Community Health Outreach Worker at June Jordan High
Q. What are you doing to create a safer school community for LGBTQ students?
I think that overall because June Jordan is a social justice, and a school for equity, I think the overall culture of the school is LGBTQ supportive. We have one identifying transgender student, when she first arrived at our school we had advisory trainings and curriculums to prep people, because were a small school, about 300 hundred students, we did trainings with the staff and students about what it means to be a transgender student. That student has full buy-in in the school she is well liked, very popular and not made fun of. I never hear any slurs directed toward her. But that also could be the nature of the going to a small school where the whole culture is about their learning. I try to bring in outside people. I have Lianna Chavez from the family acceptance project. They provide case management as well run groups for LGBT students and their families. We invite a lot of outside people to come in to create groups, run workshops and support groups. Sometime later in the Spring peer wellness is planning to do an event around this issue. We may or may not do Pink Tsunami, [where students all wear pink to school to send a message to bullies]. I don’t how effective it will be, it usually works better at larger schools. We do a lot of educational trainings around these kinds of issues, like countering homophobia. Last year we got a bunch of pins from the school district that said “that’s so gay” and then it was crossed out like the no smoking sign, so we all wore those. As far as workshops and trainings teaching people to be more open and accepting and sensitive to the needs of the LGBTQ students. We also have a lot of LGBT staff so they also provide help provide support whenever needed. We have town halls to address these issues on school-wide level.
Q. How has the school climate changed since the beginning of your LGBTQ work?
I’ve only been working since January but I do know that our school administration is really on it. When this student came they made plans, like how we were going to make the student feel welcome and in wellness we had plans, in case she did need to seek services from us, we had to plan what they would look like. For example she was transitioning through hormone therapy and she had bonded with one of the teachers who basically served as a mentor/ guidance counselor for her and helped deal with all of the things she was experiencing, and all of the things different issues that would come up because of the hormone therapy.
Q. What would you like to do better this year?
I definitely feel like there are students at June Jordan who are LGBTQ but are not out. I’d like to start a GSA and have more services and outside people coming in for LBGTQ students. Because not a lot of students have self-identified I don’t want to bring in outside service provider and then two people show up, but I do want to make sure their needs are met. Last semester, we had a challenge day where outside facilitators come through and do teambuilding exercises and icebreakers they do this group think thing where students get to talk about all their different experience and levels of oppression and cross line exercises do with the students well, at the end of the challenge day a student actually came out in of the whole school and told everyone “I’m bisexual and proud of it.” So I definitely know there are students in the closet and I want to help them out of it.