Today, March 12, 2021, the OutCenter of Southwest Michigan was made aware of a school staff member posting hateful comments about transgender students, and a student’s right to safely use facilities in the school. The OutCenter stands with school leaders, administrators, staff, and educators to ensure the safety and well-being of all students, including LGBTQ+ students and especially transgender, nonbinary, and intersectional identities.

We work with schools because EVERY student across our area deserves a safe school to go to and access to safe and appropriate facilities that match their identity. Also, because LGBTQ+ youth:

  1. Are more at risk for bullying, family rejection, and ostracization by their faith and geographic communities. 
  2. Sixty-one percent are more likely than their non-LGBTQ+ peers to feel unsafe or uncomfortable as a result of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. 
  3. Eleven to thirty percent of LGBTQ+ students, due to a lack of safety, did not go to school at least one day during the 30 days before a recent CDC YRBS survey. 
  4. And the numbers skyrocket for transgender and nonbinary youth, especially BIPOC. We’re talking self-harm, risk of suicide, substance abuse, et al, as they seek safety and acceptance for who they are with their schools.

The OutCenter has worked with schools across Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren Counties, developing affirming, safe, and even brave schools for LGBTQ+ students. In fact, in 2020, the hardest year for the organization in its history, the LGBTQ+ Safe Schools Collaborative, funded in part by the United Way of Southwest Michigan, impacted:

  • 20 schools, Berrien RESA, Van Buren ISD, and the Berrien County Family Courts Division
  • 52 stakeholders who participated in our LGBTQ+ Safe Schools Workshop
  • 282 family members & school staff who were provided guidance and support regarding their LGBTQ+ child and/or student
  • 350 students through participation in their LGBTQ+ school clubs
  • 11,454 youth of all identities in elementary through college age through this work

The OutCenter provides access to additional support through these important programs on HIPAA-compliant platforms. 

What can you do?

  • Contact Lakeshore Public Schools and thank them for their leadership!
  • Contact your school and/or school district (whether or not you are a parent) to set up a meeting with leadership to review their policies about LGBTQ+ inclusion, especially inclusion of transgender and nonbinary students. Feel free to reach out to the OutCenter for guidance.
  • Attend School Board meetings to provide an informed and allied voice for the safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ students. Feel free to reach out to the OutCenter for topics.
  • Vote in every election for those who will support inclusive, save and brave schools including LGBTQ+ students, especially transgender, nonbinary and intersectional identities. 

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