Youth Advocates Hail Education, Health, Mental Health Groups For Unprecedented Collaborative Effort In Support Of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Students

First-of-its-kind Publication Urges Educators to Better Support Students, Reject 'Ex-Gay' Messages

A publication released Nov. 23 by an unprecedented coalition of the nation's leading education, health and mental health organizations strongly urges educators and school administrators to better understand sexual orientation development, support lesbian, gay and bisexual students, and reject efforts to bring "ex-gay" messages into the nation's schools. The initiative was greeted with great approval by a number of national organizations which advocate on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.

The publication, Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth, was mailed this week to over 15,000 school district superintendents across the country. Prompted by concerns that school personnel were receiving inaccurate information on the issue of sexual orientation and how to address it best with students, the coalition began meeting in November 1998 to produce the document. The coalition included the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychological Association, American School Health Association, The Interfaith Alliance Foundation, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)-the largest national organization working to end anti-gay bias in K-12 schools-as well as the National Youth Advocacy Coalition (NYAC), and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) today hailed the effort, noting that lesbian, gay and bisexual students face pervasive harassment and isolation at school. One recent survey found that 69% of lesbian, gay and bisexual students have experienced verbal or physical harassment, or physical assault, while at school.

"Our nation's educators have been struggling for too long with too little information about sexual orientation development and youth-and this has taken a heavy toll on the health and well-being of lesbian, gay and bisexual students. Educating the educators is a necessary and much-welcomed step in the right direction," said GLSEN Executive Director Kevin Jennings. "This breakthrough publication and the unprecedented coalition behind it will help lead to the day in which isolation and in-school harassment will become the exception, rather than the rule, for these youth."

NYAC Executive Director Rea Carey stated, "Gay, lesbian and bisexual students now have a new tool to enhance their ability to gain support in the school environment. The unprecedented leverage of this powerful body of national mainstream education and health organizations will go far in ensuring a safer school day for thousands of students. It is our hope that the collective voice of these organizations will ring through the hallways and playgrounds of our nation's schools. The next time a student is wondering if he or she is bisexual, or the next time a young lesbian gets attacked, I hope the person to whom they turn to is someone who has read this publication."

"Every day, I talk to other families who have a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered child, just as I do. We know our loved ones face unspeakable harassment and violence at school&emdash;and we know that, with information and resources, schools can do a better job of ensuring that all students are safe," added PFLAG Executive Director Kirsten Kingdon. "This unprecedented publication is precisely the kind of factual, objective material our schools badly need. While it is long overdue, we are grateful that schools will now have this information. Families nationwide stand ready to help make sure it is put to good use."

To receive a copy of Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth, visit GLSEN's web site at www.glsen.org.

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