A Safe Space

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I recently attended a gathering of LGBTQ families to celebrate the Winter holidays and, during our potluck dinner, the subject of school came up. The room practically erupted with complaints from parents:

“My daughter has been bullied mercilessly at school, constantly picked on by older kids.”

“My son is forced to use the Teacher’s bathroom, which is all the way on the other side of the school, every time he needs to pee. It’s isolating and humiliating.”

“My nonbinary child is prohibited from joining the wrestling team because of their orientation.”

Over and over I heard from parents the desire for a “safe space” for their child.

Many LGBTQ children find themselves going to a hostile environment every day, one that does not respect or appreciate them. Even if they find themselves in a school with greater diversity and teachers who treat them with respect, they may still face bullying or isolation from their peers.

At Alpine Valley School, we do not have these sorts of problems, certainly not a systemic level. For example, we do not have gendered bathrooms at our school - anyone is free to use any of the three restrooms throughout the building. Respect is one of our core values, and we back that up with our Lawbook, which features the following law:

SMM 3-1: No one may knowingly infringe on anyone’s right to exist peaceably at school free from verbal or physical harassment.

If anyone at our school is being harrassed for any reason, they can write that person up and confront the issue head-on in Judicial Committee. Even if the kid who is picking on you is older and bigger than you are, you have a recourse. Bullying or harassment of any kind is dealt with using the JC system and justice is served.

We also have this law on the books:

SMM 1-2: All School Meeting Members (students and staff) shall be responsible for the general welfare of the school, through actions that contribute to preserving the culture of freedom, respect, fairness, trust, and order.

Safety is a core need for all people. We need to know that we are seen and respected for who we are, and can live peacefully without constant threat. And while no environment is perfect, we believe that the justice system at Alpine Valley School makes our school an ideal place for people of all identities and orientation. We create a safe space at our school by caring for everyone, no matter who they are, and protecting their right to exist peaceably.

Marc Gallivan