GLSEN School Safe Space Kits: Supportive or Divisive Message?

Posted by on October 10, 2010

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), working with the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), will hand out 1,500 “Safe School Kits” to secondary schools to create safer environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, according to the Daily News story entitled “LAUSD targets bullying of gay students.

School Safe Space Kits Promoted for Over 100,000 Schools Nationwide

GLSEN is promoting their Safe Space Kit for schools across the nation.  According to GLSEN’s web site for the Safe Space Kit, the kit includes 10 Safe Space Stickers, 2 posters, and a 42-page “Guide to Being an Ally to LGBT Students.”  The Kit also shows, “…how to assess the school’s climate, policies and practices and outlines ways to advocate for change inside the school.”

This part of GLSEN’s web page caught the attention of one veteran school safety professional:

“The Safe Space Kit starts with a sticker. Placing a Safe Space sticker on an office door or window is a simple, but highly visible first step that shows an adult’s unwavering support for a student’s safety. There is also a poster that can be displayed throughout the school or on an office door to show support to LGBT students and let students know where their allies are in case a bully strikes.”

Supportive or Divisive Message?

The question I was asked:

“If these stickers are placed on a few select office doors, what does it say about the rest of the school?”

This is an interesting point which actually raises a few questions:

  1. If it is necessary to have packaged stickers imported into a school to identify “safe space” locations in a school for LGBT students, does this suggest that all other locations without a sticker in the school are unsafe locations?
  2. If there are only “safe spaces” in select locations in a school, should not the emphasis be on school climate strategies which are inclusive of all students schoolwide and not any one particular subgroup of the school setting?
  3. While having good intentions, is the placement of stickers and posters specifically for enhanced protection of LGBT students actually divisive by promoting segregation of one particular student subgroup?  Does it promote exclusivity of an enhanced standard of safety for one subgroup over all other students? 

These are interesting questions.  So often, efforts with good intentions have unforeseen consequences.  It is always healthy to discuss the impact of a special interest campaign on the overall school climate.

With respect to the above questions, what say you?

Ken Trump

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2 thoughts on “GLSEN School Safe Space Kits: Supportive or Divisive Message?

  1. Tamara says:

    If you have ever seen a child running down a hall being chased by bullies because he is perceived to be gay, and I have, and if you have also seen the teachers and administrators “disappear” at that crucial time, and I have, and if you have ever seen that student searching desperately for a “Safe Space” sticker on a door, which I display, and then see the bullies realize that I’m not like everybody else–I won’t look away from their hatred–then you would realize why this sticker and this program matters.
    And another administrator told me that I was the reason there was a bullying problem–that people like me who put stickers on my door CAUSE bullying and homophobia, and furthermore, that I was not sensitive to the needs and feelings of people who were intolerant (and this was a problem in his eyes).
    I don’t think people who want to reject safe spaces in schools really understand the problem that children perceived as gay and lesbian face every day.

    1. Ken Trump says:

      Greetings and thanks for sharing your perspective. So do I understand correctly from your statement that you believe that schools where “Safe Space” or similar stickers are used do suggest that the rest of the school without stickers is unsafe or less safe? Also, how does a teacher or staff member distinguish a student running down the hall being “chased by bullies because he is perceived to be gay” from a student running down the hall being chased by individuals for other reasons? I have never had anyone share such an observation in my 25 years of working with schools on school safety issues. It would be interesting to hear how a teacher would be able to make that distinction based upon simply observing one student being chased down the hall by a group of other students? Maybe there is more the situation than communicated in your example? Thanks. Ken

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