First, thank you so much for your recent show that featured the mothers of 11-year old suicide victims Carl Hoover-Walker and Jaheem Herrera
That said, I was really disappointed that, despite both boys having found anti-gay bullying so gut-wrenching, your professional guests addressed bullying without ever talking about the URGENT importance of addressing homophobia and prejudice through EDUCATION. The best bullying programs and the best psychologists working one-on-one with bullied kids won’t put an end to anti-gay bullying. Until we’re willing to have teachers talk about gay people respectfully, kids will use homophobia as the weapon that our silence puts in their hands.
What else do I wish you would do?
1. Check out www.safeschoolscoalition.org.
2. Have someone on the show to talk about the work of the Safe Schools Coalition.
3. Invite Kim Westheimer to talk about the Human Rights Campaign's wonderful Welcoming Schools project.
4. Have Debra Chasnoff of Groundspark talk about their amazing film-based curricula.
5. Invite Stephanie Brill of Gender Spectrum to talk about her unbelievable work with schools.
6. Invite the folks from the Committee for Children, Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League to talk specifically about how their bullying programs address bias-based bullying, and anti-LGBT bullying in particular.
7. Ask principals and curriculum directors to put aside preparing children for high stakes testing just one week every year and focus for that week on prejudice reduction
~ a day about religious diversity and, at older grades, prejudice against the religious (of various faiths) and prejudice against the unchurched;
~ a day about immigration, refugees and, at older grades, about xenophobia and its costs all over the world;
~ a day about race and the history of racism and about white privilege and what it means to be an ally (actually that would be part of each of the 5 days);
~ a day about sexual diversity -- about families with lesbian, gay, bi and trans parents/guardians, about the contributions of LGBT people and, at older grades about homophobia and transphobia and the history of anti-LGBT brutality; and
~ a day about women who've changed the world and, in later grades about misogyny and violence against women and what some men and women are doing to change that.
If schools devoted just one week early in the year, every single year starting in elementary school, it could change climates dramatically. In combination with good anti-bullying programs, it could save the lives of the Carls and Jaheems, and the Gwen Araujos and Matthew Shepards too.
It is time schools worked to reduce the PREJUDICES that underly the most horrific bullying and not just the bullying (the symptom). Please take the lead on this, Oprah. Nobody has a voice like you do.
Public Health Educator and Co-Chair of the Safe Schools Coalition
10501 Meridian Avenue N
Seattle, WA 98133
P.S. I hope your staffers watch the blogosphere, Oprah, because I couldn't find a place on your web site to say more than 180 characters and I couldn't figure out how to do this in that much space.