NEW YORK CITY, OCTOBER 11, 2012In recognition of National Coming Out Day, three national non-profits working in education, Teach For America, The Trevor Project, and the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), launched a program asking teachers nationwide to make their classrooms Safe and Affirming For Everyone (S.A.F.E.).
The S.A.F.E. initiative seeks to engage educators to prevent bullying and reduce risk by enlisting them as allies in creating safe and affirming classrooms for their students, especially those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). By signing the pledge at www.safeclassrooms.org, teachers will gain access to a library of resources that will help create this embracing environment, including learning objectives, activities, and classroom posters.
"Studies support that positive changes to school climate can reduce risk for all youth, which is what makes participating in life-affirming programs like S.A.F.E. valuable for educators at all levels," said Abbe Land, executive director and chief executive officer of The Trevor Project. "This collaboration among The Trevor Project, Teach for America, and GLSEN highlights how organizations can work together effectively to improve classroom environments for the benefit of all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."
"Each one of our organizations is committed to ensuring schools are respectful places of learning for every student to succeed," said Dr. Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN. "The S.A.F.E. initiative will enable us to equip educators with crucial resources to ensure classrooms are safe for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."
"There is no path to educational equity that doesn't include all of us assuming responsibility for ensuring our classrooms are safe and affirming places for every student," said Eric Scroggins, executive vice president of growth, development, and partnerships at Teach For America. "This is particularly true of students who identify as or are perceived to be LGBT."
According to GLSEN's 2011 National School Climate Survey, LGBT students are faced with many obstacles that negatively affect academic performance and personal well-being. Eight out of 10 LGBT youth reported experiencing harassment and three fifths felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation. The 2011 report from the CDC on youth risk behavior indicates that 1 of 6 high school students nationwide has seriously considered attempting suicide, and those who are LGB or questioning are 3 to 4 times more likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers.
Studies also show that it is possible to improve outcomes and reduce risk. An LGBT student who knows about one teacher, school group, counselor, or lifeline they can trust is much more likely to reach out for help in times of crisis. GLSEN's 2011 National School Climate Survey also found that a safer school climate directly relates to the availability of LGBTQ school-based resources and support, and more positive experiences for students. The presence of school personnel who are supportive of LGBTQ students contributed to higher grade point averages and a greater likelihood of pursuing higher education.