The LGBT Health & Development Program

Research Blog—Educating the Educators: An Evaluation of the GLSEN Safe Space Kit for Students


Posted on February 17th, 2016 by Lingxiao in Featured, Research Blog. No Comments

School bus with students waving rainbow flags

Photo credit: jglsongs, “Gay-Straight Alliance School Bus”, June 29, 2008

Many LGBT youth are in schools with hostile climates where they encounter stigma against their gender and/or sexual identity [1]. Supportive educators, Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), anti-bullying/harassment school policies, and LGBT-inclusive curricula are identified as protective factors against negative educational and mental health outcomes for LGBT students [2]. LGBT students with supportive educators are less likely to feel unsafe (36.3% vs. 74.1%) or miss school (14.7% vs. 50.0%). They are likely to have higher GPAs (3.3 vs. 2.8) and higher education aspiration (12.0% vs. 3.0%). Education policy calls to increase educator’s capacity in supporting LGBT students [4].The Safe Space Kit (SSK), an education package developed by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), can help educators meet this call to action.

The SSK aims to help middle and high school educators become visible allies to LGBT youth and effectively take actions to improve their school climate [5]. The Results from a recent evaluation of the SSK suggest that it is a valuable resource for educators and contributes to an improved school climate for LGBT students [5].

Evaluation Methods

GLSEN sent an online evaluation survey to educators across the US who had received the SSK at their schools. The evaluation examined the use and the effects of the SSK on educators’ knowledge, skills, and actions related to LGBT student issues [5]. Six hundred fifty-seven educators completed the survey.

School office door with a sticker that says "Safe Zone"

Photo credit: Nazareth College, “Safe-Zone – Nazareth College, Rochester, NY”, March 2, 2010

Evaluation Results

  • More than 90% of educators had at least partially read the Guide to Being an Ally to LGBT Students. More than 60% displayed the Safe Space stickers or posters provided in the kit.
  • Nearly 95% educators reported that the SSK helped increase their knowledge regarding LGBT student issues and skills in supporting their LGBT students.
  • All participants reported engagement in efforts to improve school climate for LGBT students since receiving the SSK, including supporting students directly, intervening when witnessing anti-LGBT behaviors, teaching students the importance of respecting all people, and educating other school staff on LGBT issues.
  • It is less common for educators to engage in school-wide advocacy efforts after receiving the SSK. However, most of the educators who have not engaged in efforts indicated a plan to engage in the future.

The evaluation demonstrated the effectiveness of the SSK in enhancing educators’ knowledge and skills supporting LGBT students. GLSEN recommends that the SSK be used in staff trainings and professional development to engage educators in LGBT-inclusive actions [5].

Best Practices

Educators should be taught best practices to be allies to their LGBT students during trainings using the SSK.  Some examples of best practices include:

  • Examine personal beliefs. Be aware of anti-LGBT biases.
  • Learn more about LGBT-related terms.
  • Make offices visible as a safe space by displaying LGBT-supportive materials. Let other educators know about ally status.
  • Let students know anti-LGBT behaviors are not acceptable.
  • Make no assumptions about gender identity or sexual orientation when engaging with students and parents.
  • Use inclusive gender pronouns like “they.”

Additional information about the SSK can be accessed at GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit page.

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References:

[1] Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Bartkiewicz, M. J., Boesen, M. J., & Palmer, N. A. (2012). The 2011 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools. Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). 121 West 27th Street Suite 804, New York, NY 10001.

[2] Poynter, K. J., & Tubbs, N. J. (2008). Safe zones: Creating LGBT safe space ally programs. Journal of LGBT Youth, 5(1), 121-132.

[3] Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Palmer, N. A., & Boesen, M. J. (2014). The 2013 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in our nation’s schools. New York: GLSEN.

[4] Biegel, S., & Kuehl, S. J. (2010). Safe at school: addressing the school environment and LGBT safety through policy and legislation. National Education Policy Center. Boulder, CO.

[5] GLSEN (2015). Evaluation of GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit: The Utility of an Educator Resource for Improving School Climate for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth. New York: GLSEN.





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