Our kids need more from us: Let’s talk about identity-based bullying and how to prevent it

by Jared Todd

The LGBTQ+ community, particularly youth, face enormous challenges today. We are living in a time when LGBTQ+ youth aren’t allowed to just be kids – they’re the focus of a hate-filled strategy that tries to put legislators in the drivers’ seat in determining where kids can play sports, what kind of health care they can receive, and even which bathrooms they can use. This unprecedented wave of hate continues to be felt and seen by LGBTQ+ youth, especially transgender and nonbinary youth, from statehouses to major social media platforms.

We need to do more for our kids at this moment. That’s why the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Welcoming Schools partnered with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to bring productive conversations about identity-based bullying to the forefront.

In addition to an unprecedented and dangerous political environment, LGBTQ+ kids continue to shoulder the weight of being bullied in school just because of who they are. It’s why we’ve partnered with ADL to get more educators and other youth-supporting adults to learn more about identity-based bullying, and what they can do to prevent it. The importance of having these conversations cannot be overstated. I’ve seen it again and again through our Welcoming Schools educator training programs that have benefited 600,000 students this year alone: When educators center inclusion, kids thrive."

Cheryl Greene, HRC Foundation’s Director of Welcoming Schools

Bias and bullying in schools deeply impact young people. When identity-based bullying takes place, students' ability to learn, connect with others, and thrive in school and beyond is at risk. This video centers the voices of five young people who share powerful stories about the bias and bullying they've faced at school. Their perspectives on what they need – and their hopes for concrete, school-based solutions – are a message everyone needs to hear. We hope this video will raise awareness among educators and young people and help them to make a difference in classrooms, schools and communities."

Clara Hess, Vice President of Education at the Anti-Defamation League

With the passage of book bans and “Don’t Say LGBTQ+” laws, it’s more important than ever to make sure our kids have welcoming and inclusive environments where they can learn and thrive, exactly as they are. Sadly, there just aren’t enough resources out there that center youth voices and offer anti-bullying guidance for educators and other youth-serving adults.

That’s where Welcoming Schools and ADL come in. The team, led by HRC’s Cheryl Greene and ADL’s Caterina Rodriguez, have released a new video that uplifts diverse student voices and highlights they’re concerns and suggestions for the adults in their lives. The purpose is to engage in tough but necessary conversations that can help educators prevent bullying that targets young people based on their identities.

Paired with the video are a few resources for educators:

Here’s what youth had to say:

“The bullying I experienced was mainly behind my back,” Ve’ondre (she/her), 18, shares in the video. “The reason I do what I do with social media and advocacy work on social media is because there was a lack of education within the school system for queer history and queer people in general. There’s not a lot of representation.”

“I think that what students really want from teachers is they want to feel safe. And they want to feel like they belong and they want to know that there’s someone who will always be on their side and look out for them.” - Chloe (she/her), 17

Julia, 17, opened up about the antisemitism she’s experienced at her school, including peers telling inappropriate Holocaust jokes: “When the kid that draws the swastika gets expelled from school, I don’t feel safe. I feel safer when the adults in my building are dedicated to remedying the issue completely – they’re paying attention to the impact that that had on Jewish students and they’re focused on making the climate of the school more productive in the future.”