By Echo Brooks/TRT Online Columnist-
Gay straight alliances are typically student based programs within school systems that provide meeting places, ideas, support and events that provide all students a safe place to learn regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. These groups are not just a safe haven for LBGTQ kids; they are implemented to encourage the rest of the school population to understand, find common ground with and support each other. Having straight allies in a school heightens awareness and lessens bullying. The more students that stand up for the LGBTQ population the bigger and stronger that population becomes and the smaller the intolerant population gets.
Unfortunately, these groups are oftentimes frowned upon by school officials and administration. Their own ignorance and intolerance keep these essential groups from forming. Telling students they cannot organize a group to support each other and lessen bullying essentially confirms the notion that these kids are less then, not worthy of support, and educating the school system on how to treat each person with respect is not needed. Many times even the school systems that do allow implementation of the group place so many restrictions it again gives the impression that those kids are less than and not worthy.
Recently a boy relocated to the middle school in our town. He entrusted some of the students with the knowledge that he was gay. Within two days physical threats were already being discussed throughout the school. This information prompted me to look into the resources my own town has for LGBTQ children. I was surprised not only to find none within the district, but nothing county wide. Only one school, a technical school, seemed to even have suicide resources in an easily assessable place. I wrote a letter to the local high school principal after failing to find the superintendant’s Email address or even a direct phone number. I expressed my concern for the lack of resources available to LGBTQ students. I offered my time and experience both as a former lesbian youth, partner, and mother. I made sure he knew the community had their eye on what wasn’t happening for all students, safe education.
Since that Email, the ball has begun rolling. The high school principal, vice principal, administrator for extracurricular activities and a guidance counselor have all met. I was informed that these discussions had taken place previously but nothing ever came of it. I was also told I would be kept informed of the progress. It is bittersweet at best. I am pleased that some time in the near future all kids may have a chance to experience their education process in a happy, safe environment. I am thrilled the education and knowledge will be passed on to all students through proper assemblies with guest speakers. I am excited to be part of instituting such an important mission in a school system that obviously lacked one before. However in all the glory, I have to feel bad for the numerous kids that have passed through those doors without it.
Echo resides in northern New Jersey with her wife and the two youngest of their five children. You can visit her blog at dysphoricallyspeaking.blogspot.com or send comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.