Teach & Affirm: Building Safe Schools

With a program called Teach and Affirm Students in New Jersey, GSE and community partners—North Jersey Pride, GLSEN Central New Jersey, HiTOPS, Spectrum Diversity, the Innisfree Foundation, New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention, Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey, and ACLU-NJ—plan to empower schools to be safe and affirming learning spaces for all students, including LGBTQ students, students of different racial/ethnic backgrounds, and students with disabilities.

Bullying is a symptom of school climates that aren’t open to diversity. GSE and partners are asking that schools show their commitment to the kinds of policies and outcomes that, research shows, make safe and inclusive learning environments where bullying has no place. GSE and partners will measure schools based on a wide variety of outcomes, including, but not limited to whether they have affinity groups, such as GSAs (Gay Straight Alliances, or as they’re increasingly called, Gender Sexuality Alliances), where minority students and allies can provide one another social support and advocacy opportunities; whether the schools have health curricula that is inclusive and affirming of LGBTQ persons and persons with disabilities; and whether schools have dress codes that allow for transgender and other gender nonconforming students to express themselves.

GSE and partners are engaging in concerted outreach to schools. If schools think they already meet the outcomes, the schools will be lauded on the Teach and Affirm website. If schools feel as though they need help in meeting the outcomes, GSE and partners will provide extensive assistance to ensure that the schools can eventually be lauded.

GSE is also tackling issues integral to bullying, such as the “school-to-prison” pipeline, where punitive school policies push students out of schools and into incarceration. GSE is studying policies promulgated by NJ’s Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) that regard sensitivity to LGBTQ residents of JJC establishments, to see where GSE’s advocacy is needed, and how to better project LGBTQ youth from the depredations of our juvenile justice infrastructure. 

Underscoring Garden State Equality’s commitment to the universal safety and dignity of students, our Anti-Bullying Helpline provides help to people who need to navigate the process for filing a Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying (HIB) complaint under NJ’s ABBR. To contact our Anti-Bullying Helpline, call 1 (877) NJBULLY. You may call whether you are a bullied student, or the parent or concerned friend of a bullied student.


Programming for New Jersey Schools

Needs Assessment
Completing a needs assessment is the first step towards making your school a more inclusive space for LGBTQ students and families. Contact us and we’ll set up a meeting, go over a brief questionnaire, and provide an initial assessment.

Policy Assistance
Garden State Equality provides consultation on federal and state law as they relate to schools and SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity/Gender Expression). We can share legal expertise in this area and help you develop and audit your policies.

Professional Development Trainings
LGBTQ cultural competency, legal issues and policy, and LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum. Topics include terminology, basics of sexual orientation and gender identity, dealing with teasing and bullying and building safe and affirming schools. We offer trainings for preschool through high school, and tailor our presentations to address the needs of your school district. Click Here to learn more about these workshops.

Curriculum Workshops
Research shows that including LGBTQ people and history in your lessons is the most effective way to change school climate. We will work with educators from your district to develop and pilot LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum that is age and developmentally appropriate and in line with current state and federal education standards.

Other Speaking Engagements
Representatives from Garden State Equality are available to speak to students, as well as to parents and community members.


To request a Teach & Affirm training from our staff, Click Here