Q: In your role as the site coordinator/lead teacher, what have you done to create a safer climate for the LGBTQ youth and their families?
In response to the derogatory comments that students were making, our after school leadership team decided to draw up a Respectful Language Policy to combat slurs such as “that’s gay”, and “faggot”. We worked with our LSP who presented to students in our after school program. In addition, we brought in an organization called ‘Access’ which facilitated a workshop around “isms” to our youth. Access helped our students explore their own biases in the form of games and discussion.
Q: Any other kinds of activities have you done?
This year students participated in “Mix It Up Day” during lunch which challenged them to move outside their social comfort zone. We included questions around LGBTQ issues in activities such as “Cross the Line.” A strategy we used to make the responses in this activity anonymous was to shuffle the students’ answers and to redistribute.
Q: Are there any challenges or barriers to any of these projects you’ve implemented?
I think it is important to provide students with plenty of front loading before delving into the topic of LGBTQ issues. Since Access presented to a combination of 3 different groups who did not necessarily know each other, it did not seem like the safest forum to have an open discussion. I think that the students needed to warm up to each other as well as the topic first.
Q: What inspired you to do this work?
I am happy to be apart of something that can broaden our perspectives. Both differences and commonalities should be celebrated.
Q: What’s been the reaction of the school or community for some of these workshops and facilitations?
Our students and staff have been very receptive to it as demonstrated by the support and participation we received for the Day of Silence.