Golden Rule Pledge listed on StopBullying.gov; How about a Walk-In?

I noticed last week that the Golden Rule Pledge is now listed on the federal government’s StopBullying.gov website.

This government resource is managed by DHHS and contains a wealth of information for schools, parents and students to help curb bullying.

I like it.

Regarding the Golden Rule Pledge and the Days of Dialogue and Silence, I only know of one district where they may be observed together. All around, this year seems more quiet than any previous year.

Of course, some religious right groups want students to walk out on the Day of Silence saying that the DOS keeps students from learning. I don’t understand the logic. Some kids being silent for parts of a day interferes with learning, but skipping school is educationally sound?

Instead of a walk-out, I advise a walk-in. Kids, walk in school and promise to treat others the way you want to be treated. Not only is that educationally sound, it sounds like a pretty good moral philosophy.

 

Must Be Spring, Day of Silence Derangement Syndrome is Breaking Out

On April 20, thousands of students will remain silent for part of the school day to call attention to anti-gay bullying and harassment. Called the Day of Silence, the event is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.

In 2008, some Christian right organizations called on parents to keep their kids home on the Day of Silence. This is happening again this year.

The Day of Silence brings out some really odd statements from those opposed to it. One would think that sending your kids to school on that day is sinful. Take for instance this exchange, reported on Right Wing Watch, between Linda Harvey and Laurie Higgins:

Higgins: What the Day of Silence does is ask kids to refuse to speak during instructional time in class, that they have no legal right to do and no school has to accommodate that, and so that’s what we’re doing is asking parents to call their school, ask if students are allowed to refuse to speak in instructional time, and if they are, to keep their kids home in protest about the disruption of instructional time for a political purpose.

Harvey: You can keep your kids home that day if you suspect or you find out that teachers are going to accommodate this protest silence in order to honor homosexuality, let’s be clear about what this is, this is a God-dishonoring day that honors sin, sinful, immoral behavior that most parents don’t want their children involved in.

Higgins: Christian teachers out there and if you’re working in a public school plan activities that involve student communications so students are not allowed to do this.

Laurie Higgins says the Day of Silence people promote kids remaining silent in class. While the organizers are fine with teachers who allow this response, GLSEN is clear that students do not have the right to remain silent if the class activities call on them to speak. Here is what the Day of Silence blog says about students and class room communication.

1. You DO have a right to participate in Day of Silence and other expressions of your opinion at a public school during non-instructional time: the breaks between classes, before and after the school day, lunchtime, and any other free times during your day. If your principal or a teacher tells you otherwise, you should contact our office or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

2. You do NOT have a right to remain silent during class time if a teacher asks you to speak. If you want to stay quiet during class on Day of Silence, we recommend that you talk with your teachers ahead of time, tell them that you plan to participate in Day of Silence and why it’s important to you, and ask them if it would be okay for you to communicate in class on that day in writing. Most teachers will probably say yes.

3. Your school is NOT required to “sponsor” Day of Silence. But Day of Silence is rarely a school-sponsored activity to begin with – it’s almost always an activity led by students. So don’t be confused – just because your school isn’t officially sponsoring or participating in Day of Silence doesn’t mean that you can’t participate.

4. Students who oppose Day of Silence DO have the right to express their views, too. Like you, they must do so in a civil, peaceful way and they only have a right to do so during non-instructional time. For example, they don’t have a right to skip school on Day of Silence without any consequences, just as you don’t have a right to skip school just because you don’t like what they think or say.

The irony is that Higgins and Harvey accuse the Day of Silence participants of violating school rules by remaining silent, and then turn around and urge truancy. Higgins and Harvey are fine with skipping an entire day of school, but become unhinged when those opposed to anti-gay bullying want to remain silent during non-instructional times.

I urge parents to resist Day of Silence Derangement Syndrome and send their kids to school on the Day of Silence (and even the misguided Day of Dialogue the day before). Send them to school and encourage them to become part of the solution via opposition to bullying. Students may want to remain silent, or take part in the Golden Rule Pledge which can take place any day of the year.

 

Golden Rule Pledge Partners with Pacer Center's National Bullying Prevention Month

The Golden Rule Pledge has again partnered with the Pacer Center and National Bullying Prevention Month for October’s effort to reduce school bullying. The GRP works to mobilize churches and youth groups to take a stand against bullying in school.
I started the GRP in 2008 in response to a call from some Christian groups  urging parents to keep their kids home on the Day of Silence. I also wanted to respond to the Day of Truth (now called Day of Dialogue) which in my view is not a constructive way to address the very real problem of bullying and anti-gay harassment in schools.
Students in high schools and colleges around the country have carried GRP pledge cards to school. Some have made clear statements to GLBT peers that they stand with them against bullying and harassment. Some churches (I have no way of knowing the number since the materials are free on the website) have used the bullying prevention materials designed for church youth groups. The Los Angeles School District has the GRP on the calendar for April of 2012.
I am always on the alert for volunteers nationally who desire to focus on ending bullying. If interested, email me.

Golden Rule Pledge on Facebook

The Golden Rule Pledge group on Facebook is slated to be archived soon as Facebook makes changes to how groups work.
In response, I created a GRP Fan Page on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/goldenrulepledge
Please click the link and click the Like button while there. I hope you will also invite your Facebook friends to join. This is an effort primarily involving evangelicals at present but I appreciate the support of any like-minded people who join constructively.

The Golden Rule Pledge (click link for updated website) promotes civility and the application of the Golden Rule in schools among Christian youth, especially in relations with GLBT students and teachers.

Ladies Home Journal on anti-gay bullying

The 9th largest monthly magazine, Ladies Home Journal, has an article out on newstands today which addresses anti-gay bullying. The article by Kenneth Miller is titled, “Gay Teens Bullied to the Point of Suicide” but covers the entire topic of anti-gay bias and religious tolerance. The subtitle, “It’s a shocking trend. Isn’t it time for all of us to encourage compassion and respect, no matter how we feel about homosexuality?” captures the tone of the piece aimed at the moderate to conservative readership of LHJ. I think Miller and the LHJ staff did a nice job of bringing in a variety of voices to urge a united voice against anti-gay bias and bullying. Full disclosure: I am a bit biased since I have a couple of quotes in the piece. The article sets the stage by calling out the extreme rhetoric used by some social conservatives:

“Despite recent cultural shifts, kids still get the overwhelming message from society that homosexuality is not acceptable,” says Scott Quasha, PsyD, a professor of school psychology at Brooklyn College. It’s not uncommon to hear fierce condemnation from politicians and preachers as they debate gay civil rights. Homosexuality is compared to incest, bestiality, even violent crime. “This trickles down into the schools, where bullying occurs,” says Dr. Quasha. “A gay child is an easy target for classmates looking to make trouble.”

Antigay bullying is something all parents should be concerned about, says Merle Bennett Buzzelli, who oversees the public school antiviolence program in Akron, Ohio. “The victims are not just students who are actually gay,” she points out — the abuse is also directed at straight kids who don’t quite fit gender norms. Tomboyish girls and guys who show interest in, say, gymnastics or dance are often called the same names — and subjected to the same ostracism and attacks — as their gay and lesbian classmates. There’s no evidence that Billy Lucas was gay, but he was “different,” classmates said. Because of that, bullies called him “fag” and told him he didn’t deserve to live. Of course, for kids who do experience same-sex attraction, the use of the word gay as an all-purpose put-down is just one more painful indication that they don’t fit in, whether or not they look or act any different from their peers, says Dr. Quasha.

Dr. Quasha is making a simple but effective case for the disruptive nature of stereotype threat. Stereotype threat, in this context, refers to the fear of being considered gay by others, usually more socially powerful peers. Stereotypes about gays are consistently negative among young teens, often held as a global, diffuse negative attitude.

I am not sure about this, but I think stereotype threat operates in two broad ways. For students who are sure or pretty sure they are gay, the threat is that the social group will believe or assume every negative stereotype about gay people. For non-gay or unsure teens, I think the threat is that they will be considered gay and that such assessments are negative. Hopefully, a school environment tolerant of differences and intolerant of harassment will make improve life for both categories of students.

The article considers people who hold all shades of beliefs regarding homosexuality with a money quote from Dr. Caitlin Ryan:

After almost a decade of research on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teens, Dr. Ryan’s group has found a clear pattern: The more supportive the parents and family, the better kids do over the long run. “That doesn’t necessarily mean changing your deeply held beliefs,” Dr. Ryan explains. “It means finding a way to balance those beliefs with the love you have for your child.”

Parents are called on to seek that balance all the time. Children do all kinds of things parents do not like or approve of but the role of parent involves providing love and direction. These values have to be balanced and carefully woven into an attachment that is like no other.

Ryan continues:

Even parents who can’t be fully accepting can find ways to be supportive. “You can say, ‘I think this is wrong but I love you and I’m going to be here for you,'” Dr. Ryan suggests. “Be willing to listen. Give your child a hug.”

This advice won’t please everyone but seems a reasonable compromise. In some cases, the agree to disagree approach leads to mutual respect and the maintenance of a solid attachment. In other cases, as noted in this article, parents become more accepting, even supportive.

I appreciate that the author reached out for comment from people of various faiths, in order to highlight the value of mutual respect and tolerance.

We all need to speak more carefully, says Father Mike Tegeder, pastor of the Church of St. Edward in Bloomington, Minnesota. “The Catholic Church teaches that each person has dignity, whatever their race or gender or sexual orientation,” he says. “We don’t need to agree with one another, but we have to respect one another’s dignity as children of God.”

And many religious groups agree. Exodus International, a conservative Christian organization that had previously encouraged kids to speak out against homosexuality, changed direction after the recent string of suicides, deciding to advocate “biblical tolerance and grace” instead of confrontation. For Warren Throckmorton, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College, a Christian school in Pennsylvania, the group’s reversal was an obvious choice. “It seems to me that Christians should be first in line in saying that everyone should be treated the way you yourself want to be treated,” says Dr. Throckmorton, a traditional evangelical who recently developed The Golden Rule Pledge, a program specifically designed to help conservative churches prevent antigay bullying.

The article provides resources for parents and community groups, including the Golden Rule Pledge and provides a clear message that respect for the dignity of all is a virtue about which we all should be able to agree. Let me ask social conservatives who want to criticize this article. What do you have to offer instead? How can the Golden Rule be wrong or inadequate? Do you like to be stereotyped or to be the target of demeaning rhetoric? I assume not, so don’t do it to other people.

UPDATE: Sigh, just after I posted the above, I saw this article in the Christian Post, describing the efforts of “an interfaith coalition” to block the NJ Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights. Instead of demonstrating respect during the Week of Respect mandated by the bill, the coalition wants to have their own week, called “Morality Awareness Campaign.” The coalition was also glad to have private religious schools exempted. Watch this and ask yourself if that was such a good idea. Really, watch this…

What kind of dialogue will we have?

Focus on the Family’s revised Day of Dialogue seems to be a kinder, gentler version of the former Day of Truth. On the new website, the group comes out strongly against bullying:

Any form of bullying and harassment of others is always wrong, including making fun of others, speaking down to them and saying things that hurt people. Christian students in particular should be bold in speaking up to oppose that kind of behavior because it goes completely against the model Christ gave us and that is reflected in Bible verses like these: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:16-17.

They also emphasize that any objections to homosexuality must be expressed in a respectful manner.

Any verbal and written expressions used by students participating in this event should be loving and compassionate—and never be expressed in a condemning or antagonistic way to others. Even when we disagree with others, we should always demonstrate the utmost compassion and respect for them.

While I appreciate this tone, I wonder what kind of dialogue the sponsors hope to create. Let’s set the stage for the proposed dialogue. The DoD is set to take place on Monday, April 18, 2010, the Monday after the Friday the Day of Silence is observed. On the Day of Silence, some students are silent during non-instructional time to dramatize the silence surrounding the harassment and bullying of students who identify as GLBT or those who are perceived to be a sexual minority. The sponsors suggest providing cards to pass out which “speak” for them. Here is what they say:

Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence (DOS), a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward building awareness and making a commitment to address these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today.

DAY of SILENCE – What are you going to do to end the Silence?

This would be one side of a dialogue. What is the other side? Is there another side? The DoS invites a dialogue about ending bullying relating to perceptions of sexual orientation. What kind of dialogue is envisioned by the DoD? From the website:

As a high school or college student, do you sometimes feel discouraged when controversial subjects like homosexuality are brought up in your school—and the conversation seems stifled, one-sided and doesn’t allow free room for discussion? Do you feel like your beliefs—the deepest truths of Christianity—are being mischaracterized?

Wish your classmates could hear more of the story—like the truth about God’s deep love for us and what the Bible really says about His redemptive design for marriage and sexuality? Wouldn’t it be nice if a deeper and freer conversation could happen?

As it stands, on Friday, the DoS students will ask for a conversation about anti-gay name-calling and bullying and then on Monday, the DoD students will answer with a defense of evangelical beliefs about sexuality. To me, that seems like two groups talking about two different things.

And so, I will continue to promote the Golden Rule Pledge during the days surrounding the “Days.” GRPledgers will join with those calling for an end to anti-gay bullying and offer that response to the question: “What are you going to do to end the Silence?” In addition, I encourage students to be keep the dialogue about ending bullying on the DoD.

Exodus International drops Day of Truth

Exodus International announced today that the organization will no longer sponsor the Day of Truth (website has been disabled). In an article on CNN’s Belief’s Blog posted by Dan Gilgoff, Exodus leader, Alan Chambers tells the tale:

“All the recent attention to bullying helped us realize that we need to equip kids to live out biblical tolerance and grace while treating their neighbors as they’d like to be treated, whether they agree with them or not,” said Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, the group that sponsored the event this year.

Probably surprised by the move, GLSEN’s Eliza Byard welcomed the news.

“I thank Exodus for making this very important step,” said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard on Wednesday after hearing of Exodus’ decision. “The Day of Truth was an effort to push a very specific set of opinions about homosexuality into schools in a way that was inappropriate and divisive.”

On the Day of Truth, middle and high school students are encouraged to wear Day of Truth T-shirts and to distribute cards that say “It’s time for an honest conversation about the biblical truth for sexuality,” according to Exodus’ manual for this year’s event.

“I don’t think it’s necessary anymore,” Chambers said of the event on Wednesday. “We want to help the church to be respectful of all its neighbors, to help those who want help and to be compassionate toward people who may hold a different worldview from us.”

As I noted in the article, I think this is a very significant move. Over the past three years, I have been documenting a split in the evangelical world over how to relate to the gay community. With this decision, Exodus has moved even farther away from the side of fear and stigma. I welcome it as quite consistent with the article I wrote yesterday for CNN.

Day of Silence, Golden Rule Pledge roundup

Today is the Day of Silence, where students attempt to remain silent for parts of the school day to bring attention to anti-gay bullying. This year has been much quieter than the first two years for the supportive Golden Rule Pledge. I am aware of students in a dozen or so communities who planned to pass out GRP cards, either while joining in the silence or indenpendently of it.

I have looked in on the Day of Silence twitter account a couple of times and this retweet caught my eye:

Today has been awful. Verbal and physical bullying. This is why we do this.

This pains me. I wish she had written that some kids were pledging the Golden Rule and standing up to the bullies. Maybe next time?

I have posted this song before but it seems fitting again. After the vid/song, check out the few news articles which mention the Golden Rule Pledge.

Charisma covered the GRP as part of a story on the Day of Truth, the walkout, and the Day of Silence. Christian Post took a similar line in this story.

Here is a link to a Crosswalk.com article I wrote a year ago, called “That’s So Gay” – The deadly consequences of bullying.

Golden Rule Pledge dayz

The Day of Truth is today and the the Day of Silence is tomorrow. In some places, on both days, students are passing out Golden Rule Pledge cards. There does not seem to be as much media interest as last year but things are happening. Charisma Magazine has a brief review of the different efforts taking place.

The unofficial them song of the GRP is Hero by Superchick. I say unofficial because the band has not authorized that but I like it and so here it is again.

Don’t walkout, walk along side and be a hero. Don’t preach at gay kids and call it conversation. Instead, walk along side and listen.

The Days are coming…

After March Madness – which I am looking forward to – the month of the Days will be here. April 15 (or 12th if you listen to the PSA on the website) is set as the Day of Truth with April 16 being the Day of Silence. The boycotters will also be pursuing their mischief. This week, the Illinois Family Institute sent out an email asking for supporters to find out if their local school would be taking part in the Day of Silence. Soon after, Exodus sent out an email promoting the Day of Truth.

In response to the boycott and the Day of Truth, I will again support the Golden Rule Pledge. For more on that, go on over to the Golden Rule Pledge site.  And consider joining the Facebook group supporting the GRP.

Also, this week, fellow Crosswalk.com blogger, John Shore posted on the GRP. His initial reaction to the GRP was not positive and his readers are giving me some tips.