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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)


   The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

   We believe that such an atmosphere engenders a positive sense of self, which is the basis of educational achievement and personal growth. Since homophobia and heterosexism undermine a healthy school climate, we work to educate teachers, students and the public at large about the damaging effects these forces have on youth and adults alike. We recognize that forces such as racism and sexism have similarly adverse impacts on communities and we support schools in seeking to redress all such inequities.

   GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes in creating a more vibrant and diverse community. We welcome as members any and all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or occupation, who are committed to seeing this philosophy realized in K-12 schools.


   Founded as a local group in 1990, the Gay and Lesbian Independent School Teachers Network (GLSTN) began as a volunteer group of 70 gay and lesbian educators. At that time, there were two Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) in the nation, only one state with policy in place to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, and a general lack of awareness of the needs of LGBT students. LGBT youth did not have a voice in the education community or in the LGBT movement. There were few, if any, resources available for teachers to discuss LGBT issues.

   However, groups of concerned individuals began to establish chapters across the country, advocating locally and regionally for safe schools for students who were, or were perceived to be, LGBT.

   In 1995 GLSTN became a national organization and hired it first full time staff person, GLSTN's founder and Executive Director Kevin Jennings. In 1997, GLSTN staged its first national conference in Salt Lake City, UT to respond to the legislature's move to ban all student groups in an effort to prevent the formation of GSAs in the state. It is also this year that GLSTN changes its name to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, in order to attract new members to the struggle for safe schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/ expression.

   Currently, GLSEN has registered more than 4,000 GSAs, has approximately 40 full time staff, a governing board of 20 members and two advisory committees at the national level.

   GLSEN sponsors the National Day of Silence in which hundreds of thousands of students, teachers, and staff have participated at thousands of school campuses across the country. GLSEN also sponsors another annual event: No Name Calling Week. In coalition with leading education organizations, including the National Education Association and the National Middle School Association, GLSEN is proud to be a part of an event geared toward educating middle school students about the negative impact of bullying and harassment.

Please follow the link (title) to donate to this terrific cause.

Dear _______,

I am so humbled by the attention my story has Joel Burnsreceived in the past week, and grateful for all of the personal words of encouragement. Rightly, the focus will soon move from my story to the opportunity to galvanize all the support and love into action for those young people who are currently struggling.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth need hope for the future and help today. That’s why GLSEN’s work is so important. And that's why I'm asking you to take action now.

Visible adult support - at home, in school, in the community - is one of the most important lines of defense for a young person in crisis. GLSEN's Safe Space Campaign is designed to build that crucial lifeline in schools.

I urge you to visit the Safe Space website to take part in this campaign and send a Safe Space Kit to the school you attended, or that your child attends, or another school that you care about. With a Safe Space sticker to make supportive adults visible to the students who need them but may be too afraid to ask, and a guide to improve school climate for LGBT students, the Safe Space Kit helps concerned adults make a difference.

As I shared in my words last week, adults cannot look aside as young people struggle. The issue of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment is personal for me and must end. Click here to watch a PSA I have filmed for GLSEN to help get the message out.

The good news is that there are things we can do to help. Please visit GLSEN's website to learn more. Thank you to all of those who are doing their best every day, and for taking action now.



Councilman Joel Burns
Fort Worth, Texas

P.S.  Join me in taking action; visit GLSEN's Safe Space Campaign website and send a Safe Space Kit to your local school today. I also would love for you to keep in touch with me; please visit

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