Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network

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Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network
Founded 1990
Founder Kevin Jennings
Type Educational
Area served
United States
Formerly called
Gay and Lesbian Independent School Teachers Network

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network, is an organization founded in 1990 in the United States that seeks to end discrimination, harassment, and bullying based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in K-12 schools. GLSEN is headquartered in New York City, but has one office in Washington, D.C. to house the policy department. GLSEN focuses its efforts on the support and opportunities provided by the four pillars of safety, respect, health, and leadership. Through programs, research, policy, training, and resource development work, GLSEN has built a network of over 13,000 educators across the country.

In addition to national efforts, GLSEN works locally through chapters. As of 2015, there are thirty-eight chapters across the twenty-six states that train 5,000 students, educators, and school personnel each year.[1] The chapters also support more than 4,000 registered school-based clubs, commonly known as gay–straight alliances (GSAs), which work to address anti-LGBT name calling, bullying, and harassment in their schools. GLSEN also sponsors and participates in a host of annual "Days of Action", including GLSEN's Day of Silence every April, GLSEN's Ally Week every September, and GLSEN's No Name-Calling Week every January.

Guided by research such as GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey, GLSEN has developed resources, lesson plans, classroom materials, and professional development programs for teachers on how to support LGBT students, such as "Safe Schools" training.[2] Ready, Set, Respect!, Safe Space kits, and program guides for all the days of action. Safe Schools training and various other professional development opportunities have been facilitated by more than 200 GLSEN trainers to over 5,000 educators and school personnel each year. Ready, Set, Respect! is an elementary school toolkit developed to help educators ensure that all students feel safe and respected. GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit, which has been distributed to over 63,000 schools in the country, provides educators with a guide for supporting LGBT students, as well as Safe Space stickers and posters.

GLSEN has advocated that one of the most effective ways for schools, districts and states to improve their school climates and to make their schools safer and more affirming is to enact LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying laws and policies. GLSEN has worked with the U.S. Departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Human Services to create model policies that support LGBT students and educators, including the first-ever Trans Model Policy, as well as implementation guides to ensure that these policies are considered, passed, and implemented. GLSEN has considered their signature legislation to be the Safe Schools Improvement Act and has been honored by the White House as a “Champion of Change.”



  • Kevin Jennings, a high school history teacher in Massachusetts, leads a coalition of gay and lesbian educators to form what was then called the Gay and Lesbian Independent School Teacher Network (GLISTN).
  • The organization began as a local volunteer group of 70 gay and lesbian educators. At that time, there were two gay–straight alliances in the nation, only one state with policy in place to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, and a general lack of awareness of the needs of LGBT students. There were few, if any, resources available for teachers to discuss LGBT issues. However, groups of concerned individuals began to establish chapters across the country, advocating locally and regionally for safe schools for students who were, or were perceived to be, LGBT.


  • The Governor’s Commission releases its report, Making Schools Safe for Gay and Lesbian Youth. The report leads to the formation of a statewide program—Safe Schools for Gay and Lesbian Youth—the first of its kind in the country.


  • GLSTN became a national organization with the founding of the first chapter[1] outside Massachusetts in St. Louis.
  • GLSTN launches the first LGBT History Month in October with official proclamations from the governors of Connecticut and Massachusetts.


  • GLSTN hired its first full-time staff person, GLSEN’s founder and Executive Director Kevin Jennings.
  • GLSTN accredits Chapters for the first time.[1]


  • GLSTN staged its first national conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, in response to the legislature’s effort to prevent the formation of GSAs in the state by banning all student groups.
  • GLSTN changed its name to GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) in order to attract broader support.
  • Kevin Jennings meets with President Bill Clinton at the White House to discuss anti-LGBT bias in America’s schools—the first meeting of its kind in the Executive Office of the United States.


  • “Out of the Past,” a GLSEN-sponsored documentary developed as a resource for high school history classes, wins the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and is broadcast nationally on PBS. Eliza Byard, the film’s co-producer, would become GLSEN’s Deputy Executive Director in 2001.


  • GLSEN conducts the National School Climate Survey—the first and only national study regularly documenting the experiences of LGBT youth in schools. The survey is conducted and published biennially.
  • GLSEN, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a coalition of national education, mental health, and religious organizations release Just the Facts about Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators and School Personnel,[3] which provides authoritative statements about how “conversion therapy” is harmful to youth. Sixteen years later, President Barack Obama would call for an end to the practice.[4]



  • Students ask GLSEN to become the first national sponsor of the Day of Silence. Participation grows from hundreds of college students to thousands of middle and high school youth.


  • GLSEN begins a partnership with the National Education Association, which asks school districts to protect LGBT students and staff by adopting policies that protect students from bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.


  • U.S. Representative Linda Sanchez introduces the Safe Schools Improvement Act,[6] an LGBT-inclusive federal anti-bullying bill that includes protections for sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.


  • GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week launches as an annual week of educational activities aimed at ending name-calling of all kinds.
  • Vermont becomes the first state to pass an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying law that includes protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.


  • GLSEN and Harris Interactive release From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, A Survey of Students and Teachers,[7] the first national study of the general population of secondary students and teachers to address LGBT issues. This study documents disparities between LGBT and non-LGBT students and finds that LGBT students were more than three times as likely to not feel safe at school.
  • GLSEN's Jump-Start National Student Leadership Team develops an idea that turns into the first Ally Week that is now in schools nationwide every October.


  • GLSEN launches the “Think Before You Speak” public service announcement initiative with the Ad Council, the nonprofit advertising company’s first LGBT-focused campaign.


  • GLSEN helps develop the New York City Department of Education’s “Respect for All” initiative.


  • Lawrence King is murdered by his eighth-grade classmate at E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, California. GLSEN’s Day of Silence is held in Larry’s honor as students from more than 8,000 schools participate.
  • Lance Bass films a public service announcement in the GLSEN office that is viewed more than 300,000 times on YouTube.
  • GLSEN releases, The Principal’s Perspective: School Safety, Bullying and Harassment,[8] a report conducted in collaboration with the National Association of Secondary School Principals. This survey of K-12 public school principals reveals that a minority of principals believed LGBT students would feel very safe at their school, and yet very few reported that their school provided any sort of professional development or training for educators that addressed LGBT issues.


  • Eleven-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover takes his life after enduring anti-gay bullying at school. His mother, Sirdeaner Walker, becomes a GLSEN spokesperson and later joins GLSEN’s National Board of Directors.
  • GLSEN releases Harsh Realities: The Experiences of Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools,[9] the organization’s first report that focuses specifically on the experiences of transgender students. The study finds that transgender youth face much higher levels of harassment and violence than LGB cisgender students, and as a result, miss more school, receive lower grades, and feel more isolated from their school community.
  • GLSEN releases, Shared Differences: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students of Color in our Nation’s Schools.[10] The study focuses specifically on the school experiences of LGBT students of color and provides insight about the ways in which LGBT students’ school experiences differ based on race or ethnicity. The report finds that the majority of LGBT students of color faced both LGBT-based harassment and race-based harassment at school.


  • GLSEN officially launches the Safe Space Campaign,[11] designed to give educators the tools to be visibly supportive allies to LGBT students. The campaign goes on to place a Safe Space Kit in every school in the United States.


  • GLSEN’s Executive Director Eliza Byard participates in the first ever United Nations international consultation to address anti-LGBT bullying in schools.
  • Several representatives from GLSEN attend the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, pressing for effective federal action to address bullying, and highlighting bullying prevention programs and approaches that benefit all students.
  • The bipartisan Safe Schools Improvement Act and Student Non-Discrimination Act are re-introduced in Congress with a record number of introductory co-sponsors.
  • The White House names GLSEN a “Champion of Change,”[12] honoring the organization’s two decades of work to fight bullying, violence, and stigma directed at LGBT people in K-12 schools and for GLSEN’s efforts to prevent suicide among at-risk youth.
  • GLSEN, the Anti-Defamation League, and National Public Radio’s StoryCorps launch “Unheard Voices,” an oral history and curriculum project that will help educators integrate LGBT history, people and issues into their instructional programs.


  • GLSEN releases Strengths and Silences: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students in Rural and Small Town Schools.[13] The report documents the experiences of more than 2,300 LGBT students who attend secondary schools in rural areas. Findings demonstrate that compared to LGBT students in urban and suburban areas, LGBT students in rural schools are more likely to hear negative comments about gender expression and sexual orientation; feel unsafe at their schools due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, and experience verbal and physical harassment and assault due to these characteristics.
  • A Guidestar/Philanthropedia survey of 110 experts on LGBT issues names GLSEN one of the country’s top three LGBT nonprofits making significant contributions on a national level.
  • GLSEN partners with the leading school mental health professional associations, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American School Counselors Association, the School Social Workers Association of America, and the American Council for School Social Workers, to conduct a national study of school mental health professionals on their preparation and practices related to LGBT youth in schools.


  • GLSEN convenes first-ever research symposia on LGBT students’ experiences and homophobic and transphobic bullying internationally at the World Comparative Education Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina – with more than 15 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Cyprus, Israel, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Slovenia, South Africa, and Turkey. GLSEN, in partnership with UNESCO, also coordinates an all-day strategic planning meeting with the global group of experts to coordinate collective resources and reduce homophobic and transphobic prejudice and violence in schools globally.
  • GLSEN publishes Out Online: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth,[14] the first national report to examine the online experience of LGBT youth. While LGBT youth experience nearly three times as much bullying and harassment online, they also find greater peer support, access to health information, and opportunities to be civically engaged.
  • Transgender Student Rights, a youth-created grassroots organization, becomes a GLSEN program.
  • By youth nomination, GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard speaks at the Let Freedom Ring Commemoration and Call to Action event at the Lincoln Memorial, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. Fellow speakers include Presidents Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. GLSEN is the only representative from an LGBT organization to speak at the event.


  • GLSEN partners with the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the Association of Teacher Educators to research and support the inclusion of LGBT issues in teacher preparation.
  • The Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education issues official guidance making clear that transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX, stating that “Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.”
  • The GLSEN National School Climate Survey finds that school climate for LGBT students has improved somewhat over the years, yet remains quite hostile for many. LGBT students in the survey experienced lower verbal and physical harassment based on sexual orientation than in all prior years, and the lowest physical assault based on sexual orientation since 2007.
  • The Safe Schools Improvement Act,[6] federal legislation that would require schools to adopt LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying policies, garners its highest support yet, with 208 bipartisan co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives and 46 in the U.S. Senate.


  • GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week generates nearly 1,000,000 impressions of #celebratekindness on Twitter.
  • GLSEN and Chilean partner organization Todo Mejora release a Spanish language version of the GLSEN Safe Space Kit to be used in Chilean schools.


  • More than 4,000 GSAs have registered with GLSEN, which has approximately forty full-time staff, a governing board of twenty-six members and two advisory committees at the national level.
  • Nearly forty Chapters are affiliated with GLSEN on local levels.
  • GLSEN has also hosted many national conferences to bring together student leaders, educators, chapter leaders and activists.

GLSEN's Day of Silence[edit]

Main article: Day of Silence

GLSEN’s Day of Silence is a national day of action that began at the University of Virginia in 1996 in which students vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools. GLSEN’s Day of Silence takes place in 8,000 U.S. schools every year and has spread to more than 60 countries.

GLSEN's No Name-Calling Week[edit]

Every January thousands of elementary and middle schools participate in GLSEN’s No Name-Calling Week to end bullying and celebrate kindness. No Name-Calling Week was inspired by the popular young adult novel entitled The Misfits by popular author James Howe, and is supported by over 60 national partner organizations.

GLSEN's Ally Week[edit]

Main article: Ally Week

Every fall, GLSEN’s Ally Week serves to educate allies about the role they play in creating safer and more inclusive spaces for LGBT youth. Ally Week was started in 2005 by GLSEN’s Jump-Start National Student Leadership team. Ally Week is supported by over 20 endorsers and provides allies and educators with resources to become stronger allies to LGBTQ youth.

Think Before You Speak campaign[edit]

On October 8, 2008, GLSEN and Ad Council released the Think Before You Speak Campaign, designed to end homophobic vocabulary and raise awareness about the prevalence and consequences of anti-LGBT bias and behavior in America’s schools among youth, through the use of television, radio, print, and outdoor ads.[15][16] The campaign also aimed to raise awareness among adults, school personnel, and parents. It includes three television public service announcements (PSAs), six print PSAs and three radio PSAs. Television commercials for the campaign include singer Hilary Duff as well as comedian Wanda Sykes. In 2008 the campaign won the Ad Council's Gold Bell award for "Best Public Service Advertising Campaign" from the Ad Council.

GLSEN Respect Awards[edit]

GLSEN organizes the annual GLSEN Respect Awards to honor leaders, personalities, and organizations who have made significant contributions to LGBT youth. Awards are given to organizations, celebrities, students, educators and gay–straight alliances. Since 2004, there have been over four dozen honorees and over $15 million raised in all.[17][18] The first Respect Awards were in New York in 2004 and honored Andrew Tobias, author and Treasurer of the Democratic National Committee; MTV Music Television; and student Marina Gatto. Since then, the Respect Awards are held once annually in New York and once annually in Los Angeles. Since 2004, there have been over four dozen honorees and over $15 million raised in all.

Respect - NY Respect - LA
2015 Johnson & Johnson YouTube
Matthew Morrison Justin Timberlake & Jessica Biel
Jon Stryker Zachary Quinto
Desiree Raught, Educator of the Year Mars Hallman, Student Advocate of the Year
Nixa High School GSA, GSA of the Year
2014 AT&T Danny Moder & Julia Roberts
Janet Mock Bob Greenblatt
Laura Taylor, Educator of the Year Derek Hough
The Park City High School GSA, GSA of the Year Cliff Tang, Student Advocate of the Year
2013 Jason Collins Lionsgate
JPMorgan Chase & Co. Todd Spiewak & Jim Parsons
LZ Granderson Linda Bloodwort -Thomason
Farrington High School, GSA of the Year Laila Al-Shamma, Student Advocate of the Year
Matthew Beck, Educator of the Year
USA Network’s Characters Unite campaign
2012 NBA Marilyn & Jeffrey Katzenberg
Marguerite Kondracke Simon Halls & Matt Bomer
Janet Sammons, Educator of the Year Bob & Harvey Weinstein
Allies 4 Equality, GSA of the Year Luis Veloz, Student Advocate of the Year
2011 Barclays Capital Wells Fargo
Susie Scher & Allison Grover Chaz Bono
Chely Wright Michele & Rob Reiner
Rich Espey, Educator of the Year Rick Welts
Emmett Patterson, Student Advocate of the Year
2010 American Express Modern Family
Pfizer Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
David Dechman & Michael Mercure Dan Renberg and Eugene Kapaloski
Cyndi Lauper Ferial Pearson, Educator of the Year
Danielle Smith, Student Advocate of the Year
PepsiCo David C. Bohnett
Mary Jane Karger, Educator of the Year Shonda Rhimes
Austin Laufersweiler, Student Advocate of the Year
2008 DiversityInc Lance Bass
Goldman Sachs Darren Star
Lloyd C. Blankfein Disney / ABC Television Group
Ronald M. Ansin
2007 National Education Association Hon. James C. Hormel
Elizabeth Duthinh Greg Berlanti
John Mack Dr. Neal Baer
Hon. Sheila Kuehl
2006 Citigroup, Inc. James Howe
Kerry Pacer, Student Activist Cisco Systems, Inc.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Dr. Virginia Uribe, PH.D
2005 Lehman Brothers Jeff Quin
Talia Stein Moses Kaufman
Hon. Richard Gephardt & Chrissy Gephardt IBM
Frankie Martinez
2004 Andrew Tobias
Marina Gatto

GLSEN Research[edit]

GLSEN has been conducting research and evaluation on LGBT issues in K-12 education since 1999. GLSEN became the only organization to regularly document the school experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) middle and high school students in the U.S. using GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey. Other research reports GLSEN has put out include From Statehouse to Schoolhouse: Anti-Bullying Policies in U.S. States and School Districts, Shared Differences: The Experiences of LGBT Students of Color in Our Nation's Schools, Harsh Realities: The Experiences of Transgender Youth in Our Nation's Schools, as well as many other reports, articles, and book chapters.[19]

GLSEN National Student Council[edit]

The GLSEN National Student Council, formerly known as the Student Ambassadors program, is one of GLSEN’s student leadership teams.[20] Each year, GLSEN selects a small group of middle and high school students to serve as GLSEN youth representatives for the upcoming school year. Students of the National Student Council advise GLSEN on campaigns, bring GLSEN resources to their schools, represent GLSEN in the media, and have their own work published in local and national outlets. The students of the National Student Council receive interview coaching, media training, and attend workshops with GLSEN staff on public speaking, blogging, social media, policy, and understanding power and privilege.

GLSEN Chapters[edit]

GLSEN Chapters, with the support and guidance of the national office, work to bring GLSEN programs to their specific communities on a local level. Chapter board members and volunteers are students, educators, parents and community members who volunteer their time to support students and Gay-Straight Alliances, train educators, and provide opportunities for everyone to make change in their local schools. GLSEN has 36 volunteer-led GLSEN Chapters in 25 states that work with student leaders, provide professional development for educators, and encourage policymakers to enact LGBTQ inclusive policies.[1]

Fistgate controversy[edit]

Main article: Fistgate

In 2000, the leader of the conservative Parents' Rights Coalition of Massachusetts secretly taped one of the fifty workshops in "Teachout 2000", titled "What They Didn't Tell You About Queer Sex and Sexuality in Health Class: Workshop for Youth Only, Ages 14-21" . Students discussed sex in a workshop "billed as a safe place for youths to get their questions about their sexuality answered" in the session's Q&A section. The tapes generated controversy when they were broadcast over radio, and critics pointed out legal prohibition of taping of people without their permission.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "GLSEN chapters". Retrieved 2015-08-18. 
  2. ^ Safe Schools Training Series via Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Just the Facts about Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators and School Personnel" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  4. ^ "Obama calls for an end to conversion therapy". Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b "SSIA". Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  7. ^ [file:///C:/Users/commintern2/Downloads/From%20Teasing%20to%20Torment%20Full%20Report.pdf "From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, A Survey of Students and Teachers"] (PDF). Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  8. ^ [file:///C:/Users/commintern2/Downloads/The%20Principals%20Perspective.pdf "The Principal’s Perspective: School Safety, Bullying and Harassment"] (PDF). Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  9. ^ "Harsh Realities: The Experiences of Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  10. ^ [file:///C:/Users/commintern2/Downloads/Shared%20Differences.pdf "Shared Differences: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students of Color in our Nation’s Schools."] (PDF). Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  11. ^ "Safe Space Kit". Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  12. ^ "White House honors GLSEN". Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  13. ^ [file:///C:/Users/commintern2/Downloads/Strengths%20&%20Silences.pdf "Strengths and Silences: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students in Rural and Small Town Schools"] (PDF). Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  14. ^ "Out Online: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  15. ^ "The Campaign". 2008-10-08. Retrieved 2008-10-09. 
  16. ^ "Think Before You Speak". 2008-10-09. Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ "GLSEN Research". Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  20. ^ "GLSEN National Student Council". Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  21. ^ "Graphic gay-sex workshop under fire", by Ed Hayward, The Boston Herald, May 17, 2000

External links[edit]