LV moves closer to being Safe Zone
Posted Feb. 13, 2009
Sher Porter
LV Life Editor

Homophobic remarks, childhood harassment, isolation and depression are some of the issues that people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, questioning and transgender have to face.

About 20 staff and faculty from the College of Education and Organizational Leadership attended the Safe Zone training on Jan. 30 in the Barkley Building to learn how to be an ally.

Those who are part of the LGBT community may have issues, but do not know who to go to for help.

This training helps people learn the appropriate ways to handle these situations.

At the end of the training, they received a decal that they can hang up so people will know they are in a safe zone to talk.

They also sign a commitment to become an ally.

“We want to make it a safe college and at some point an open and affirming campus,” John Bartelt, associate professor of education technology, said.

The seminar lasted five hours, with presentations and activities explaining what safe zones are, the proper ways to handle situations and talk to people and taking ownership of personal biases and stereotypes.

The training was arranged and led by Bartelt; Thierry Kolpin, co-chairman of the school counselor preparation program and associate professor of education; and Laurel Schroeder, co-chairwoman of the school counselor preparation program.

One of the activities involved having the attendees write down on five note cards different things pertaining to their childhood, friendships and personal possessions.

Schroeder stood at the front of the room and had everyone imagine the story she told about how someone who is homosexual, bisexual or questioning might grow up.

Each time the person in the story became hurt or was made fun of, everyone had to tear up a note card in succession according to the order they were written.

When she came to the point in the story about the person being disowned by friends, everyone had to tear up the card that had the names of their best friends on it.

By the end of the story, all the cards were torn up, demonstrating the way someone in that position would feel. After each activity and presentation, there was a discussion.

“The fact that you are thinking about it helps you become an ally,” Kolpin said.

Schroeder said the idea is to be in their shoes without making the shoes your own.

Those present shared some of their own experiences with the LGBT community.

Some shared experiences they have had when talking or helping someone in that community with their problems. Others shared how they make jokes.

“Not only is it not funny, it’s perpetuating something in a human being,” Dean of the College of Education and Organizational Leadership Mark Goor said.

They also shared ways they want to make this campus feel comfortable for members of this community.

This includes students, staff and faculty.

“There is a whole lot of staff that are allies,” David Bayless, marketing assistant and adviser of Rainbow Alliance, said.

The trainers gave the attendees a handbook that covers subjects such as definitions, myths, homophobia, identity development and strategies for people in educational settings.

It also offered statistics about people in the LGBT community in areas dealing with depression, harassment and education.

One statistic showed that 53 percent of students reported hearing homophobic remarks from school staff.

For now, Kolpin and Schroeder want to make this training a voluntary part of the counselor preparation program.

Over time they would like to see this training become a part of the entire campus.

It is also their hope that the students in the program will bring the training to other schools.

“I think the biggest thing we can do is push it out to the schools,” Kolpin said.

The last Safe Zone training took place four years ago.

Kolpin and Schroeder would like to see this training be more consistent, with sessions happening each semester.

“There is a lot to be done as far as gay rights are concerned. There is a lot to be done as far as racial rights are concerned,” Kolpin said.

Sher Porter can be reached at

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