LGBTQ kids and school safety

Distinguished activist Kevin Jennings shares important messages about transgender youth and school environments. Hear what he has to say about how schools can become unsafe for children.
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LGBTQ kids and school safety

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Sadly, school is still a very hostile place for LGBTQ young people. Nearly 80% on the report, they've been verbally harassed, over 40% have been physically harassed, and 1 of 4 are physically assaulted at school. These are much higher rates than for non-gay youth. So, the fact is school is not a safe place for kids who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. And, that's a very scary thing for parents to know, but it is a reality. And, one thing that you probably should do is approach your kid's school and ask what the climate is like and what they are doing to make the school safe place for your child. Don't automatically assume they're doing so. In 38 states in this country, there's no law against bullying or harassing a kid because they're of such orientation or gender identity. Only 12 states specifically ban bullying based on sexual orientation. So, we got a long way to go before we put in place the basic things we need to keep kids safe. Don't assume your school is doing the right thing. I'm sorry to tell you this, but odds are they're not.

Distinguished activist Kevin Jennings shares important messages about transgender youth and school environments. Hear what he has to say about how schools can become unsafe for children.

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Kevin Jennings

Educational Specialist

Kevin Jennings is the Executive Director of the Arcus Foundation, a leading global foundation advancing pressing social justice and conservation issues. Specifically, Arcus works to advance LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) equality, as well as to conserve and protect the great apes.

Kevin has a long and distinguished career as an educator, a social justice activist, a teacher, and an author. From 2011-2012 Kevin was CEO of Be the Change, a nonprofit that creates national issue-based campaigns on pressing problems in American society. While there he helped launch Opportunity Nation, a campaign designed to increase opportunity and economic mobility in America.

From 2009-2011 Kevin served as Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education, heading the department’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (OSDFS). In this role, Mr. Jennings led federal efforts to promote the safety, health and well being of America’s students. Kevin led the Obama Administration’s anti-bullying initiative, which culminated in March 2011 with the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention keynoted by President Obama.

Kevin began his career as a high school history teacher and coach, first at Moses Brown School in Providence, R.I., from 1985 to 1987, and then at Concord Academy in Concord, Mass., from 1987 to 1995. At Concord, he served as the faculty advisor to the nation’s first Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) leading him in 1990 found GLSEN, a national education organization bringing together lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and straight teachers, parents, students, and community members who wanted to end anti-LGBT bias in our schools. Jennings left teaching in 1995 to build the all-volunteer GLSEN organization into a national force, serving as its founding Executive Director until 2008. Under his leadership, GLSEN programs such as Gay-Straight Alliance, the Day of Silence and No Name-Calling Week became commonplace in America’s schools. GLSEN’s advocacy was key in passing comprehensive safe schools laws in eleven states, increasing the number of students protected from anti-LGBT discrimination from less than 900,000 in 1993 (less than 2% of the national student body) to 14.3 million by 2008 (nearly 30%).

Kevin became the first member of his family to graduate from college when he received his B.A. magna cum laude in history from Harvard University in 1985. He is the founder of First Generation Harvard Alumni, an alumnae/i organization of Harvard graduates who were the first in their families to graduate from college who offer mentoring to current undergraduates who are the first in their families to attend college. He also holds an MA in education from Columbia University’s Teachers College, from which he received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2012, and an MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business. He has received the “Friend of Children” Award from the National Association of School Psychologists, the Human and Civil Rights Award of the National Education Association, the Distinguished Service Award of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Diversity Leadership Award of the National Association of Independent Schools. He is a Board Member of the Harvard Alumni AssociationUnion Theological Seminary, and the You Can Play Project, a groundbreaking effort to combat homophobia and transphobia in sports. He is also Board Chair for the Tectonic Theater Project, which created The Laramie Project. Kevin is a founding member of the New York City Gay Hockey Association, and plays left wing on The Boxers.

Mr. Jennings has authored six books, with his latest, Mama’s Boy, Preacher’s Son: A Memoir, being named a Book of Honor by the American Library Association in 2006. He also helped write and produce the documentary Out of the Past, which won the 1998 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary.

Mr. Jennings and his partner, Jeff Davis, a senior executive at Barclay’s, are celebrating 20 years together in 2014. They are the proud “parents” of a Bernese mountain dog, Ben, and also have a “granddog” in Ben’s son, Jackson.

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