Janet Miller - ORGANIZE | Not in Our Town

Janet Miller - ORGANIZE

Grade Level: 
Middle School (6-8)
High School (9-12)


Janet Miller, a teacher at Hoover Middle School, said that she was blown away by district-wide statistics that revealed the risk of violence that transgendered youth experience. Moved by the statistics, Miller made an impassioned plea to her colleagues that it was their responsibility to create a safe learning environment for ALL students and that any type of discrimination should not be tolerated.

This lesson addresses the following SEL strategies and you can have students look for these issues and examine them in themselves.

  • Self-awareness: Janet Miller recognizes that as a teacher it is her job to create a safe environment for all students. She relays this belief to her colleagues and helps to create an inclusive environment at her school.
  • Self-management: Janet Miller helps support students in the school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) and their efforts to spread the values of tolerance and acceptance at their school.
  • Social awareness: Janet Miller becomes aware of the unsafe environment that many transgendered youth go through in her district and works to effect change. She encourages her colleagues to do the same.
  • Relationship skills: Janet Miller utilizes her ties with other teachers as well as the students to foster a safer environment at the school.
  • Responsible Decision-making: After seeing the statistics, Janet makes the decision to help create a positive change at her school through the help of the students themselves and the teachers.

1. Prior to showing the video, briefly explain the primary themes of the video. Use some or all of the following questions (include at least one writing prompt):

  • Do you feel safe being who you are in your school? Do you think other students feel safe in your school? Why or why not?      
  • List some forms of discrimination against people based on their gender and/or sexual orientation or how others perceive them. What are some causes of such discrimination?

2. After watching the video, engage students in a dialogue about the film using some or all of the following questions (include at least one writing prompt):

  • Why do you think such a large portion of  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning (LGBTQ) youth are at risk of suicide? What are some possible ways to counter the issue?
  • The assistant principal in the film explained how a GSA helps students address different issues about navigating their sexual orientation. What kind of messages do people get from society about what it means to be part of the LGBTQ community?
  • Some teachers argued that middle-schoolers were not ready for a GSA. What do you think about this argument?
  • Do you think GSAs are effective ways of addressing LGBTQ issues? Why or why not?

Extension Activities

Note: The teacher can explore the GLSEN.org website. They have many useful activities.

  1. What kind of action is there to be done on a legislative level to ensure safe school environments for students of all backgrounds and identities? What rights do students have?
  2. Have students do a quick-write. What is the meaning of the word ally? How can you be an ally to other students who are different from you?
  3. Discuss these different forms of actions to make a safer school.  In small groups, discuss the merits, the challenges, and possibilities of different actions. Make a  plan to implement one of your ideas.



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