09/23/2019 by Carney Sandoe Staff |

Being an Ally, Always

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Today marks the start of GLSEN's Ally Week (September 23-27), a school-centered and student-led program where LGBTQ K-12 students and LGBTQ educators lead the conversation on what they need from their allies in school. In 2005, members of GLSEN’s Jump-Start National Student Leadership Team came up with an idea to encourage allies committed to ensuring safe and affirming schools for all to take action to support LGBTQ students. The idea turned into the first Ally Week celebrated in schools nationwide in September.

What is GLSEN?

For those who aren't familiar with GLSEN, they are the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1990, GLSEN's mission is to ensure every member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. At CS&A, we know many schools who use GLSEN's resources to build welcoming and supportive communities. We, too, have learned a great deal from GLSEN about being more inclusive — in fact, they inspired us to start providing pronouns for attendees at our hiring conferences at affix to their name tags, helping to eliminate assumptions of gender identity. And at this past winter's FORUM/Diversity event, we held a session on LGBTQ educators in independent schools featuring educator and activist Dr. Philip McAdoo, where attendees were able to listen to and share stories around combating discrimination.

Joining Ally Week

During Ally Week, students and educators organize activities at school that focus on encouraging and enhancing allyship toward LGBTQ youth. GLSEN recommends holding an Allyship in Action workshop, which outlines the basics of being an ally to LGBTQ youth. To help students develop the skills to interact in our diverse world, GLSEN has created LGBT-inclusive curricular resources to improve school climate, build leadership, and encourage ally behavior. In addition, GLSEN has provided a list of actions educators can take to support LGBTQ youth, including LGBTQ youth of color, trans and gender nonconforming youth, and LGBTQ youth with different abilities.

As an educator or school leader, you have the opportunity to bring Ally Week into your classroom and school community. Having knowledge of your school’s policies and procedures, you can offer suggestions on how your school can develop effective Ally Week activities that bring LGBTQ visibility into your school in a positive way. If you work with older students, you can also help them to advocate with administrators and other students who may need a better understanding of the value of celebrating Ally Week.

To sign up for Ally Week or explore how to participate, visit GLSEN's website. Registrants receive free streaming of classroom documentaries from GLSEN's partners at Groundspark, as well as planning guides and organizing tips. Their Ally Week Educator Guide is also a great place to get started.

Long-term Allyship

Celebrating Ally Week is a great way to start the school year by showing solidarity with the LGBTQ community through positive messages that promote inclusion, affirmation, and love. We encourage schools and educators to explore GLSEN's resources around Ally Week, but to also consider long-term plans to create more inclusive communities. Whether through information sharing with peer schools, professional development, or CS&A's DEI consulting services, it's important not only to have conversations about what allyship looks like, but also to have actionable steps for allies to take in order to show up for their LGBTQ friends, colleagues, and families year-round.

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