Resource Center Dallas and the Dallas ISD are on a mission to make sure every student feels safe and respected at school and part of that is creating a culture that has resources for students who identify as LGBT.
“Just so students see they have the support of the district,” Mahoganie Gaston with DISD said. “They spend eight to 10 hours or longer of their day in our possession and we want them to know they are fully supported by the district 100 percent.”
Recently, nearly 50 teachers and other staff members attended day-long training about how to be better allies to LGBT students in schools. The program is called OUT for Safe Schools and the goal is to have trained allies in every high school in the district.
The program originated with the Resouce Center, who spent two years raising money, in partnership with Toyota, to provide the training to DISD staff.
Genevieve Ma’ye is one of the teachers who attended the training. She is not only a Chemistry teacher at Booker T. Washington High School, she is also a member of the LGBT community.
“When I was in high school, I didn’t have that support and to me I really needed that support,” Ma’ye said. “Throughout my high school, I thought I was the only person who was going through this transition. I thought I was the only trans person that existed in the entire world.”
She and other staff members are trained to help handle issues facing students ranging from bullying, depression and alienation.
“If you need to come out here, if you need that support system, if you need someone to talk through – ‘what does this look like coming out to my parent?’ or ‘when I’m at home, I don’t feel safe being myself’ that they have allies in the schools who are here to support them,” Gaston said.
“That’s what we are building here. We are allowing a safe place to be themselves,” Ma’ye said. “Even if they can’t be it at home; they can at least be it here so they are not so depressed, they are not thinking about suicide they don’t want to end their lives they actually want to start living their lives their way.”
The trained staff members will be visible and recognizable to students. Each will have a special identification badge saying they are part of the OUT for Safe School program.
“To make sure that they know that this person wearing this badge has their back,” Ma’ye said. “No matter what’s going on in their life or during their day they can come into our classroom or they can find someone with this badge and they will always have a safe person to talk to.”
Those who were trained will now be able to train the others in the district to keep the wave of support growing.
“For me honestly it gives me hope. It gives me hope for the future,” Ma’ye said. “It helps me see and realize that these youth are going to have support and that they are going to have the ability to grow into adulthood.”
The Dallas Police Department and staff from the Dallas library system also attended the training because of their work with local youth.