CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Time Out Youth, a local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth services agency, and the national Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN), have teamed up to provide 187 local middle and high schools with kits designed to promote safer schools for LGBT students.
“The question I most frequently get from educators is not so much ‘Why should I support these students?’ but, ‘How can I support these students?’” Time Out Youth’s Director of School Outreach Micah Johnson said in a release.
Johnson, who works to promote safer, more inclusive schools, hopes the new kits will increase awareness and help teach educators about the importance of being an ally for LGBT young people.
“Being a visible support for LGBTQ youth is an active, not passive, process,” he said. “This kit allows educators to identify ways that best work within their school environment and professional comfort level.”
The Safe Space Kits usually cost $20 per school. Time Out Youth and GLSEN have partnered to provide them for free to every public middle and high school in Mecklenburg, Lincoln, Cabarrus, Union, Iredell and Gaston Counties, as well as York County in South Carolina.
Time Out Youth said the kits will allow educators to be better prepared to help LGBT students and “promote positive social, emotional and academic outcomes.”
The kits provide educational information for teachers and other school staff as well as safe space stickers and posters that can be displayed in classrooms as a sign of support for LGBT students.
“If I were to have had some teacher, or even my bus driver, who was willing to step up, and step in, I would’ve been more prone to reporting my experiences with bullying and wouldn’t have been so fearful that no one would listen or worse: do nothing,” said Loan Tran, a Charlotte-area high school senior and Time Out Youth Board of Directors member. Tran also volunteers as a GLSEN Student Ambassador.
Time Out Youth, which provides support and education for LGBT youth ages 11-20, hopes school staff and administrators will take advantage of the safe space kits and other opportunities for education on LGBT issues.
“While the kit is designed as a stand-alone resource to educators, school personnel have the additional opportunity for follow-up consultation and training on LGBTQ issues through Time Out Youth,” the group said.
National research data on the experiences of LGBT youth in schools suggests that LGBT young people experience greater rates of harassment and bullying when compared to their straight peers. A 2011 national climate survey of students by GLSEN found that more than 80 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed at school within the past year. Nearly 40 percent had been physically harassed and 18 percent had reported physical assault.
A recent survey of rural students released in December shows slightly higher incidents of harassment and physical assault for students in rural schools and communities.