Island.

Dur­ing the April 15th pro­gram, Deb­o­rah Batiste mod­eled active and col­lab­o­ra­tive learn­ing as par­tic­i­pants in Kodiak and those edu­ca­tors in remote loca­tions explored Les­son 4: The Ghet­tos from the Echoes and Reflec­tions Teacher’s Resource Guide and learned how to incor­po­rate visual his­tory tes­ti­mony from Holo­caust sur­vivors, res­cuers, and lib­er­a­tors into their teaching.

LeeAnn Schmelzen­bach, lit­er­a­ture teacher at Kodiak High School reflected on the program.

“I know the cost and dif­fi­culty for train­ers to come to our schools, but I also know the intense ben­e­fits such train­ings pro­vide for our teach­ers and, in turn, our stu­dents. This par­tic­u­lar train­ing was so help­ful. The resources that you were able to place in our hands are going to help me change the way I teach my stu­dents, and it will help me pro­vide more per­spec­tives for my stu­dents to view the Holocaust.”

 

A leader in Holo­caust edu­ca­tion, Echoes and Reflec­tions pro­vides com­pre­hen­sive pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment for mid­dle and high school edu­ca­tors and mul­ti­me­dia resources suit­able for history/social stud­ies, English/language arts, fine arts, social sci­ences, reli­gion, and other con­tent areas. The com­bined resources and exper­tise of three world lead­ers in education―the Anti-Defamation League, USC Shoah Foun­da­tion, and Yad Vashem―have resulted in a robust edu­ca­tional pro­gram to help US sec­ondary edu­ca­tors deliver accu­rate and authen­tic Holo­caust edu­ca­tion to today’s students.

To learn more about Echoes and Reflec­tions and upcom­ing pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties, visit www.echoesandreflections.org

Some pro­grams are avail­able via video-conferencing. To learn more about these pro­grams, con­tact: echoes@adl.org.

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