Every School Campus Should Be A Safe Space

It’s Back-To-School Time! Students who feel welcomed, valued, and comfortable at school are likely to be eagerly awaiting the first day of school. But for many neurodivergent and neurotypical LGBTQIA+ students, the start of a new school year may bring feelings of trepidation and anxiousness. These feelings are understandable because not all LGBTQIA+ students feel comfortable being their authentic selves at school. However, there are a number of ways for a school to create a safe environment for LGBTQIA+ students. And if your child’s school needs assistance in this area, here are suggestions parents can make so that all students feel safe, welcomed, and included in their classrooms and on their school campus,

Back in 2010, GLSEN (The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) launched their “Safe Space Campaign” to empower educators to make classrooms safe for LGBTQIA+ students.

A classroom can become a “safe zone” with the use of stickers or posters that display rainbow flags or portray families with same sex parents. These decorations signal to students that they can know that a classroom is a safe space and that the teacher is a safe person for LGBTQIA+ students. Students know that anti-LGBTQIA+ language will not be allowed in the classroom, and that the teacher is open to discussing LGBTQIA+ issues in the context of classwork or just in conversation.

GLSEN conducted a study to determine the effects of their campaign and found that the campaign made a big difference in LGBTQIA+ students’ belief  that their school is safe and that there are adults on campus that they can trust. Many students reported that seeing a rainbow sticker on a classroom door just made them feel better. Learning for Justice, a nonprofit organization with a goal of justice for all, also conducted a study and noted that having safe zone signage “signals to LGBTQIA+ students that the adult in that classroom or office has their back”

Another way schools feel safe is by having a LGBTQIA+ organization on campus. These are sometimes known as GSA’s (Gay/Straight Alliane or Genders & Sexualities Alliance) or Pride Clubs. These extracurricular groups are shown to positively affect ALL students on campus in that they provide support for LGBTQIA+  students which creates awareness and decreases discrimination against all students. Offering to start a group at your school or becoming an advisor for an existing one can help make your school a safe space for everyone.

A further way to signal that a school is a safe space is by adding gender pronouns in email signatures. The addition of pronouns is becoming more common in diverse and inclusive environments. This practice helps reduce mis-gendering and is an important strategy toward inclusivity. This is an example of what it looks like to add a signature to an email:

Mrs. Smith, 10th Grade English

Pronouns she/her/hers
East Ridge High School
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Another way to model self-expression and self-identification is for adults at school to share their pronouns when making an introduction. For example, “Hello, I am Principal Jones and I use he, him, his pronouns. What pronouns do you use?” By making an introduction like this, you are signaling that you are a safe person and that you are interested in meeting the person you are talking with.

Kaleidoscope wishes everyone in our community a safe and happy fall semester for everyone. If you would like to learn more about making schools feel safe for LGBTQIA+ students, or would like guidance about starting a GSA on your school campus, please reach out! You can email us at KaleidoscopeLGBTQ@thehelpgroup.org

Jeri Rochman, JD, MA

Program Director for Kaleidoscope

Jeri Rochman, JD, MA is the Program Director for Kaleidoscope and the very proud mom of a wonderful gay son. She is a National Board Certified Counselor, Certified Parent Educator and Trained Crisis Counselor. Interested in learning more about Kaleidoscope’s programs and services? Email her by clicking on the button below.