Letter to Sonoma County Middle School Administrators and Educators About Creating Safe Space Programs

February 6, 2017

Dear Sonoma County Administrators and Educators,

When President Trump was inaugurated, his administration immediately removed the LGBTQ rights page from the White House website. The Junior Commission on Human Rights is deeply concerned about the impact of the Trump Administration on progress toward LGBTQ equality. In the GLSEN 2015 National School Climate Survey, it was found that 85% of LGBTQ students from ages 11-19 have experienced verbal harassment at school. Over a third of LGBTQ students have missed school at least once in the prior month due to feeling unsafe and unsupported. 

Another unsettling result from this survey was that the frequency of intervention by school staff when witnessing homophobic remarks had decreased between 2013 and 2015. It is clear that hostile school climates negatively affect LGBTQ students' educational outcomes, mental and physical health. We believe that the first step in ensuring that LGBTQ students feel safe from discrimination on school campus is to help you make your classroom or office into a safe, supportive environment.

We aim to achieve this by ensuring that each middle school in Sonoma County has at least one or more visible Safe Spaces for LGBTQ students on campus. Middle school is a pivotal time where students experience changes in their self-identity. Ensuring that LGBTQ youth feel supported is especially important during this time. In addition, although Safe Spaces are designated for LGBTQ students, we want to make sure everybody is comfortable at school; any student who needs support in protected environment should be welcome in the Safe Space. Here is the link to access the GLSEN Safe Zone information kit. Safe Zone posters and stickers, in both English and Spanish. We urge you to designate your classroom or office as a visible Safe Space by printing out these tools and displaying them in obvious places, such as outside your door, behind your desk, or on your whiteboard, etc.

If you have any questions, concerns, or are unable to download the print the Safe Zone Kits, we are happy to provide them to you directly by request. We would also love to check in with you a few months after implementation of the Safe Spaces has occurred, and would be more than willing to talk to your student body and staff about the importance of Safe Spaces/Safe Zones in the school environment. We are collecting data on the number of schools which implement safe spaces, as well as feedback from administrators on how this might impact existing school climate, and will be presenting this information to the Board of Supervisors in May. Our goal is to put Sonoma County middle schools on the map as being proactive about doing everything possible to create and maintain a safe and healthy learning environment for LGBTQ students.

We hope you choose to take action to make your school a safer, more welcoming place for everybody. This is one small step on the road to change, but in this fight, each movement forward is crucial. Can we count on your participation?

Thank you,

The LGBTQ Ad Hoc Committee of the Junior Commission on Human Rights