Safe Schools & Communities Project

What is it?

Greater Boston PFLAG's Safe Schools & Communities Project is a program, established in 1993, designed to make gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (GLBTQ) teens more comfortable in their schools.   In order to do so, the Safe Schools & Communities Project provides many ways to help students feel more safe.

One of these ways that they help students is giving lessons in middle and high schools about what it means to be gay to help decrease the amount of bullying and discrimination. Also, teachers and other faculty members are trained under the program to do the same. The program organizes days where students learn about diversity, conducts violence prevention programs, and holds fairs which educate students about health. The program makes sure that schools have Gay Straight Alliances and creates discussion groups with the members. There are events where parents are invited to talk about the issues as well. There are school-wide assemblies to talk about making schools safe for everyone.

The Safe Schools & Communities Project also provides support on a community level. They hold forums where residents can come and be educated and discuss their opinions and experiences. They also provide sensitivity training for organizations in the community such as human service organizations, civic organizations, and religious groups.

How did it get started?

It is no secret that GLBTQ students in public schools have not always been treated with the amount of respect that everyone deserves. In 2993, the Massachusetts Department of Education and the DPH, and the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth decided to change this by starting the fund the Safe Schools & Communities Program.

What is the goal of this project?

Under Massachusetts law, students cannot be discriminated against because of their race, color, sex, religion, national origin or sexual orientation. However, very often in schools, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning students are discriminated against by their peers. This discrimination can have an awful affect on GLBTQ teens' confidence, self esteem, and perspective on themselves and the world. Surveys show that gay teens are over four times more likely to miss school in the past month because of feeling unsafe, and almost twice as likely to have been injured or threatened with a weapon at school than their straight peers. PFLAG's Safe Schools & Communities Project aims to reduce the amount of GLBTQ teens that are verbally and/or physically attacked due to their sexual orientation or their gender identity. This program's intention is to make teens feel more comfortable and safe in their communities and not feel like they need to miss school due to the fact that might be attacked in school.   The program also wishes to inform communities about gay teens and help people realize that they are not all that different than straight teens.

How has it affected people?

The program so far has had a great effect on the views of GLBTQ and straight teens and other members of communities. These are some quotes from students and teachers, reflecting how PFLAG's Safe Schools and Communities Project has influenced people's views of gay teens, taken from the Greater Boston PFLAG website.

Teachers say:
"The speakers were great-they really touched the audience. Many teachers went home and had a talk with their own children. So many wonderful responses. It was the talk of the lunch table the next day. Many teachers felt that this gave them the "recharging" they needed to keep active in dealing with this issue and make sure that our high school is safe for gay kids!"

"My students and I are very grateful for your heartwarming stories and excellent information on this sensitive subject. We were all made to feel very comfortable during the discussion period thanks to your experience and your openness."

"Many students told me that they were very moved by your honest emotion in coming to an understanding about this issue in your own life. It is important for people to see and hear that parental love is constant. You are doing important work educating young people in the best possible way to be accepting of all people."

"We liked having both a parent of a GLBT individual and a gay parent- it added a dimension often overlooked in discussions of GLBT issues in schools."

Students say:
"This was the best class we had all year. I thought the two speakers were direct, honest, and realistic. Their message was based on real life experiences, and that they were so open as to share their personal experiences with us made us trust them. I felt like I could connect with what they were saying."

"Both speakers admitted their own stereotypes about homosexuality and that made me see that with enough understanding and down to earth knowledge anyone can change his her frame of mind."

"I found this class extremely interesting because of the incredibly open and comfortable atmosphere our two PFLAG guest speakers created as soon as they began their presentation."

"It was good to hear a parent expressing pride in her gay child and risking harassment to express it."

"Gay people shouldn't be oppressed or ridiculed, and the hatred shouldn't be going on."

"I used to dislike gay people and now realize I was just being stupid and ignorant."