Joel with talk-show-host Ellen DeGeneres on the set of The Ellen DeGeneres Show; 10/20/10 (Spirit Day).
Capping off what has been a banner year for him, today The Dallas Morning News revealed that Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns is a finalist for the paper's 2010 Texan of the Year award. According to the editorial board of The Dallas Morning News, Joel was nominated "for his uncommon, selfless courage to spare others."
You probably recall that in October Joel spoke out against anti-LGBT bullying in schools at a regular meeting of the Fort Worth City Council. That message, in which Joel tearfully recalled his own experiences with bullying as a teenager, was recorded and published to YouTube shortly after the city council meeting. Since that time, Joel's video has garnered nearly 2.5 million views on YouTube.
As soon as GLAAD learned of Joel's video, we immediately reached out to offer our support. First, we provided Joel with media training prior to his first national media interview, which was televised live on CNN's Newsroom with Ali Velshi. We then worked diligently to elevate Joel's message, pitching Joel's story and accompanying him to many of his now countless number of national press engagements, where undoubtedly millions more were exposed to the concrete harms of bullying because of Joel's powerful message.
The editors of The Dallas Morning News aren't the only ones recognizing Joel's efforts in a big way. Inspired by Burns' message, state Sen. Wendy Davis has proposed legislation that would require Texas school districts to combat all forms of school bullying and to report annually the number of incidents and whether they were based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. The legislation would also require school districts to educate employees, students and parents on the seriousness of all forms of bullying.
As Joel reminds us, "It's not children who are responsible for ending bullying in the schools. It is the responsibility of teachers, parents, administrators and our legislators."
GLAAD congratulates Joel Burns on his nomination for the 2010 Texan of the Year award. At the same time, we applaud The Dallas Morning News for their recognition of Joel's powerful message and the impact it continues to have on a countless number of lives.