Students seeking ‘Safe Space’ can look for door stickers

Alyssa Howard | Editor-in-Chief

There are now ten Safe Spaces for lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender (LBGT) students at Mason High School. According to the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) “Safe Space Kit,” a Safe Space “is a welcoming, supportive and safe environment for [LBGT] students.” Multicultural Literature teacher Meg McKinnon said that the program has been initiated by staff members to fulfill an often-overlooked student need.

“It is meant to assure students that there is a place where they are free to be who they are,” McKinnon said. “[The program] comes from the fact that homosexuality is the number one cause of teen suicide. So, if we can, as educators, provide a safe environment — not that we’re counseling people; that’s not our job — but, it’s just to give kids a no-bully zone.”

Math teacher Katie Holmes said that 10 teachers, including herself and McKinnon, have received the training session from GLSEN to facilitate Safe Spaces in their respective classrooms. While Holmes said that they plan to continue to hold training sessions for additional staff members, Safe Space certification will occur only on a voluntary basis.

According to the “Safe Space Kit,” the training to becoming an ally for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students is rooted in the four subcategories of knowledge of the issues, support, education and advocation. McKinnon said that the training reversed her traditional role as a teacher.

“A lot of it was really just training us to listen,” McKinnon said. “As teachers, I think we’re used to being the ones to impart knowledge, and that’s not what you’re doing in Safe Space. You’re really just listening.”

As a result, the program primarily informs teachers as to where they could direct students who seek further help, McKinnon said.

“It’s easy when you’re in a position of authority, I think, to impose your own values or beliefs onto students, with good intention to try to direct them in a way you think is going to be beneficial to them,” McKinnon said. “But, as teachers, we’re not counselors. Even if we’re trained in counseling, as Ms. Holmes is and a number of other teachers are, we don’t operate as counselors here. So, this would give us a model of dialogue that we have to refer to them to appropriate sources after that, to the counselors or to the social workers.”

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