A Classroom For Community

By Desi Rubio, September 2015 Issue.

For some LGBT students, going back to school means socializing and learning, for others it raises concerns of isolation and bullying.

With 25 years of experience, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) can help you ensure that your school provides a safe and affirming learning environment for all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

In support of GLSEN’s mission, the Phoenix chapter has launched a new professional development series in effort to raise awareness around LGBT-youth related issues and promote inclusion, both in the classroom and beyond.

“Our goal is to educate our community about outstanding issues still facing young people – especially youth attending area schools,” said Danny Hernandez, Education and Policy Coordinator for GLSEN Phoenix, who will also be leading the sessions.

The professional development series kicked off in July and, during the first session, Hernandez introduced effective ways to be an LGBT ally in a session called “Ally 101.” Then, July 30, he hosted a session called “The State of Anti-Bullying Policies in Arizona,” which explored ways to strengthen federal and state policies aimed at LGBT youth.

In support of GLSEN’s goal to “improve school climate and champion LGBT issues in K-12 education,” each professional development session will address a different topic – from how to creating safe spaces for LGBT youth to learning about specific legalities that protect (or don’t currently protect) LGBT students in the state of Arizona.

“It seems like a no-brainer that districts, and even the state, would want to adopt more inclusive laws and protections,” Hernandez said. “But it’s a fight, even here in the Valley.”

Photo courtesy of GLSEN Phoenix.

According to “Growing Up LGBT in America,” a youth survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign (hrc.org/youth/view-statistics), “LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked or shoved at school.” The same study also revealed that LGBT students cited “not feeling accepted by their family, trouble at school/bullying and fear to be out and open” as their biggest problems. Meanwhile, their non-LGBT peers cited trouble with class, exams and grades.

“People returning to school may want to learn how to address certain LGBT issues,” Hernandez said. “These workshops are a great starting point on how to educate and then take action.”

All topics discussed are research-based (found on GLSEN.org) and Hernandez added that research has indicated that having conversations centered on issues affecting LGBT youth can lead to higher student achievement.

“We’re hoping to gain interest in each [session, and] expand the types of people we market the classes to, as well as the people who might benefit from them,” Hernandez said.

According to Hernandez, the bigger goal behind the concept of the series is to encourage and enhance the ways educational leaders, as well as the community, can take charge and protect Valley LGBT youth.

This professional development series, which hosts two sessions scheduled each month at the Phoenix Pride LGBT Center, is open to anyone interested in learning more – from educators and students to parents and professionals.

For those who are not be able to attend the workshops in-person, Hernandez said, there are many additional resources are available at glsen.org.

For more information on attending the professional development sessions, or to RSVP, email Hernandez at danny@glsenphoenix.org. For more information on the GLSEN Phoenix, find them on Facebook at facebook.com/glsen.phoenix.

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