Safe Space

Today my LGBT group had a guest speaker from PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). He was interesting because he was an evangelical Christian (Jesus fish tie and all), but who spoke openly and tolerantly about his gay son. He left behind some pamphlets about safe schools and how to determine if yours is safe. I apologize to PFLAG for quoting too liberally from their pamphlet while I analyze my own learning environment.

A safe school:

Has a harassment policy or student bill of rights that explicitly includes sexual orientation and gender identity/expression that is publicized, implemented, monitored, and enforced.

My school includes sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policy, but not gender identity. I had to search to find the policy online, and I can’t remember it ever being referenced. I would say that the administration is active in cracking down on overt homophobia, but a lot slips under the radar. Gender identity discrimination goes completely unnoticed, I think.

Provides annual, mandatory training for teachers, counselors, librarians, nurses … and other staff about sexual orientation and gender identity, and on anti-GLBT bullying intervention.

I’m not sure if this occurs but I’m willing to bet it doesn’t. There’s homophobia among a lot of teachers — the one notable exception is the teacher who sponsors our LGBT group. Judging by our sex education curricula, I’m guessing the sex ed and science teachers haven’t received much education in particular.

Offers students accurate and accessible resources about their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Never discussed in all my years of sex education.

Has a student group for GLBT and straight students (frequently referred to as a Gay-Straight Alliance).

Yup, got that one at least.

Has accurate information in the library on GLBT lives, history and issues.

Not checked, but strongly doubt it.

Makes accommodations for students identifying as transgender including bathroom use, dress codes and athletic teams.

I’ve never approached the administration to ask about what accommodations they’d make, but we do not have unisex or single-stall bathrooms or locker rooms. If we did, I’d certainly avail myself of them.

Offers resources for parents and family members of GLBT people, and involves families in addressing GLBT issues in the school.

Certainly not.

Includes GLBT issues in the curriculum — current events, history, social studies, literature, political science, health, arts, etc.

We sometimes bring up LGBT issues in current events discussions, like in my political science class this year, or my American history class last year. However, my teachers have seemed singularly skilled at referring to LGBT folks as “those people”.

So it’s interesting, when you think about the fact that my school is considered a liberal one for my area. It only meets explicitly one of the standards that PFLAG has set. Perhaps interesting isn’t strong enough a word — actually, it’s kind of shocking. I hope that something can change.

What’s it like in your environment?

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