LAUSD’s ‘OUT for safe schools’ praised, expands to other districts
Craig Clough | October 7, 2015
Two years after it was launched, an LA Unified program aimed at making schools safer for students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) is being praised as it expands to eight other major districts around the country.
The “OUT for Safe Schools” program was created in 2013 by a school board resolution authored by board member Mónica García and calls on district staff and teachers to wear rainbow-colored badges on Oct. 11, which is National Coming Out Day. The badges identify them as an ally of LGBTQ students.
The program, with the aid of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, has seen around 30,000 LA Unified staff participate in each of the last two years. This year, districts in New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, San Diego, Duval County (Florida), Oakland and Washington, D.C. are adopting the program.
“Despite increased public acceptance of LGBT people in general, many school campuses remain toxic environments for LGBTQ students, contributing to higher rates of suicide, depression, homelessness and HIV infection,” Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean said in a statement. “We approached the LAUSD about developing this program to create visible adult allies throughout the entire school system, helping LGBTQ youth feel safe and supported while helping to deter would-be bullies. Now, wherever students look, they’re sure to see adults who proudly identify themselves as LGBTQ allies for students.”
An LGBT Center release pointed to a 2014 study by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) which found that 65 percent of LGBTQ students heard homophobic remarks frequently or often, 56 percent reported personally experiencing LGBTQ-related discriminatory policies or practices at school and 33 percent of LGBTQ students were physically harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
The badges aren’t just symbolic, as they indicate the wearer can be approached if an LGBT youth needs help to feel safe at school, according to the LGBT Center. Staff at the participating districts will also be trained by Gay-Straight Alliance Network staff, to improve the campus climate for LGBTQ students with funding that comes from a grant.
“Since its launch, OUT for Safe Schools™ has enriched the lives of both students and staff members in the Los Angeles Unified School District,” LA Unified board President Steve Zimmer said in a statement. “A whopping 30,000 of our employees—representing one-third of LAUSD’s entire staff—pledged to be visible allies of LGBT students by wearing the rainbow-designed badges. I have worn mine every day—there is nothing I am more proud to wear. I applaud my district for stepping up to the plate and keeping all of our schools a safer space. No child should ever be bullied, taunted or harassed simply because they’re different.”