Stop Homophobic Bullying in Schools

by Western Justice Center
Vetted
Students setting up "The Restaurant" activity
Students setting up "The Restaurant" activity

     Before we train educators using interactive theatre, we need to prepare the young actors who will participate in the trainings.  Our class begins with activities designed to build trust and safety in the group, we also introduce some of the basics of improvisational acting.

     One fun activity is called "The Restaurant". The stage is transformed into a restaurant and students are assigned to play different types of customers or restaurant workers.  Students are randomly assigned roles and are allowed to experience improvisation all together. It's easier to learn this type of natural (non-comedic) improv without having an audience.   We also have some great storytelling activities.  Students sit in groups of four and tell a true story of something unusual that has happened to them.  Eventually, they choose one of these stories and every group member learns to tell it as if it was their own experience.  We develop this into a contest that awards points for convincing the audience that this experience happened to the storyteller (whether it did or not) and also for guessing the true storytellers.

     We have a great time and everyone begins to learn the skills that will be needed when we beginning trainings in October!

During "The Restaurant" - a marriage proposal
During "The Restaurant" - a marriage proposal
Students improvise in "Whose Story is It?"
Students improvise in "Whose Story is It?"

We are closing in on the end of the school year and want to pause to thank you for helping us make 2015/2016 a huge success!

  • We trained 278 K-12 teachers this school year!
  • 91.7% of teachers who attended the trainings indicated that they believe they will be more effective intervening in homophobic bias and conflict as a result of the training.  
  • We had our largest cast ever and every one of them was thrilled to be a part of the program!
  • We expanded the training to cover more about transgender students and transphobia in schools. We have found that we need to start with some pretty detailed information about bathroom usage laws and dispel some myths! 
  • We are proud to have added Teach for America to our client list and look forward to doing more with them!

Now we are in the midst of interviewing and auditioning students for our next cast. We were able to accept 6 students who were still on the waiting list from 2014/2015 and will add more students in the coming weeks.

Thanks again for your support for this unique and effective approach to ending homophobic bullying and making schools safer for all LGBTPQ++ students!  

When we train teachers on making classes safer for students targeted by homophobia, we need to provide an overview of laws and statistics about LGBT student safety.  Although the information in the overview is important (and our trainers are engaging) it just isn't as EXCITING as the theatrical component of the training!

The theatrical scenes show the many ways that students can be excluded or harassed due to biases about sexual orientation. The scenes are interesting and interactive and the actors are fun to watch!  It's a tough act to follow.

So we decided to use student artwork to liven up the presentation. The teachers love it!  I think using this type of illustration (instead of photos or more realistic drawings) allows the teachers to imagine their own students -no matter whether they teach kindergarten or 12th grade. 

We thought you might like seeing some examples of the illustrations. We chose the artist (Peter Ferris Rosati) because his drawings don't depict students of any particular race, age or gender. Again,this helps the teachers to see their own students as the ones that might be vulerable in class. 

We hope you enjoy the drawings and that you see how your investment allows us to keep finding creative ways to help teachers understand this issue and transform their own classrooms.

We are so grateful for your help!

Links:

Listening to the director during rehearsal
Listening to the director during rehearsal

     This school year we have the largest class we have ever had and we still have a waiting list!   We have a new teaching assistant, Tim, who was in our class several years ago.  He still looks young enough to play a student but can also pull off playing the teacher.  He is a very talented actor and we are glad to have him back!

     As we head for winter break, we are preparing for one more educator training. We are happy to report that it’s our first training for Teach for America!    TFA recruits outstanding college graduates to become teachers in low-income communities for a two year period.  We are thrilled to offer over 100 of these corps members training in preventing and intervening in homopobic bullying!

     Then in January, we will continue to train K-12 teachers from 97 different schools on making their classrooms safe and inclusive for LGBT students. 

     We’ve got an exciting year ahead of us, and we can’t thank you enough for your support!  We hope you stay with us for 2016 and help us make school safer for thousands of students!

The cast answers teachers
The cast answers teachers' questions
Tim rehearsing to play the teacher
Tim rehearsing to play the teacher

We just completed another successful school year helping teachers learn to confront harassment and make class safer for students effected by homphobia.

We trained teachers from more than 50 schools and 99% said they are more likely to notice this form of bias and 98% feel more confident in intervening as a result of the training!

We added a new component this year - in addition to playing characters, four of the cast members who are effected by homophobic bias in real life spoke to the teachers about their experiences in school. This seemed to inspire the teachers to be more decisive in their efforts to make class safer for all their students.   After the presentation, one high school teacher wrote:  "Thanks for opening my eyes. I have always thought that LGBT students would just trust me and tell me if they needed support. I was wrong. Wow, was I wrong. I can see now that I need to be much more overt in creating safety and even more deliberate in being inclusive. Sadly, it makes me wonder how many students I have overlooked who really could have used some support."

Another commented:  "I applaud all of the students, especially those who spoke at the end and shared their own experiences - this was truthfully the best piece of professional development I have ever been part of."

We had a great year and will soon select our next cast and plan for the fall.

Thanks again for making this project possible!

"Stephanie",  "Kyle" harass students before class
"Stephanie", "Kyle" harass students before class
a real teacher confronts the bullies in scene
a real teacher confronts the bullies in scene
Lori gives overview of LGBT experience in school
Lori gives overview of LGBT experience in school
 

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Organization Information

Western Justice Center

Location: Pasadena, CA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.westernjustice.org
Project Leader:
Lori Nelson
Executive Director
Pasadena, CA United States

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