GLSEN Chapter of Greater Kansas City works to ensure LGBTQ student safety

“Having a state snapshot for Kansas for the first time gives us valuable insight into what the climates at our schools are really like,” said David Alonzo, Chair of GLSEN Greater Kansas City.

by Morgan Allen
Journalism Intern

GLSEN, the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is a nationwide organization focused on ensuring that students, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, have safe educational experiences. Their Kansas City chapter is comprised completely of volunteers of all ages led by David Alonzo, Chair of GLSEN Greater Kansas City.

The group’s work right now focuses on training and supporting school personnel who wish to establish safe spaces for LGBTQ students in their school communities. They frequently collaborate with other organizations that have similar missions to ensure safe schools for all students, regardless of identity.

On January 11, the Kansas City chapter released its information regarding state-level statistics from the National School Climate Survey, a biennial report by GLSEN including a sample of 10,528 secondary students from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The study showed that “U.S. secondary schools are slowly improving but remain hostile environments for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students.” The report also confirmed that “lower levels of harassment and better educational outcomes are related to the presence of school-based supports: LGBTQ-inclusive anti-bullying policies, LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, supportive educators and Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs).”

Most LGBTQ students have experienced harassment and discrimination at school. 85 percent experienced verbal harassment based on a personal characteristic, and nearly two-thirds experienced LGBTQ-related discrimination at school.

Due to feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, nearly a third of LGBTQ students missed at least one day of school in the last month, and nearly 40 percent avoided bathrooms and locker rooms.

For Kansas and Missouri specifically, the study reported the following:

  • The vast majority of LGBTQ students in Kansas and Missouri regularly heard anti-LGBTQ remarks.
  • Most LGBTQ students in Kansas and Missouri had been victimized at school.
  • Many LGBTQ students in Kansas and Missouri reported discriminatory policies or practices at their school.
  • Many LGBTQ students in Kansas and Missouri did not have access to in-school resources and supports.

“Having a state snapshot for Kansas for the first time gives us valuable insight into what the climates at our schools are really like,” said Alonzo.

 “The results of this survey mirror the stories we hear from LGBTQ middle and high school students across the nation and here in Kansas. Schools are still hostile environments for so many of these students, and now more than ever they need our support.”

"We're incredibly excited to have our first Kansas snapshot this year, and we're looking forward to using the data in our work with local schools,” said Liz Hamor, Co-Chair of GLSEN Greater Wichita. “Local educators are always curious about whether the national numbers are reflective of our Kansas students. Now we can better help them understand the issues Kansas students are facing, so we can all work on addressing these issues together and making sure our Kansas students feel safe, valued and respected in their schools."

“We have so much more work to do, but we have seen what works in Missouri to improve school climates for LGBTQ students: supportive educators, anti-bullying policies that specifically protect LGBTQ students, supportive student clubs and school curriculum that positively depicts LGBTQ topics,” said Amanda Derham, Chair of GLSEN Springfield.

GLSEN-KC's Chapter trainers give a workshop at K-State. Photo provided.

Recently, from January 16-20, the group sponsored No Name Calling Week, supplying anti-bullying materials for free to classrooms from Kindergarten to 12th grade. On their website, GLSEN stated that the tools given to classrooms were meant to be an “inspiration to launch an on-going dialogue about ways to challenge bullying and name-calling in [different educational] communities.”

With over 60 national partners including Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing and Cartoon Network, the week’s events worked to establish a presence of kindness and respect in schools across the Midwest and nationwide.

The organization also hosts and sponsors a myriad of other events including Ally Week, workshops for Gay/Straight Alliances and educators and Transgender Day of Remembrance.

State snapshots for 30 states can be found at www.glsen.org/statesnapshots. To access infographics, an executive summary and the complete GLSEN National School Climate Survey report, visit www.glsen.org/nscs.

If you would like to get involved with GLSEN Greater Kansas City, visit their website at kansascity.glsen.org and fill out the volunteer application form.

Copyright 2017 The Gayly – February 9, 2017 @ 12:20 p.m.