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Safe Schools Summit: Bridging the Gap Between Anti-Bullying Efforts And The Experience of LGBTQ Youth

PITTSBURGH, PA – January 2, 2012. Persad Center, GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network), and PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) will co-host a Safe Schools summit in the Lexus Club at PNC Park on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 to raise the issue of bullying targeted at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) students in Pittsburgh schools. The event will be held from 8:30AM to Noon, and will feature national speakers from the Trevor Project (a national suicide prevention hotline for LGBTQ youth), GLSEN, and PFLAG, as well as a presentation by Dr. Laura Crothers and Dr. Jered Kolbert, researchers from Duquesne University who will share their recent findings about bullying. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will also be in attendance to address summit participants about the City of Pittsburgh’s commitment to ending the bullying of local gay youth. (*Please see attached summit agenda and speaker bios.)

The Safe Schools Project was created to respond to the critical issue of youth bullying and suicide. Recent research from GLSEN shows that 75.4% of students hear derogatory remarks specific to their sexual orientation frequently or often at school, and they are 3-4 times more likely to attempt and complete suicide. Persad Center’s Executive Director, Betty Hill, attended a post-agenda meeting held by Pittsburgh City Councilman Bruce Kraus in the spring of 2012, which raised the issue of anti-bullying efforts in local schools.

Ms. Hill was surprised by the disconnect she perceived between school administrators and LGBTQ students. “A round table of speakers gave their perspectives on the issue,” she explains. “Stunningly, the group told two very different stories. Representatives working in schools on the bullying efforts declared success and change, while representatives working specifically with LGBTQ youth and many youth themselves, declared a failure to address the issue effectively and a need for new solutions. Clearly, anti-bullying efforts have been successful at addressing some types of bullying toward some students, but bullying towards LGBTQ youth continues and has not abated. We need to determine why LGBTQ students continue to be the victims of hostile school situations in our local schools.”

The Safe Schools summit will raise awareness about the gap between anti-bullying efforts that are working to help some students, contrasted with the continued negative experiences of LGBTQ students, and will demonstrate the need for understanding that difference and identifying what strategies will bridge this gap. Persad and its collaborators will also use this event to announce and introduce the second part of the two-year, three-pronged project: a research group led by Drs. Laura Crothers and Jered Kolbert of Duquesne University that will further document information about the issue of LGBTQ bullying in local schools as well as explore the causes and differences.

Following the completion of this research, Persad, PFLAG and GLSEN will host the third part of the Safe Schools initiative, a series of a focus groups with area youth, educators, parents, and LGBTQ community service organizations to discuss the report findings and explore the question of “What Will It Take?” to eliminate bullying of LGBTQ students. The focus groups will also serve the purpose of helping us to develop solutions, accountability measures and a call to action for local school districts to examine and implement them.

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About Persad Center, Inc.

Strengthening the region’s LGBTQ communities and their allies, Persad Center’s mission is to increase the well being of sexual minority persons, all persons affected by HIV/AIDS, and the family members and significant others of these persons. As a community counseling organization, we achieve this through counseling and therapeutic services for our target populations; prevention and well being services for the community; advocacy and support for individuals and groups affected by discrimination; and training, education and research to increase understanding and tolerance.

Founded in 1972, Persad Center is the nation’s second oldest licensed counseling center dedicated to serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and HIV/AIDS communities. The agency’s mission is to improve the well-being of the populations we serve through a wide variety of outreach, prevention, education, counseling, and advocacy programs. Our efforts reach across the life spectrum, serving youth, adults, couples, families, and seniors.

Event Agenda: Bridging the Gap Between Anti-Bullying Efforts

And The Experience of LGBTQ Youth

8:15-9AM – Continental breakfast and registration

9:00AM – Ron Korenich: Welcome remarks and introduction of Betty Hill

9:05AM – Betty Hill: Welcome remarks, overview of Safe Schools Project, introduction of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

9:10AM – Mayor Luke Ravenstahl: Remarks on behalf of the City of Pittsburgh. Introduction of Wes Nemenz, Senior Education Manager for the Trevor Project

9:15AM – Wes Nemenz, Trevor Project

9:40AM – Betty Hill: Acknowledgement of Safe Schools Committee, introduction of Janet Fazzini

9:45AM – Janet Fazzini: Remarks on Pittsburgh chapter of PLAG, introduction Jody Huckaby, Executive Director for national PLFAG

9:50AM  – Jody Huckaby – Executive Director, PFLAG

10:15AM – BREAK

10:25AM – Betty Hill: Introduction local GLSEN and Ian Syphard

10:30AM – Ian Syphard: Remarks on local GLSEN efforts, introduction of Robert McGarry, Director of Education for GLSEN

10:35AM –Robert McGarry – Director of Education, GLSEN

11:00AM – Betty Hill: Introduction of Duquesne researchers Laura Crothers and Jered Kolbert

11:05AM – Laura Crothers and Jered Kolbert, Duquesne University

11:30AM – Open Q & A, Discussion

National Speaker Bios

Wes Nemenz, Education Manager – East for the Trevor Project, the nation’s leading organization providing suicide prevention and crisis intervention resources for lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.

Mr. Nemenz brings with him an extensive history of advocating, empowering, and supporting LGBTQ youth: from presenting hundreds of trainings on creating safer spaces for LGBTQ individuals in New York schools and professional environments, to coordinating youth programs at an LGBTQ community center, to developing social media strategies for non-profit organizations. Prior to moving to New York, Mr. Nemenz worked with Equality North Carolina on their grassroots campaign to successfully pass the School Violence Prevention Act, the South’s first-ever LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying bill. Wes graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Communication Studies and Public Relations. He is a dynamic and engaging public speaker, a proud voice for social justice, and an advocate for the safety and support of LGBTQ youth.

Robert McGarry, Ed.D., Director of Education for GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

Dr. McGarry is a lifelong educator with over 10 years of experience guiding, developing and assessing the implementation of curriculum on both the district and state levels in his home state of New Jersey. His professional and academic passions, exemplified by his doctoral thesis: Troubling Teachable Moments: Initiating Teacher Discourse on Homophobic Speech are what brought him to GLSEN where he is now fully engaged in evidence-based efforts to provide educators with tools to teach young people the value of respecting that which makes us different.  Dr. McGarry has spoken at various state and national conferences, provided testimony to governmental commissions, and developed school district workshops that blend research with practice. Dr. McGarry holds a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership and Organizational Theory from the University of Pennsylvania.

Jody M. Huckaby Executive Director, PFLAG National

Jody M. Huckaby has been the Executive Director of PFLAG National since February of 2005 and is one of the longest tenured leaders of a national LGBT organization. He has served as a nonprofit leader for more than twenty one years, serving as Executive Director of the Washington Humane Society in Washington, DC, New Mexico AIDS Services in Albuquerque, and the Bering/Omega Community Foundation in Houston. Jody served as a Board member of AIDS Action in Washington DC and, in that capacity, facilitated LGBT grassroots organization and public policy development on HIV/AIDS issues, housing, healthcare, and research.

Jody travels extensively, both domestically and internationally, to train and speak on the importance of the family and ally voice in advancing acceptance and equality. He has become a visible spokesperson on issues impacting the LGBT community and their loved ones, appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show with his siblings, both gay and straight, and being quoted in national news outlets on PFLAG’s unique family and straight ally voice.
Jody holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Dallas and has done graduate work in Theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Chicago.



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