Friday, October 31, 2008

Debating Safe Schools in Chicago and Beyond

Recent plans to open an LGBT-specific school in Chicago - similar to one already in operation in New York - have ignited a debate among parents, students and policy makers about how, specifically, to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth have a safe, supportive and welcoming environment in which to learn.

In Chicago, Mayor Daley has expressed concern about segregating LGBT students from the larger public school population, while at the same time acknowledging that all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, must feel safe at school. And as recent statistics from the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) show, many LGBT students go to school in fear, and face a constant barrage of anti-gay harassment, threats and intimidation.

PFLAG's Safe Schools initiative (which will be re-launched with expanded materials and a new trainign seminar this fall) has focused on working with parents, at the local level, to facilitate a comprehensive program in the schools that addresses climate . . . empowers teachers . . . and creates an ongoing program to keep young people safe. And, as we told Edge Publications in an article out this morning, we can continue work to make schools safe and respect parents who, in the meantime, want alternative options for students who are being harassed right now.

"We hear from parents every day who contact us because their children are facing harassment," PFLAG told Edge. "They’re telling us that the environment in many schools is dangerous and their children cannot learn because they are being distracted by threats and intimidation," adding that "the ultimate answer isn’t to segregate students. It’s to protect students, and we need to do that in the public school system."

Schools across the country need to provide the tools for "administrators and parents to adopt policies and implement training to create a school culture and environment that respects and protects LGBT students."

"We also need to give parents options to consider," we noted, because "While we work in public schools that include gay and straight students, PFLAG isn’t going to fault a parent whose child is being subjected to constant harassment for wanting to get their child out of that environment."

To read the full coverage from Edge Publications, click here.

No comments: