By Kathy HansonStaff WriterPublished: Thursday, December 17, 2009 11:23 AM CSTFor 17-year-old Jacob Cellan, the most comfortable space in his life is Room 209 at Ames High School during the hour before school starts on Wednesday mornings. That’s when Spectrum club, the school’s gay and straight alliance, meets.“As an openly gay person, I’ve had problems fitting in,” Cellan said. “Everyone has as different understanding of what it means to be gay. Some people seem to think it’s something you can catch.”Katie Martin, 17, also a junior and a member of the alliance, said it makes her sad that the only place Cellan feels safe is at Spectrum meetings.“If you have to go to school to feel safe, there’s a problem,” she said.Spectrum co-presidents Marian Thompson and Alex Canfield, both juniors, said it’s encouraging to know Spectrum provides a safe place for Cellan on one hand, but on the other, his comment points out how much work needs to be done to help students at different places on the spectrum of gender identity and sexual orientation feel safe and fully included.Iowa Pride Network, a statewide nonprofit organization that helps students start gay/straight alliances, claims organizations such as Spectrum work hand in hand with Iowa’s Safe Schools Law, passed in 2007 to protect all students from bullying and harassment.According to the network, unsafe schools affect all students, gay and straight alike. For example, harassment and assault affects grades and attendance and increases absenteeism. A survey the network completed this year found the Safe Schools Law, which specifically lists categories of race, gender, religion and sexual orientation, has helped reduce verbal and physical bullying and harassment, and raised awareness about the issues gay, lesbian and transgender students face.Canfield said having a formal structure such as the Safe Schools Law enhances Spectrum’s mission.“It helps us focus on our responsibility to encourage acceptance and raise awareness,” he said. “Even though the organization is open to everyone, it still comes down to individuals making a choice to become a part of it.”Ames High Student Council members Loralyn Werkmeister and Anna Frankl said they believe student council has a role in supporting Spectrum’s mission and getting its message out.Frankl said she hears occasional judgmental comments about Spectrum.“Most people change their minds about it when they take the time to experience it,” she said.Werkmeister said teachers help by providing a positive example and treating students as unique individuals.“They encourage all sorts of individuality, so (gay and lesbian and transgender students) don’t stick out and all students can feel free to be themselves,” she said.Thompson said some teachers have declared their rooms safe spaces by displaying the pink triangle emblem of EQUAL!, an education and support group that addresses workplace environment issues affecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender persons.John Burke, a guidance counselor and Spectrum’s faculty advisor, said the organization benefits from the “status quo at Ames High, which is to do the right thing and treat people with respect.”....
Saturday, December 19, 2009
National Safe Place is a great organization to help you create safe places for our Transgender Youth whether it be in schools, organizations, libraries and even your homes.
Posted by De Sube at 12/19/2009 07:56:00 AM