NEW YORK -- More than 2,000 middle and high schools across 50 states will pledge themselves as friends of the LGBT community this week, starting today, Monday, October 17, 2011.
Ally Week is a program started by students in 2005 that went national under the direction of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), as a way for school Gay Straight Alliances and other related clubs to recognize and encourage others to also be supportive, by taking a pledge against anti-LGBT bullying.
On the heels of National Coming Out Day (Oct 11) and during the same week of Spirit Day (Sept 20), Ally Week runs from October 17-21 this year, and students who wish to participate in Ally Week do so by signing a pledge card at their school or online.
"Ally Week is important because it seeks to identify, celebrate and support a vital group within the LGBT community that fulfills a unique purpose in the quest for safe and more inclusive schools,” said Carly Friends, a 13-year-old student from Sahuarita, Az.
“Every day, allies offer a much-needed support system to LGBT youth. They speak up for people who, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, do not feel safe doing so themselves. And as a straight ally myself, I cannot stress enough how important this week of action is."
The pledge consists of:
- Not use anti-LGBT language or slurs;
- Intervene, if I safely can, in situations where students are being harassed;
- Support efforts to end bullying and harassment and;
- Encourage others to be allies.
While Ally Week is a student-focused event, students have invited their principals, counselors, teachers and other school staff to participate.
Both GLSEN and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) are requesting that students participating in Ally Week also take part in Spirit Day and make it part of their week-long event. Participants in Spirit Day are encouraged to wear purple to show their support of LGBTQI youth.
For more information about Spirit Day click HERE.
Nearly nine out of ten LGBT students experience harassment at school each year because of their sexual orientation and nearly two-thirds because of their gender expression, according to the GLSEN 2009 National School Climate Survey. Those findings also revealed that 61.1% felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and 39.9% because of how they expressed their gender.
“Sadly, we know that anti-LGBT bullying has severe consequences on a student’s chance to excel in school,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. “Allies play a significant role in creating safe learning environments for LGBT students. GLSEN’s Ally Week invites people to shape a culture where all students feel safe, valued and respected, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.”
Also, use the Twitter hashtag #AllyWeek.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit glsen.org.