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Safe Space Kits in East Tennessee


Sep 01, 2012

In the next couple months, the East Tennessee chapter of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is launching the Safe Space Campaign in the Knoxville area, designed to promote visible support for LGBT students in schools. The national Campaign aims to place a Safe Space Kit in every public and private middle and high school in the United States. GLSEN East Tennessee has a beginning goal of a kit in every high school in Knox County, Campbell County, Blount County, and Oak Ridge Schools.

''The East Tennessee GLSEN chapter is proud to support this critical effort to let LGBT students know that they are not alone,'' GLSEN East Tennessee Co-Chair, Keith Hnilica said, ''LGBT students need to know that they have adult allies in their schools that they can turn to and who support them.''

In addition to GLSEN's direct outreach to area Principals and school staff, individual community members can purchase Safe Space Kits at and send them to middle or high schools of their choice. So far, in addition to individuals' engagement in the program, Safe Space Kits have already been successfully distributed in partnership with Los Angeles Unified School District and New York City Department of Education, as well as every Maine secondary school via GLSEN Downeast Maine and Southern Maine chapters. The Safe Space sticker at the heart of the Kit has long been one of GLSEN's most popular resources. By placing a sticker in their classroom or office, members of a school's faculty or staff can let students know that they have support and are in a safe space with respect to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. Research demonstrates that LGBT students who can identify supportive adults in their school are less likely to feel unsafe at school, are more likely to plan to graduate and go on to college, and are more likely to feel connected to the school community.

''Every student deserves a safe space in school,'' GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. ''The single most important line of defense for young people in crisis at school is a network of visibly supportive adults. I am so grateful to GLSEN East Tennessee for launching the Safe Space Campaign and to the Knoxville area community for responding in support of this critical initiative.''

Unfortunately, nearly nine out of 10 LGBT students experience some form of harassment in school each year because of their sexual orientation; nearly half report being physically harassed and almost a quarter report being physically assaulted. Three out of five LGBT students feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation. GLSEN East Tennessee is offering a training on the Safe Space Kit for all staff in the counties listed. They can attend the training at Outstanding Seminar: A Seminar Exploring LGBTQI Diversity. Outstanding Seminar will be held October 13, 2012 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus. See their website for more details.