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GA Voice - - Front Page - By PA­TRICK FAER­BER

As the chair of GLSEN At­lanta and a re­cent high school grad­u­ate, I have many dis­cus­sions with LGBT stu­dents across Ge­or­gia. The more I talk with them, the clearer it is that they don’t want to hear about “it gets bet­ter” any­more. In­stead, they want to make it bet­ter now.

It seems that for as long as we can think back, “it gets bet­ter” has been the main to­ken of ad­vice the adult com­mu­nity has handed down gen­er­a­tion af­ter gen­er­a­tion. But with to­day’s group of stu­dents, it’s time the en­tire LGBT com­mu­nity came to­gether to fi­nally win the bat­tle of mak­ing Ge­or­gia schools more in­clu­sive.

When we formed GLSEN At­lanta just over a year ago, the ob­jec­tive was to come to­gether to sup­port stu­dents as they go through the tox- ic en­vi­ron­ment in our schools. In 2013, Ge­or­gia schools saw eight out of ten LGBT stu­dents be­ing ver­bally ha­rassed based on their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion while three in ten were phys­i­cally ha­rassed based on their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and one in ten were phys­i­cally as­saulted based on the way they ex­pressed their gen­der.

The worst part is that 65 per­cent of stu­dents who were ha­rassed or as­saulted in school never re­ported it to school staff, and 56 per­cent never told a fam­ily mem­ber about the in­ci­dent.

De­spite the hor­ren­dous cli­mate these stu­dents face in their schools, over 20 schools in the state have Gay-Straight Al­liances (GSAs) or sim­i­lar stu­dent groups de­signed to sup­port LGBT stu­dents.

In schools with GSAs, stu­dents were al­most 20 per­cent less likely to re­port feel­ing un­safe, while also re­port­ing teach­ers were sig­nif­i­cantly more likely to in­ter­vene when hear­ing ho­mo­pho­bic re­marks.

Now, GLSEN At­lanta is try­ing to em­power Ge­or­gia’s LGBT stu­dent lead­ers to go be­yond GSAs to make a dif­fer­ence in their schools and com­mu­ni­ties.

GLSEN has part­nered with Ge­or­gia Equal­ity to cre­ate GSA Con­nect and the Metro At­lanta LGBTQ Stu­dent Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence. GSA Con­nect is a dig­i­tal con­nec­tion among the more than 50 mid­dle school, high school and col­lege GSAs in Ge­or­gia.

For the first time ever, Ge­or­gia fi­nally has a solid and uni­fied net­work of GSAs full of pas­sion­ate and driven stu­dents. But now, they need sup­port from the greater LGBT com­mu­nity to help them make a dif­fer­ence.

As this year moves for­ward, stu­dents need adults to be­come in­volved in their school com­mu­ni­ties in many ways. You can do­nate and/or vol­un­teer with GLSEN At­lanta by vis­it­ing glsen.org/at­lanta, or you can also help by spon­sor­ing GSA events.

To­day’s youth are more out and coura­geous than ever be­fore. As mem­bers of the LGBT com­mu­nity, we need to come sup­port them and help them to fi­nally change the way LGBT youth view school. We need to fi­nally make Ge­or­gia schools safe and sup­port­ive places for all stu­dents.

“It seems that for as long as we can think back, ‘it gets bet­ter’ has been the main to­ken of ad­vice the adult com­mu­nity has handed down gen­er­a­tion af­ter gen­er­a­tion. But with to­day’s group of stu­dents, it’s time the en­tire LGBT com­mu­nity came to­gether to fi­nally win the bat­tle of mak­ing Ge­or­gia schools more in­clu­sive.”

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