ROCKLAND, Maine — OUT Maine is the recipient of a $25,000 grant from The Florence V. Burden Foundation. The award will help the organization develop five online training topics for school professionals. The modules will address questions and issues schools are frequently faced with as they aim to provide safety and support for LGBTQ+ youth.
A draft lists the topics as — risk and protective factors, language and terminology, creating a welcoming and inclusive classroom, making the curriculum inclusive, and best practices in schools.
"It's a challenge sometimes making sure our schools are safe, welcoming, and affirming for queer young people," says OUT Maine executive director Jeanne Dooley. "Many schools in Maine really want to do the best that they can for these young people. This set of training modules is designed for those schools."
According to The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, 44% of LGBTQ+ students experienced at least one form of discrimination in Maine schools in 2019. Only half reported the incidents to school staff (50%). Just 38% of those students say it resulted in effective staff intervention.
"We have some problems here in the state of Maine in terms of young queer people's experiences in our schools," explains Dooley. "A lot of schools come to us asking for help to do the best job they can."
Dooley says OUT Maine is the only organization in the state that works exclusively on behalf of LGBTQ+ youth.
"Over the last couple of years, a lot of elementary and middle schools are reaching out to us," adds Dooley. " We have young people who are transgender. They're coming into elementary schools and the schools are really not equipped to or trained to help them."
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OUT Maine reports, since 2015, its trained over 10,000 professionals across Maine. The organization works in schools to train teachers and administrators on how to best support their LGBTQ+ students.
Dooley expects to test the training modules in schools located in rural Maine and the midcoast this fall. She believes they'll be available statewide in early 2022.