A Way Forward: Reducing Anti-Gay Bullying and Violence Linked to “Emasculating” Peer Rejection
The Coral Gables Community Foundation is partnering with YES Institute and three generous donors to launch the “Communities for Safe Classrooms” initiative, which seeks to provide Health Literacy lesson plans to raise awareness of gender-based violence for students. This initiative is a response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting tragedy in February 2018. The purpose of this fund is to safeguard schools in the City of Coral Gables, and others across South Florida, utilizing best practices from prevention research.
One critical prevention factor – often missing from current responses – is funding for programs that foster school belonging, health education, and community-building within classrooms and the larger school environment. Gun laws, additional security staff, and metal detectors can be helpful; however, they don’t address root causes of bullying and violence among American youth, nor can they foster a culture of belonging and relatedness among students. $2.7 billion dollars annually is spent on “school safety technologies” across US schools (such as bullet proof doors, metal detectors, and cameras) however, research remains inconclusive if this truly prevents school shootings.
Another factor largely unaddressed in the national conversation about school shooting prevention is the role of “toxic masculinity” and extreme gender expectations among male youth in the US. Consider the following:
- A study of school shootings from 1995–2015 found that all 31 of the shooters in the study had been the subject of “emasculating bullying.” They all experienced anti-gay bullying and peer marginalization.
- 99% of all mass shooters in the US are male across the last three decades.
- The US is home to 31% of all mass shooters globally, even though we comprise less than 5% of the world’s population.
Three local philanthropists have contributed matching funds of $5,000 each for this initiative – Florida Power & Light, The Osiason Educational Foundation, Inc., and the Williamson Family of the Williamson Automotive Group. We are seeking a fourth matching donor of $5,000 to complete the $20,000 seed money to begin this work.
“Students are much less likely to bully or be mean to someone they truly care about,” says Joseph Zolobczuk, MS Ed., Director of Education for YES Institute. “Said another way, ‘Friends don’t hurt friends.’ Along these lines, potential school shooters could also be less likely to commit violence against a school they truly cared about. So, what if all students had a sense of connection, belonging, and regard towards one another, and their school? Could it help reduce bullying behaviors, and even help protect against mass violence? And how can we go about creating and instilling this sense of community and belonging? These are the big questions we are grappling with in this initiative.”
Communities for Safe Classrooms Initiative
YES Institute is uniquely skilled to provide educational sessions for students, parents, and teachers in public and private schools that address gender-related bullying and violence prevention, having worked in diverse South Florida schools and communities for over 22 years. YES Institute is accredited by the Florida Department of Health and Miami-Dade County Public Schools in suicide, bullying, and violence prevention education for professionals.
Last year the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade & Monroe accredited YES Institute for preschool faculty professional development, and in 2018 the Florida Public Health Review published the first bullying study to compare incidents of anti-gay slurs in middle and high school cohorts in the state, authored by researchers from YES Institute and the University of Miami.
Educational interventions will be tailored to each individual school or higher learning institution within the City of Coral Gables, as well as other schools in Miami-Dade or Broward Counties. YES Institute will work with university researchers to study the impact of this type of intervention and the contribution it makes to the larger framework of school violence prevention initiatives.
About YES Institute
Our mission is to prevent suicide and ensure the healthy development of all youth through powerful communication and education on gender and orientation.
For the past 22 years, this call to action has propelled and sustained the work of the staff, board, volunteers, and financial supporters of YES Institute. As a result, lives have been saved, families have been reunited, and young people are safer in environments that welcome and celebrate them. www.yesinstitute.org