Stop Homophobic Bullying in Schools

by Western Justice Center
"Mr. McGregor" sees the homophobic slur
"Mr. McGregor" sees the homophobic slur

Sometimes the best way to see the results of our work  is to read some of the comments from teachers. These are from the latest sessions:

"I know there are kids in our school who are bullied for being (or being perceived to be) gay or lesbian. I just never knew what to do about it without making it worse for them. This training was so helpul. Watching the scenes and listening to the student actors talk about what made them feel more or less safe in class was eye-opening. I feel so much more confident that I can intervene and make school safer for all students" - High School Teacher

"At first I was doubtful that this session would be very relevant to my teaching situation. I teach young first grade students and could not imagine a situation where sexual orientation would be an issue. However, I now understand that I could be an important "safe zone" to older students at my school and being knowledgeable about an issue such as sexual orientation could prove helpful to my colleagues. I also understand that learning and practicing open-mindedness, respect, and inclusiveness of others starts at a young age. If a question or situation comes up in the future, I will be better prepared to address it"  - Elementary School Teacher

"I would like to thank the Encompass team and the student actors for this workshop. Of all the trainings, seminars, and professional development I have attended over the last few years, this is one that is extremely relevant and meaningful. I am grateful that Lori gave us a list of resources to further explore this topic. It is one that is often neglected and passed over. " - Middle School Teacher

"This training was incredible. This has always been such a scary subject to me. I used to think that if I just ignored it, or called inappropriate comments inappropriate, that they would simply subside.  In the training I learned how to have these conversations or direct students to resources where they can feel they are supported. I want to get to the root causes of name calling and inappropriate comments. This training greatly helped with that and I now know how to tackle this difficult area of academic life! THX!"  - Middle School Teacher

"This training had helped me reflect on how my personal experiences affect my treatment of students in the classroom. I feel very comfortable with sexual orientation, but I am not comfortable talking about it in the classroom. I have realized that this can be considered a bias of sorts, because I never address or validate the students with two moms, or two uncles. Omitting this topic from my classroom, is the same as treating these students differently, whether I meant to or not. Young students look to their teachers to be mentors, and leaders. I have never realized that I cannot completely avoid the topic altogether. If I never thought about this before because I guess I assumed that silence is the same as respect. My silence on this issue has probably led my students to believe that I am not okay with someone who is gay, or that I wouldn't treat them the same if their family is considered different. Now that I am aware of this issue within my classroom, I plan on working to make a positive change in the classroom and incorporate acceptance rather than silence" - Elementary School Teacher

Harassment of "Ricky" begins the scene
Harassment of "Ricky" begins the scene
Teachers develop new strategies
Teachers develop new strategies
student actors love making a difference
student actors love making a difference
Halloween fun
Halloween fun

As always, we have a wonderful cast of students from the LA County High School for the Arts( LACHSA).  The students audition /interview for a spot in our service-learning class and then use their talent and training to help us train educators.  Normally, these students are all theatre majors. But not this year!  In addition to theatre students, we have students from Dance, Opera, Music, Cinematic Arts and Visual Arts.  It makes for a very interesting group!!

The class is currently studying sexual orientation and how LGBT students experience school in K-12. We will watch the film about Jamie Nabozny Bullied next week and then we will see the Lee Hirsch documentary, Bully the week after. Both of these films are great resources for anyone who wants to learn about homophobic bullying in schools. 

We started our first teacher trainings in October (trained 144 teachers over three sessions) and will continue throughout the year. We will keep you posted on the impact

We also had a little fun dressing up for Halloween!  I hope our photos make you smile.

As always, thanks for supporting us!

our class on Halloween
our class on Halloween
Teachers view a classroom scene
Teachers view a classroom scene
Pausing for a photo before training
Pausing for a photo before training

It's that time of year!  The teachers we train through the BTSA program are completing the year, graduating from our program and hoping to get their credentials.  Most of the students in our service-learning class are graduating as well.  Just as we are saying goodbye to them we are holding auditions for our next class.

We are so proud of this class and of the incredible work they have done this year to stop homophobic bullying in schools.  It's been an exciting year!  We have added some new elements to our project - a Tumblr blog for the teachers to access 24 hours a day to get resources about making their schools safe and inclusive.  We also have a private Facebook group for our students - we use it to post and discuss issues related to this work and to give reminders about rehearsals and costumes etc.

Wish us luck on pullling together our next class of dedicated young actors - auditions will be done in June and we will be back training teachers in August.  Over the summer, we will be busy planning and writing scripts and preparing for another fantastic year.

Thanks for being a part of it - we couldn't do it without you.

scripted scene of student harassment
scripted scene of student harassment
improvised scene of a teacher confronting student
improvised scene of a teacher confronting student

“At first, I did not see why I was required to attend this training, I thought it wouldn’t be relevant for elementary school teachers. But the presenter and the student actors really showed us how much influence elementary school teachers have on student attitudes.  I also have to say that the training, even though it was about a serious subject, was a lot of fun. It should be required for all teachers” – 2nd grade teacher


In the past few months, we have been training quite a few teachers from elementary school, even some who teach pre-K.  They have been so open to learning about the topic – even when they think homophobic bullying only happens in middle and high school. 

We’ve also been training teachers from private religious schools (away from their schools) and have been impressed by compassionate educators who care about all of their students’ safety and mental health –even when the school policies allow for the expulsion of students who are identified as LGBT.  Standing up for a student without outing him/her is a real challenge for these teachers. 

We are grateful for the opportunity to work with all types of teachers and to help them address the unique circumstances at their schools and create safety for students targeted by homophobia.  We are grateful to YOU for helping make this project possible.

Kevin and our fantastic cast of 2012
Kevin and our fantastic cast of 2012

A quick update:

  • We are thrilled to report that we have signed on for another year of training teachers for the Beginning Teachers Support and Assessment (BTSA) program in Orange County, California.  We are making some exciting changes to the program, including using videos to help teachers assess their own comfort and competence in handling specific situations of homophobia in the classroom.  The teachers will be able to do the self-assessments online before attending our training - this will allow us to customize the training and to have more time for the interactive component
  • .We have a new partnership with two excellent organizations that are working to change school environments - Western Justice Center and Community Matters.
  • Our program will now be offered through the Institute for Safe and Inclusive Schools which will allow us access to a larger number of schools.
  • We've been approached by a student filmmaker who wants to do a documentary about the program- from the perspective of the student actors.  This student was part of our original cast so we are excited to have her play a role in telling our story. More on this soon!

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Organization Information

Western Justice Center

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

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