Verizon grant funds school hate-free zonesAround the City Thursday, March 31st, 2011
Thanks to a donation from the Verizon Foundation, all schools within the San Diego Unified School District will receive a free copy of the Safe Space Kit, part of a nationwide campaign to build inclusive, safe learning spaces for all students.
William Kowba, San Diego Superintendent, and Brett Peterson, San Diego County Co-chairman of Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), made the announcement March 14 in a letter to all the school principals; openly gay School Board Member Kevin Beiser announced the grant to the public at the March 26 Our Streets! Our Lives! One is Too Many! rally, march and speak-out in support of hate-crime victims.
“As recent tragedies continue to confirm, bullying and harassment have a huge negative impact on the lives of LGBT students: nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students reported being verbally harassed and 40 percent reported being physically harassed in school during the past year. LGBT students who are routinely bullied and harassed will often skip classes or even full days of school because they feel unsafe,” Kowba and Peterson wrote in their letter. “The good news is that the presence of supportive school staff has a positive effect on a student’s educational experience, particularly for those who are marginalized. With this enclosed Safe Space Kit, you can be a part of the solution!”
“It was very clear that our schools … need to be a safe learning environment and a safe working environment for everybody in our district, regardless of any differences they may have – especially if they may be gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender,” Beiser said at the rally.
The Safe Space Kit, created by GLSEN, provides a program for action that school staff can take to create a positive learning environment for every child. Each kit contains 10 Safe Space stickers, two posters and a 42-page Guide to Being an Ally to LGBT Students that gives concrete strategies for supporting LGBT students, including how to educate about anti-LGBT bias and teaching respect for all people.
“With (the Verizon) grant monies, we are able to pay for Safe School zones. Now, every single elementary school, middle school and high school will have a safe zone – safe zone signs, safe zone stations, training and counselor support,” Beiser said. There are 225 educational facilities in San Diego. “That’s really important as we are starting to turn the page and create a much more open and understanding culture for our children in which to grow up.”
Safe Space supports the work of the district’s Safe Schools Task Force, a group of district and community leaders working together to develop and implement a stronger anti-bullying policy for local schools. For more information about the Safe Space Kit, including how you can make a donation, log on to safespace.glsen.org.
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