Back in May, the governor signed a bill to increase efforts to stop bullying, adding that students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender should be protected -- especially after a number of gay teen suicides. One Colorado, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, took the ball and ran with it, launching the Colorado GSA Network in August. Since then, the network has helped start fourteen new gay-straight alliances.
Daniel Ramos, a recent University of Colorado grad, is the director of the network. He says part of his mission is "to develop this program around empowering the next generation of LGBT students and their allies in combating bullying and harassment in their schools." GSAs, which are student groups made up of LGBT teenagers and their allies, are a great start, he says. There are now 92 high school and 18 college GSAs in Colorado.
"Research shows they're a community that stands up against bullying and harassment in schools and that's why they create safer schools," Ramos says.
The Colorado GSA Network has developed several guides for students looking to start a GSA at their school -- complete with tips on getting started and on creating effective programming. Among the GSAs started this school year are groups on the Western Slope, in Fort Collins and in the mountain towns of Aspen and Glenwood Springs, Ramos says.
The network also provides training for teachers and school administrators on how to combat bullying and how to support student GSAs. Thus far, more than 600 educators have taken part, Ramos says. "One of the most important pieces is that adults need to model positive behavior," he says. "Their behavior is what shifts school climate."
And Ramos is just getting started. "It'll be an active 2012 for us," he says. Among the events on tap: plans to host a statewide GSA summit in Denver in March.
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