Alumna Eliza Byard Tackles Bullying and GLBT Issues

eliza_byard1Dr. Eliza Byard ’86 spoke to students about biased bullying of GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) students and how her organization is working with schools to address and change the problem. She is the executive director of the GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, a national education organization working to ensure safe schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

Eliza says schools have a curriculum, and also a “hidden” curriculum, “the set of unarticulated and often unacknowledged things that get communicated to the student through the everyday experience in the school, often as much by what isn’t said or how it’s said or the content of what is said.”

Eliza stressed that bullying is a “dynamic within a community that affects every participant”—the bully, the target and the bystanders. “Everyone in that dynamic needs help and support, and everyone needs some form of intervention.”

Oftentimes, the bystanders are teachers or school administrators who witness the bullying but do nothing about it. According to Eliza, many know that their job demands that they do something but they don’t know what to do; they’re uncomfortable and they have no training, or limited training, on how to handle these situations.  She spoke about GLSEN’s work to address this problem, introducing programs to schools that teach adults how to respond, advocating for new policies and providing resources for both students and teachers.

“The good news is that when you make the case well, carry the message in a way people can hear, and are willing to meet them where they are, they are willing to respond. There is significant common ground. Everywhere, people care about the well-being of young people and want them to succeed.”

Eliza showed students four spots that will air on the JumboTrons during the Superbowl this weekend. The spots feature actor and athlete celebrities using humor to show why it’s not cool to use the phrase “that’s so gay.”  The students cheered and clapped their approval of the message.

Eliza Byard visited campus as the annual speaker for GASP (Gay and Straight People, a student group). She has been responsible for the development of many of GLSEN’s signature programs, including the first-ever Advertising Council campaign on LGBT issues, ThinkB4YouSpeak, and No Name Calling Week. As GLSEN’s primary spokesperson, Eliza has appeared on programs such as The O’Reilly Factor and 60 Minutes.  She was previously development director for the Center for Investigative Reporting and currently chairs the board of directors of Arts Engine, a nonprofit organization that promotes the production and distribution of independent media on a range of social issues. As a filmmaker, Eliza worked on numerous award-winning productions for public television, including Out of the Past, School Colors and Genesis: A Living Conversation with Bill Moyers. Eliza earned her doctorate in United States history from Columbia University.

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