Schools are often places where LGBTQ young people don’t feel safe or included. In Colorado, 7 out of 10 students are harassed based on their sexual orientation, 8 out of 10 students hear homophobic remarks at school, and 3 out of 10 students have missed class or even a whole day of school because they felt unsafe. (Source: GLSEN 2013 National School Climate Survey, School Climate in Colorado)
It is important that we work to build a climate across our state where LGBTQ students can be out, safe, and respected in their schools. At One Colorado, we have been working to support and create safe spaces for young people by:
- Supporting schools in the implementation of comprehensive anti-bullying policies and other inclusive policies that allow for LGBTQ students to live honest, authentic lives
- Providing the framework for schools to have an active Gay-Straight Alliance
- Developing programs and initiatives that support student leadership opportunities
In 2010, we were joined by major education organizations across the state — including the Colorado Association of School Boards, Colorado Association of School Executives, Colorado Education Association, and American Federation of Teachers Colorado — in taking action to address the problem of anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment in our schools. The Colorado anti-bullying law passed in 2011, protecting students based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Alongside this victory, One Colorado developed resources and programs to train educators about laws, policies, and best practices for working with LGBTQ young people and creating safe, inclusive spaces for all students.
Today, we continue our work to ensure that Colorado’s school districts have inclusive policies that protect all students. These policies afford transgender young people the opportunities to become homecoming queen or king, LGBTQ athletes a chance to play, and all students the support they need to become leaders in their schools and use their voices to contribute to a positive school climate.
Empowering LGBTQ Young People
In August 2011, we launched the One Colorado Gay-Straight Alliance Network. The One Colorado GSA Network empowers LGBTQ young people and their allies to build and sustain gay-straight alliances to combat bullying, harassment, homophobia, and transphobia in their schools. The Network also creates leadership and networking opportunities for students to get involved with GSAs and provides tools, training, and resources for the growth of GSAs. Through our work, we have increased the number of Colorado’s GSAs to 195 in middle schools, high schools, and colleges across the state — making our statewide network the fourth largest in the nation. Additionally, we host an annual statewide leadership conference and are rolling out additional regional conferences throughout Colorado.
Moving forward, the One Colorado GSA Network will focus on cultivating Colorado’s next generation of civic and political leaders, training LGBTQ and allied young people to run for student government, and helping develop community service opportunities to connect GSAs with other student organizations. At the same time, One Colorado’s Leadership Council will amplify the voices of LGBTQ young people and support opportunities for students to create real change in their own schools and communities.
For more information about the One Colorado GSA Network and resources for students and educators, please visit www.cogsanetwork.org. We have developed a number of resources and tools for GSAs across the state:
- Guidance for Educators Working with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students
- Make It Safe: A Resource Guide for Students Combating Bullying, Homophobia, and Transphobia in Schools
- Get It Started: A Guide for Developing Gay-Straight Alliances
- Build It Up: A Guide for Creating Effective GSA Programming