LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Thousands of Los Angeles Unified School District staffers Thursday took part in what officials hailed as a groundbreaking initiative to encourage educators, administrators and other school district employees to “come out” in support of LGBT students.
Members of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Project SPIN (Suicide Prevention and Intervention Now) partnered with LAUSD personnel at Miguel Contreras Learning Center in Los Angeles to launch the “Coming Out for Safe Schools” initiative, which organizers say is aimed at making LGBT students on LAUSD campuses safer and ultimately creating school environments where all students feel safe.
Superintendent John Deasy spoke Thursday about the message the district wants students to hear.
“It is safe to be you. We are proud of who you are. And that our campuses don’t want tolerance, we want acceptance,” Deasy said.
The rally comes one day before the district was expected to celebrate the 25th anniversary of “National Coming Out Day” as part of a resolution sponsored by LAUSD Board Member Monica Garcia.
Garcia, who authored the resolution earlier this month, said about 25 percent of students have an LGBTQ family member or self-identify as LGBTQ, and that district schools are committed to providing safe and affirming spaces for all students and their families.
“National Coming Out Day creates a space for our communities to learn about the struggles of the LGBTQ community and celebrate the diversity of our students and staff,” said Garcia. “We must work together with partners and school staff to create safe learning environments for all students.
“I am coming out in support of each and every student.”
Project SPIN will be providing all LAUSD staff with rainbow-colored “Out for Safe Schools” badge on Friday. The badges have the word “ally” printed in seven languages along with a list of district and community resources.
The initiative is voluntary, and no staff will be required to wear a badge, according to Project SPIN.
“They’re supporting others, not just themselves,” said 14-year-old LAUSD student Arlyn.
Arlyn told KCAL9′s Amber Lee she came out as a lesbian to friends and family last year and the announcement was met with mixed feelings. But she said those who continue to support her have made the journey easier.
Teacher Matthew French said he wished initiatives like National Coming Out Day were around when he was a student.
“As a gay student, I didn’t feel safe,” he said. “One of the things I think is so important is being an out teacher so that they have a role model.”
Research shows that of the 655,000 students enrolled in LAUSD, about 11 percent of the student population identifies as LGBT.
In honor of National Coming Out Day, the district has also filmed more than thirty PSAs featuring Superintendent John Deasy, LAUSD Police Chief Steven Zipperman, principals, teachers, bus drivers, students, and others voicing their support for LGBT colleagues, students and families.
“If we can improve the life of one student, maybe even save the life of one student who might be considering suicide, then it’s all worth it,”French said .