Fairfax County Schools Using Kognito to Stop Anti-LGBT Bullying

“You’re so gay!”
We’ve all heard it before. Friends teasing each other. A bully displaying negative behavior. Someone looking for attention by saying something risky enough to look bad, but not bad enough to reprimanded. And why are there no consequences for this anti-LGBTQ behavior? The problem is faculty and staff members don’t always know how to intervene in any type of bullying situation. So, how do we get those on the front lines to not only show their support for all students, but build the skills necessary to approach these situations with the required respect and understanding?

Kognito’s Sr. Strategist, LGBTQ Programs Wes Nemenz sat down with NBC Washington’s David Culver in Fairfax, VA to explore how one of many schools across the country are utilizing Kognito’s Step In, Speak Up simulations, training their faculty and staff in understanding the struggles of their LGBTQ students.

Kognito on NBC Washington

Spirit Day 2016 brought millions all over the globe together to take a stand against bullying, specifically that of LGBTQ youth. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth are at higher risk than their non-LGBTQ peers of being verbally or physically harassed or assaulted with negative consequences for their mental and physical health as well as their academic achievement. Step In, Speak Up! is a 30-minute online role-play simulation that helps youth-serving adults increase understanding and appreciation for the challenges faced by LGBTQ youth and build confidence and competence to intervene in these incidents.

Step In, Speak Up!

This simulation is part of a suite created to address bullying and mental health in PK-12 and higher education. It has been widely adopted across the country in states like Texas and Illinois and cities such as New York. Learners get practice in curtailing the use of biased language, addressing harassment, and reaching out to a student who has been harassed. These actions help send signals that these words and behaviors are not okay. The learners are introduced to three youth coaches based on real people who help guide them through scenarios to practice positively intervening with realistic virtual students.

The virtual students in the simulation are coded with their own personality and emotions; they mimic real-life behavior which makes the experience accurate, giving a stronger learning experience. Face-to-face role play training has inherent limitations that Kognito’s simulations overcome, resulting in a skills-building experience that is more enjoyable to the learner. Some schools have implemented the simulation as their sole source of professional development while others use it to supplement their existing anti-bullying initiatives.

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