HELP STUDENTS FEEL SAFE AND CAPABLE
Nearly 11 years ago President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act which expanded existing U.S. Hate Crime Laws to include those motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. It was 20 years ago when then 22year-old college student Shepard was brutally beaten and left to die tied to a fence. This horrific act of hatred led to a generation of advocacy for the equal rights of LGBTQ individuals.
Violence still looms over the LGBTQ community. According to the Human Rights Campaign 2018 report, 70 percent of LGBTQ students have heard verbal threats and 3 in 10 experienced physical threats. More than 1 in 10 have been sexually attacked or raped. Could it be that ignorance and fear are major factors in the continued harassment and violence? We fear what we do not understand, what is different from ourselves.
Teaching Tolerance is a program where educators are given tools to address the lack of knowledge surrounding diversity in student populations in an effort to dispel the fear and stop the violence. The LGBTQ Best Practices Guide created by Teaching Tolerance helps schools to help all students feel safe and capable of succeeding. This guide can be downloaded at www.tolerance.org/ lgbtq-guide. October 11 is National Coming Out Day. Let’s continue to provide school environments where all students feel safe and capable of success.
– Teresa Schmidt, Shiloh