Respect for All Week
Last week, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein announced that the Department of Education is launching its first-ever “Respect for All Week” in New York City. Respect for All Week is designed to focus each school’s attention on sustaining safe, supportive, and inclusive environments, providing an opportunity to highlight and build upon their existing efforts to combat bullying and harassment based on ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other characteristics.
“Students should have the right to pursue, and we have an obligation to provide, an education without the fear and distraction of bullying,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said. For some, home is not a safe place. School is and should be.
GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) has been a huge partner in the launch of this week. “We believe that Respect for All Week is an opportunity for all of us to focus on very specific ways that we can build a culture and climate of respect in our schools,” said Mark Weiss, Education Director of Operation Respect. Now, if you've read my blog at all, those words probably sound familiar. That is exactly what we are trying to do with the Safe Schools Program of PFLAG NYC.
The response from schools reaching out to PFLAG NYC for speakers during this week was so overwhelming, we could not even accommodate all during this week (but don't worry, we'll catch up next week). I spoke at Bronx Community HS on Tuesday and will speak at the United Federation of Teachers Conference on Saturday. Tuesday, I had an experience much different than I had last year at the same school. This year was a classroom full of girls who already supported and embraced their gay and lesbian friends. My focus was to praise them, thank them, and encourage them to continue their vocal support. It seems as though they didn't even understand how radical they and their views are - that's a neat characteristic of this generation. I'm looking forward to sharing with the teachers because teachers and guidance counselors need to be armed with the correct tools and language to use in supporting their LGBT youth and the bullying that can be associated.
I'm proud of the City Council's incredible initiative in this 1-week dedication to "Respect for All." My hope is that the teachers and community members can help sustain these attitudes far beyond March 8-12, 2010.