On #SpiritDay, Go Purple for Safe Schools and Healthy Youth
For the third year, FedEx employees, along with millions of people, will voluntarily participate in Spirit Day, Thursday, October 16, by wearing purple in an effort to increase awareness against bullying of children of all ages and to show support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. The event was conceptualized in 2010 by a high school student wishing to memorialize those who have lost their lives to bullying. It comes as no surprise that Spirit Day coincides with Ally Week (October 13-17), the National Bullying Prevention Month and LGBT History Month in October.
Most of us will agree that students should feel safe everywhere on school campus including the classroom, cafeteria, library, rest room, bus, playground and locker room. According to the 2011 National School Climate Survey report by the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN):
- 84.9% of students heard “gay” used in a negative way (e.g. “that’s so gay”),
- 61.4% often heard harmful remarks about gender expression such as “masculine enough” or “feminine enough,”
- 18.3% were physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation, and 12.4% for their gender expression,
- 55.2% experienced electronic harassment in the past year,
- Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) or similar supportive groups provided safe and affirming spaces for LGBT students. For instance, 54.9% of students with a GSA felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation compared to those without a GSA, 70.6%.
- A curriculum that included positive representations of LGBT people, history and events promoted respect and inclusion,
- Students with supportive educators reported higher grade point averages than other students (3.2 versus 2.9), and
- Presently, there is no federal law that directly addresses bullying in schools. And state laws vary in scope and effectiveness. Comprehensive policies and laws that do enumerate personal characteristics, including sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, were most effective at combating bullying, harassment and violence against all students.
Bullying does not make children “tougher.” It does, however, have negative effects on students’ school attendance, academic achievement, higher educational aspirations, physical well-being and mental health that may include thoughts of suicide. Rejection or conflict at home because of a child’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression can increase the risk of youth to run away or result in homelessness. Parents who are supportive of their LGBT child can have an incredible, positive impact on their child’s current and future health.
Thanh Anderson, Lead Diversity & Inclusion Director, at FedEx Services, says, “At FedEx, we do not just promote but demand an environment of professionalism, mutual respect and will not tolerate bullying of any team member for any reason.”
Thanh explains: “FedEx is a world-class company because of our team members and People-Service-Profit (PSP) culture that calls for every team member to hold themselves personally accountable in demonstrating the following:
- Make others feel valued by treating them with respect,
- Build open, positive, and trusting relationships, and
- Have a learning mind-set by being curious versus judgmental.”
So, my challenge to you is the personal, simple and proactive act of wearing purple on Spirit Day, October 16, which will signal a positive and safe message to youth and team members in your organization. Parents, teachers, businesses, lawmakers and diverse communities can work together to create healthy school environments and help all youth feel valued and be treated with respect.
To learn more, visit:
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services www.stopbullying.gov
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention www.afsp.org
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org