Q: In your role as a learning support professional, what have you done to help create a safer climate for LGBTQ youth and their families?
Well, this year we started a Gay/Straight Alliance. It’s the first year we really called it the Gay/Straight Alliance, instead of the Diversity Club, and we’ve gotten a lot of great response. We hold meetings every other week during lunch periods. We also advertise it to parents on the website and on our Listserve and we have Tiger Tails which is like the weekly bulletin. We put that in the calendar to let parents know about it. The other thing I think is important is making sure that the staff knows the information from the district-wide school climate survey on the statistics of the percentage of students who are being harassed. You know…make sure that they know how many kids are being harassed with homophobic remarks and how they feel about whether teachers are sticking up for them or addressing those remarks. So just making sure the staff knows what the culture is, and supporting them in creating a safer climate.
Q: What other activity have you done for LGBTQ?
So far we’ve only had one meeting but the students have addressed some of the things that they want to do this year including homophobic remarks in school and helping teachers understand what students need around that. We also had Silence the Violence week which is a school-wide slogan contest for a message of tolerance for peace and one of the topics we wanted the slogan to address was the use of homophobic remarks. It was a slogan design around preventing the use of homophobic remarks.
Q: Have you had any challenges or barriers to some of these activities?
Well I think one challenge is letting students know they don’t have to be gay to be part of the GSA. That if they associate with it, it’s really just because they are concerned with issues that face the LGBTQ community and not because they identify. And I think the other challenge is just letting teachers know how to combat remarks in different ways when they hear anti, or homophobic remarks.
Q: So what inspired you to do this work?
I think it’s just part of my personal value base. It’s what made me want to become a social worker in the first place. Even though my parents are heterosexual, I also grew up with homosexual couples as part of our family community. I think that diversity enriched my life. I just wanted to be part of believing in social justice for everyone. I like the middle school age because I think that they’re ripe for questioning and changing their own values. I want to incorporate that into the values of young people as well and making sure that everyone can focus on learning in a safe space.
Q: What has been the school community reaction to the work that you do?
Well, the response at our GSA meeting has been really good; it was a really positive meeting. We had staff participation in addition to a really diverse group of students. There were about 15 students, both ethnically diverse and also in terms of their social status at school. It was diverse so I see that as really positive and just shows that students felt safe to come to the meeting. So far it’s been really positive.