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Simulating a Bully-Free School Experience for LGBT Youth

Not Another Brick in the Wall

Role-playing software helps teachers pinpoint and stop anti-LGBT harassment.

According to The Trevor Project, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. (Trans youth have it even worse.) In today's Trumpish social climate, they need more help than ever, and a new interactive role-playing software may be the answer.

Developed by health simulation company Kognito, Step In, Speak Up! has been adopted by state agencies and school districts nationally. It's since proven to be a cost-effective solution in training faculty how to understand the unique experiences LGBT youth face on a daily basis. It works by giving the user various scenarios so they can make mistakes without the ramifications of doing so in real-life situations.

According to Jennifer Spiegler, senior vice president of strategic partnerships at Kognito, queer youth who feel they have at least one mentor or supportive adult in their lives are more likely to graduate high school. Step In, Speak Up! helps to ensure there are adults in a school community who are accepting of these students.

"Our follow-up data shows that teachers report about a 50 percent increase in the number of students who they talked with and intervened on behalf of when it came to teasing, harassment, or bullying," Spiegler says. "Teachers are also talking more amongst themselves regarding discriminatory language in the classroom and how to better support LGBTQ students."

She adds, "In Step In, Speak Up! we put you face-to-face with realistic virtual LGBTQ youth who share their stories and reveal their challenges. And we give you opportunities to interact in the classroom and in one-on-one conversation. You can see immediately how a young LGBTQ person might react to missed opportunities to address bullying or biased language in the classroom, and you can have a one-on-one conversation with a student who's been bullied."

A simulation like this can also potentially help teachers confront their own biases when it comes to the LGBT experience. Perhaps saving a life truly can be one click away.

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