Holiday Hero: Anti-Bullying Advocate, Eliza Byard

As we go through the holiday season, we at Care2 are taking a second look at some of the people we’ve covered this year and who we really admire. In a nutshell, they’re our Holiday Heroes.

Eliza Byard knows something about bullying in schools. She herself was the target of bullying when she was in high school, when kids called her a “dyke” for being smart.

Today, Byard, who has a PhD in history from Columbia, is using her smarts to lead the well-known GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Educators Network), into a new era of stopping bullying in our schools.

Byard hasn’t wasted any time in voicing GLSEN’s vision for a better world. She recently appeared on Tom Brokaw’s documentary Characters Unite, where she spoke about the “serious lifelong, long-term consequences of bullying behavior when not addressed.” She knows that the “vast majority” of LGBT teens “never bother to report [bullying] because they don’t expect that action will be taken.”

Byard is fighting not only for LGBT youth, but also for any young person who is discriminated against regarding their gender expression and sexual orientation. Indeed, a key finding in GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey found that nearly two-thirds (61.1%) of students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and more than a third (39.9%) felt unsafe because of their gender expression. The survey of 7,261 middle and high school students found that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school.

Byard’s mission is to reduce these numbers to zero. To that end, she’s an indefatigable force. She has debated Candi Cushman from Focus on the Family about the Safe Schools Improvement Act; spearheaded GLSEN’s ThinkB4YouSpeak campaign; and supported her staff in educating the wider public with their GLSEN Research Learning Series. Through it all, she also writes condolence letters to parents who have lost their children to anti-gay bullying.

Most recently, Byard and GLSEN launched their Safe Space Campaign, which aims to send a safe space kit to every middle and high school in the nation. Sending $20 to the campaign ensures that a safe space kit goes to any middle or high school of one’s choosing or one that donors allow GLSEN to select. GLSEN’s new PSA featuring country singer Chely Wright galvanizes supporters to join the movement:

As an educator, I look to no one else for leadership on issues involving education, LGBT youth, and the future of the safety of our students than Eliza Byard. She’s the Care2 Holiday Hero for today, but every day she’s a hero to thousands of students, parents, and educators who are fighting the good fight to make our schools and communities free of hate and full of respect.

Do you have a Holiday Hero you’d like to nominate? Please let us know in the comments.

Related Stories: 

A Holiday Hero: Anna Aurilio of Environment America

A Holiday Hero: Robert Grillo

A Holiday Hero: Constance McMillen

Photo credit: GLSEN


Michelle Martini
Michelle Martini5 years ago

I'm glad she chose to speak out!

Patricia B.
Patricia Bucio5 years ago

Buen video

Patricia B.
Patricia Bucio5 years ago

Buen artículo

Monica D.
M D.5 years ago

Bullying everywhere - in schools, in workplaces, and everywhere else - should be stopped.

Marti Williams
Marti Williams5 years ago

We need to work on our society that allows people to bully in public...Stephen Phelps, Glenn beck and others shut them up...

Past Member
Past Member 5 years ago

Bullying is being addressed in Europe. It occurs in schools as well as the workplace. It is not limited to targeting of people for gender or sexual orientation and it is possible for GLBT to be bullies as well. Good for this wonderful advocate speaking out. Bullying cause health problems and suicide for victims and if not confronted, bullies continue feeding the need to subjugate and destroy others for their own personal power

William Kirkham
William K.5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

annie statton
annie statton5 years ago

I was psychologically bullied from the age of 12----15 only three years but when it is every single day it feels like forever, it also travels with you into adulthood, it's insidious .

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L.5 years ago

"What turns children into monsters?" Hateful parents.

Thanks Janet C...great book.

Thanks to Eliza Byard and GLSEN for what you do.

Heather D.
Heather D.5 years ago

To be completely honest, I don't agree with this way of life. (Please respect what I have to say anyways.) Regardless of this viewpoint, I agree with all of you that bullying is wrong, no matter what the reason behind it. As a child, I was bullied some in school, and it was a horrible experience. It is one I would not wish to repeat, nor would I want anyone else to endure it. Thanks for doing the work you do.