NEW YORK, N.Y. — The secondary school training component of the New York City Department of Education’s Respect for All initiative increased staff competency at addressing name-calling, bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, and creating safer school environments for LGBT students, a GLSEN report has found.

More than 9 in 10 educators (92.2 percent) said the training had caused them to do something differently in their educational practices.

“We are extremely encouraged by the findings,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. “Our report indicates that an in-depth training program specifically focused on ensuring LGBT student safety can successfully prepare school staff for their role in maintaining a welcoming and safe environment for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.”

The report is based on a GLSEN study evaluating the effectiveness of educator trainings that focus on reducing anti-LGBT bias and behavior in school — the first evaluation of its kind. GLSEN surveyed 813 educators at three times — before the training, six weeks after and six months after, and educators were also compared to those who had not completed the training.

The report focused on the effects of the training on educators’ knowledge, awareness, beliefs and behaviors. Six weeks after the trainings participants had increased:

• Knowledge of appropriate terms

• Access to LGBT-related resources

• Empathy for LGBT students

• Communication with students and staff about LGBT issues

• Engagement in activities to create safer schools for LGBT students (i.e., supporting Gay-Straight Alliances, including LGBT content in curriculum)

• Awareness of how their own practices might have been harmful to LGBT students

• Belief in the importance of intervening in anti-LGBT remarks

• Frequency of intervention in anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying, and harassment

All but two of the above areas — empathy for LGBT students and frequency of intervention — maintained a statistically significant increase six months after the training. These findings suggest that a single training experience may not be sufficient to sustain long-term change in terms of empathy or intervention. Providing additional support and incorporating opportunities for skill-building may be crucial for longer-term changes in these areas.

“We are grateful to the New York City Department of Education for investing in one of the most extensive educator training programs in the country,” Byard said. “This report also shows, however, that additional efforts to develop skills may be necessary to sustain higher staff intervention levels and give educators tools to feel more comfortable addressing anti-LGBT bias and behavior in the classroom.”

GLSEN also garnered qualitative feedback from participants about how the training affected them. Participants not only valued the training themselves — some even saying it was one of the best trainings they had experienced — but many advocated for all school staff to receive this training.

“Great training,” said one middle school counselor/social worker. “It should be mandatory for teachers, administrators and anyone who comes in contact with children in the schools.”

The training program, which was one component of the Respect for All initiative, was implemented by the New York City Department of Education to ensure that every secondary school had at least one staff member who could support LGBT students and combat all forms of bias-based bullying and harassment, particularly bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity/gender expression.

“Promoting respect for diversity is central to the Department’s mission to ensure that schools provide safe and respectful learning environments for all students,” said Deputy Chancellor for Infrastructure and Planning Kathleen Grimm. “Over the past few years, we, in collaboration with partners such as GLSEN, have taken strong steps to reduce bullying and harassment in our schools.”

The NYC Department of Education collaborated with five non-profit organizations to develop and deliver the Respect for All training program — GLSEN, the Anti-Defamation League, Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility, Operation Respect, and Youth Enrichment Services of the New York City LGBT Community Center. GLSEN was a lead content provider for the training curriculum, and the training was delivered by trainers from all five organizations.

GLSEN is currently in the process of evaluating the second year of the training program.

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David Stout

David Stout is the associate editor of QNotes. He can be reached at editor2@goqnotes.com.