Safe Schools South Florida participated in the recent National Safe Schools Roundtable in Washington, D.C., - a gathering that brought together a select group of 35 representatives of organizations from throughout the United States to discuss and strategize around the Safe Schools movement that is becoming a more dynamic element of change in public education for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.
Safe Schools South Florida trainer and Miami-Dade County Public School counselor Lisa La Monica represented the organization at the roundtable, and Safe Schools South Florida was the only organization represented from Florida at the roundtable.
"Safe Schools South Florida wanted to share and learn with others from throughout the United States the great resources and energy around GLBTQ youth issues in schools, and Lisa La Monica -- who has devoted her life to nurturing and supporting GLBTQ youth -- was the perfect person to represent us at the table," stated Robert Loupo, Executive Director of Safe Schools South Florida.
As Lisa learned through the years, the more and more people become aware of the amount of homophobia and bullying that occurs to GLBTQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning) youth in school, the more and more people become interested in taking action. Gay students are four times more likely to attempt suicide than straight youths, and twice as likely to skip school because of fear of harassment. Lisa has made it part of her mission to be a part of changing these alarming statistics. As more and more people like Lisa start taking action, what started as just a few organizations talking, becomes an entire MOVEMENT.
The conference was held at the national Education Association headquarters in Washington, D.C., October 15-17. According to Lisa, creating safe schools can now definitely be considered a movement, with enough people energetic and interested in bringing about change. This weekend helped lay down the framework for the goals and actions that participants will be doing in the future, as they too become a part of the safe schools movement.
Lisa la Monica devoted her weekend to working at this convening, fulfilling the main objectives outlined. A huge element of the weekend was to collaborate and bring all of the many ideas together. They augmented and improved communication among those involved in the safe schools movement and learned from each other different avenues in creating safer school environments.
The National Safe Schools Roundtable is only three years old, yet is still setting high goals for the upcoming year. Some of the most important issues tackled involved dealing with early signs of gender expression in elementary schools as well as helping to end oppression and racism in all schools.
"Every part of the convening was significant," according to Lisa. "This is a great, complex web of possibilities, all the more because we weave the web as we go." And throughout the weekend Lisa helped create ideas for issues that would be focused upon. They worked on such wide-ranging topics as resource development to getting more members to join the group. She also attended two presentations: one on anti-oppression and anti-racism and one on research of Adolescent Homophobia and its implications.
"So far, the most impressive part is that NSSR exists, that its focus is laser sharp, that it is building a matrix which will be accessible to Safe Schools South Florida and similar organizations very shortly. That is an extraordinary network which will allow communication, collaboration, resource building and a clearing house and home for a wealth of information across the net and thereby the world," Lisa explained.
Many different gay rights organizations joined Lisa and Safe Schools South Florida at this important workshop. The ACLU, National Safe Schools Coalition, Anti-Defamation League, LAMBDA ,MA Commission on GLBT Youth Teaching Tolerance, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force all had participants in attendance.
"It was an amazing effort with great promise as a movement to continue to change the landscape of GLBTQ youth experience across the nation," she summarized. And after so many gay rights' losses in the last election, it seems even more important to focus on the next generation of GLBTQ youth, trying to create a safer atmosphere for them. Thankfully, people like Lisa are dedicating their time and life to achieving that goal. For her, it was all about helping jumpstart an entire movement.
Lisa LaMonica, extreme left, with other Roundtable participants.