There is nothing wrong with these students, but something is pushing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer student community out of school systems, Brian Juchems, the Director of Programs at Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools, said.
Juchems and Gabe Javier, Director of University of Wisconsin’s LGBTQ Campus Center, led a forum on the problems facing LGBTQ students at UW’s Diversity Forum on Tuesday. They emphasized the importance of making the LGBTQ community feel more included and safe both at UW and in lower-level education systems.
Juchems said GSAFE, which mainly works with high school level gay-straight alliances, has been working with students since the mid-1990s to provide protection for the LGBTQ community.
Juchems explained the concept of “push out” as the reason why students “drop out” of school. The concept of being pushed out is driven by the idea that there is an active force pushing LGBTQ students to drop out of school, Juchems said.
To try to stop students from the “push out” effect, Juchems said he works to create programs to make LGBTQ students more resilient through anti-harassment and comprehensive discrimination policies, safe zones, educator training, an inclusive curriculum and student clubs.
Juchems also said the program works specifically to create strategies to support and develop students of color through programs such as New Horizons.
The LGBTQ Campus Center is working to create a stronger sense of belonging and resilience for students, Javier said.
“Without support systems, students are less likely to bounce back, to be resilient,” Javier said.
In school, LGBTQ people are more likely to experience or witness harassment because of their sexual orientation or gender and often times are more likely to consider transferring, Javier said.
Javier said the way to an inclusive campus climate is the combination of a positive experience and a positive perception of campus climate. This success will lead to a much more positive educational experience, a development of a healthy identity and a lower rate of substance abuse, he said.
“[The LGBTQ Campus Center] has programs as vehicles by which we help people interrogate their identities to help them grow,” Javier said.
There are opportunities for growth in the program in the areas of hate and bias reporting, accessible space for transgender people and improvement in classroom environments, Javier said.