Gay-rights organization One Colorado this week released a video as part of an ongoing campaign to to end harassment against Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people attending Colorado schools. The video features prominent political political and community leaders, including Governor John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and US Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet.
The video was launched as part of “Ally Week” activities around the country, where gay rights advocates celebrate the support of heterosexual allies.
According to Jess Woodrum, deputy director at One Colorado, the video has been in the works for months and was inspired in part by the “It Gets Better” project, which asks gay Americans to share stories from their adult lives, when the kind of bullying that is a regular part of each week for most LGBT youth, has mostly ended. Woodrum said One Colorado wanted to tweak the message of It Gets Better.
“We wanted to start a conversation about making it better. It’s a different message than just sort of Hang tight. We thought we’d feature people here in Colorado working to make it better for LGBT youth.”
“I know you’ve heard it all,” Colorado US Senator Mark Udall tells viewers. “Growing up is tough. On your journey to adulthood, you’ll take some bruises, you’ll face bullies, and it’s just a rite of passage. But I’m here to tell you that that’s not OK.”
One Colorado pushed out the video to members Tuesday and released it to the public Wednesday.
The group this past spring played a key role in garnering support for House Bill 1254, school-bullying prevention legislation. The bill revised anti-bullying guidelines and established a board within the state Department of Education to revise rules of conduct and reporting and to raise money to pay for anti-bullying research and programs. The bill sponsors, Representatives Sue Schafer, D-Wheat Ridge, and Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, told the press they were acting in order to head off in Colorado the kind of LGBT youth suicides that now routinely garner national headlines.
“You pass a law and of course it doesn’t necessarily change life for kids immediately,” said Woodrum. “This [campaign] is meant to extend the work of supporters who helped pass the bill.”
Woodrum said One Colorado is working with faculty and students to create gay-straight alliance organizations at schools and also trying to connect those alliances between schools.
Gay-straight alliances or GSAs work to foster conversation with and understanding among gay and straight students. Statistics generally show GSAs can go a long way in easing tensions and changing attitudes.
Approximately 80 Colorado high schools– public and non-religious charter schools– host a GSA, and nearly half of students in the state attend a school with a GSA, according to Woodrum.
a 2009 Healthy Kids Colorado survey (pdf), roughly 19 percent of all Colorado high school kids report being bullied. Roughly 30 percent say they have gotten into fights. Roughly 7 percent have been threatened with weapons. Last year more than 5 percent of all Colorado high schoolers stayed home from school for fear of bullying. That’s 12,000 teen students, and among certain demographic groups, the percentages soar. Linda Kanan, director of the Department of Public Safety’s School Safety Resource Center, told the Independent that roughly 37 percent of gay and transgender kids avoid school for fear of bullying.
The young people featured in the One Colorado video are students on the Auraria Campus in Denver and members of that campus’s gay-straight alliance. The soundtrack is “Do Better” by the band Say Anything.