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Louisville, Ky., public schools working to improve support for LGBT students

Louisville, Ky., public schools working to improve support for LGBT students

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Ky., has formed a districtwide committee in an effort to better accommodate students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

gay-school-busThe school district’s lead psychologist Joseph Bargione said the work group was formed after several school counselors said they needed additional resources to support those students.

In addition to efforts to provide more professional development to staff, Bargione said the group is discussing the possibility of creating “safe zones” in schools by training specific teachers or staff on how to deal with LGBT issues, The Courier-Journal reported.

District spokesman Ben Jackey said administrators are trying to provide support as they learn more about the challenges faced by LGBT students.

“We’ve got students that are struggling with this. They may be bullied, may be afraid to come out,” Jackey said. “We’ve got to find a way to provide supports around that.”

Until the formation of the panel, decisions about how to deal with such issues were left mostly to individual schools.

“There are various levels of support for GSAs across the district,” said Tony Prince, a teacher at Atherton High School who sponsors the Gay-Straight Alliance club. Prince said school cultures seem to be “extremely varied” in how welcoming they are to gay students.

“There’s been really no leadership on this at the district level,” Prince said. “It’s been left as a school culture issue.”

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Max St. John, who came out as transgender during his freshman year, has worked to get a Gay-Straight Alliance at Doss High School in the hopes it will help bring about a more tolerant culture there.

He says many teachers have been helpful, but he still struggles with negative reactions and bullying from other students.

The group was approved and had its first meeting last month.

“I feel like I have hope in the school to become friendlier,” St. John said, adding that “students now know where to go if they have problems over sexuality or gender identity.”

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Marriage News Watch: Nov. 24, 2014

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