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November 2, 2015 12:00 pm

Middle Schools, GSAs and School Safety for All

Going back to school after a long summer can be an exciting time for young people; they get to see their friends again, and get a fresh start on a new schoolyear. For others, particularly for students who identify as LGBT or Q, this may be a time of anxiety and fear at the possibility that as soon as they return to school, they also return to bullies. GLAD’s Youth Initiative, hoping to make the transition from summer to school a smooth and positive one for all students, works to prevent things like bullying and isolation from happening, and to make the school environment one that is conducive to learning for all.

To that effect, before the start of school this year, GLAD sent a letter and materials to 250 middle school principals in Massachusetts detailing their LGBTQ students’ rights in the classroom, and asking them to help in forming GSA clubs at their schools – and it was a hit! This targeted outreach was made possible by a grant from the Equality Fund at the Boston Foundation.

The response has been inspiring. Shortly after the mailing went out, one principal, from Revere, MA wrote to tell us: “I am excited to let you know that we will be offering a GSA club as one of our clubs for students this year!" Others shared the “wonderful, positive feedback” they’ve gotten from their existing clubs, and expressed their intention “to remind all staff about how critical it is we are keenly attuned to student safety and keeping a particular eye on potential bullying and other hurtful behavior toward students."

This feedback is especially moving, as according to the 2013 National School Climate Survey, GSAs positively impact school climate for all students. They provide a safe and welcoming space for LGBTQ and allied students and help students, teachers, and administrators learn about LGBTQ issues. Students at schools with GSAs report hearing fewer homophobic and transphobic remarks; experiencing fewer incidents of severe victimization; missing fewer days of school because of feeling unsafe; and generally feeling safer in and more connected to their school community.

As of August, over 250 middle schools in Massachusetts have up-to-date information on their LGBTQ students’ rights in the classroom, and GLAD will continue working across New England to create safe and affirming schools for all students.


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