To the GLSEN Family, 

Last night at the Stonewall Inn here in New York City, and at thousands of similar vigils around the country, people came together in remembrance of the victims of the attack at Pulse in Orlando. In times of crisis, we seek opportunities to be together, to connect with others, and to be visible in our mourning and our determination to overcome. 

The loss of the 49 people killed, with dozens more injured, at Pulse's Latin Night on Sunday is almost more than we can take. Most of the victims were LGBTQ. Most of the victims were Latino. Many were barely out of high school. The perpetrator has been identified as Muslim, and for many Muslim participants in these vigils, mourning is mixed with fear of verbal assault or violent retaliation. We cannot allow that to happen on our watch.

At their best, when all who gather are mindful of their common purpose, these gatherings can help us heal, and demonstrate our ability to create power in community despite our differences.

Our best instincts in these moments mirror what educators learn they must do for students in the aftermath of tragedy or trauma. The American Association of School Counselors suggests that when fear, violence, or hate rip school communities apart, educators must “rebuild and reaffirm attachments and relationships” in order to reestablish a sense of connection, and "deal with their own response to crisis and stress" in order to be able to help repair broken community.

In our work together over the years, all of us have created an organization dedicated to building connections across lines of difference, promoting respect for all, and, perhaps above all, dedicated to the transformative power of learning communities where every single student is valued and respected for exactly who they are. And as we have witnessed the power of the student leaders nurtured in such communities, we know why all that hard work is worth it.

At this moment of pain and mourning, we all, as GLSEN, have an important contribution to make.

Whether an educator, student, chapter leader, or donor, these tragic events call upon each of us to support one another in our grief, to build community with those from other communities, and collectively find resilience for the work ahead.

Together, and only together, can we create schools, and a world, with equality and respect for all.

ps. If you would like to find or organize a vigil in your area, visit

In solidarity,

Eliza Byard
Executive Director