Friday, April 17, 2009

The Coolest Safe Schools Week Ever

This guest post is from Kim Peters (center), a member of PFLAG's Dayton, Ohio chapter, and chair of the chapter's Safe Schools program.

Monday, April 13 was a ground breaking “first” for the PFLAG Dayton Safe Schools program. Countless presentations over four years have been made to school employees, non-profits, employers, universities. But the Safe Schools group has never been invited to speak to kids.

That changed when a senior at Yellow Springs High School, Amelia Shaw, took it upon herself to make “Day of Silence” her senior project. She contacted PFLAG, scheduled a Safe Schools speaker and finagled a copy of Prayers for Bobby.

I spoke to Amelia about her goals for this event. She let me know her school is very tolerant, supportive, and inclusive. So much so that she is worried about what these kids are going to find when they enter the “real” world. And that even though the atmosphere is really supportive at her school you still here “fag”, “homo”, and “gay” in the hallways and all the standard “bad” jokes.

I arrived expecting to speak to about 250 students – the entire high school. I was surprised to discover the middle school, McKinney School, was also attending – now we were 350. I met the high school principal. I kept asking him “Do you want to know what I am going to talk about?” He didn’t care. Make it count he said. Seriously, how many Safe Schools presenters are given carte blanche?

So I told my family's story. I talked about the responsibilities GLBT youth have to themselves …take care of themselves mentally and physically. Reach out – seek support, friendship, take advantage of the infinite amount of resources available to them. To the rest of the group – the allies - I was clear about their role in the future of the school, their community, our state, and nation. And that the most important thing about the “Day of Silence” they were participating in on Friday needed to be the last day they would ever be silent. Only voices matter.

This week McKinney School – 7th and 8th graders, screened Prayers – a mandatory session for all. Yellow Springs High School used the film as an after school activity. Today they are all participating in the “Day of Silence."

Perhaps the coolest Safe Schools week ever in my Dayton, Ohio world!

- Kim Peters - Chair, Safe Schools
PFLAG Dayton

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