Creating Safe Schools

By Laura Latzko, September 2017 Web Exclusive.

Throughout the school year ahead, the GLSEN Phoenix will continue to further its mission of assisting students, teachers, administrators and Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) in building inclusive, bullying-free environments in Valley schools.

As the local chapter affiliate of the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for all students, regardless of one’s actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, GLSEN Phoenix began gearing up for the 2017-2018 school year early this summer.

The organization kicked off the school year by delivering resource kits containing such items as event calendars, gender pronoun stickers, buttons and lanyards to local schools. GLSEN Phoenix expects to work with approximately 100 local schools with GSAs in the school year ahead.

While providing resources for students is of great importance, Ricardo Martinez, GLSEN Phoenix chair, asserts that teachers play a vital role in developing and continuing GSAs.

“We have worked collaboratively with a lot of courageous teachers,” he said. “I think as long as teachers continue to show up for students, those clubs are going to sustain.”

Taking The Time To Train

One of the biggest areas of focus, according to Martinez, has been volunteer training. By training its 20 some volunteers ahead of the school year, the organization is better prepared to do more work once class is back in session, especially because of the volume of requests coming in for training.

“Now we've increase our capacity to be able to deliver even more training to even more schools,” Martinez said. “So, we are really well positioned in the new year to really increase our partnership with school districts, with individual schools if they need us, and we have a pretty deep cohort of people who are ready to go out and conduct training.”

GLSEN Phoenix trainings, which include hands-on learning activities that build off one another to facilitate self-awareness, discussion, and skill building, draw on 18 years of research documenting the unique challenges of LGBTQ students and identifying policies and strategies that can improve school climate.

GLSEN Phoenix trainings typically last three hours and include such topics such as safe school fundamentals, supporting transgender and gender nonconforming students, model anti-bullying/anti-harassment policies, family diversity and inclusive elementary schools. Requests for such training can be submitted at or, for more information, email


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The SHINE Program

Moving forward, student leaders will have an opportunity to become more involved with GLSEN through the SHINE program, a student leadership development effort that will allows GSA leaders to connect with each other in addition to receiving skills training.

In June, 10 students took part in GLSEN Phoenix's SHINE Student Leadership Summer Institute, a four-week student leadership development program for LGBTQ youth and allies.

According to Sean Nonnenmacher, student organizing committee member, the institute provided students with important training and knowledge that they can take back to their GSAs. And added that the interaction between GSA leaders was especially important during the institute.

“This really capitalizes on the ability that our organization has to bring together different students from GSAs in the spirit of collaboration so that they can work together to really create change in their schools,” Nonnenmacher said.

During the summer sessions, Nonnenmacher said the students brought up how bullying and identity issues affect them today.

“It’s not always the overt bullying that a lot of folks may think of when they think of bullying, like a student being pushed in the hallway or a student being name-called in the hallway or in the classroom. It happens in more covert ways," he said. "They talked a lot about online bullying. They talked a lot about having to explain time and time again what their identities are and what their identities mean to them to students, teachers and community members who don’t see their identities as valid.”

According to Nonnenmacher, the SHINE team members will have active leadership roles within their schools and within GLSEN Phoenix.

“Students are vitally important to creating change in schools. As student organizations, GSAs are created by run by and are really there to serve students,” he added.

For more information on GLSEN Phoenix's Shine Program, visit

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