The New York City Public School System has hired its first LGBT community liaison in an effort to make area schools safer for LGBT students and teachers, to ensure a nurturing environment is created, and to create lasting change through programs meant to educate students about the importance of tolerance.
The new LGBT community liaison, Jared Fox, was the founder of the first Gay Straight Alliance at his public high school in Cleveland, Ohio. The club, which was created around 10 years ago, quickly became one of the largest in the school and allowed Fox to become an openly gay student, writes Rebecca Klein for The Huffington Post.
Only two years ago Fox was the victim of a brutal attack while visiting his hometown. A group of teenagers beat him and stole his belongings, all while shouting anti-gay slurs at him.
"Over the course of that trial, I really discovered a lot of things about myself and the environment I left there in Cleveland," said Fox. "We can't just start a GSA in a school and think that's it. We can't just train teachers and say that things are going to be amazing. We really have to educate the community."
Before accepting his new position, Fox was working with the technology division of the New York City Department of Education. While in that role, he trained teachers to use iPads and smart boards. Prior to that he was a teacher in New Orleans.
Although he had been an active volunteer with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network for years, it was not until his trip home two years ago that he finally decided to dedicate his life to teaching against intolerance.
"I'm from this community, and I went back for just one weekend, and the first night I was there that happened," Fox said of his attack. "It changed my life. It confirmed that I'm in this for the long run."
His first few weeks on the job has been spent listening, determining what needs to be done, and laying out tangible goals. Fox hopes to launch a program by the end of the current year that will allow LGBT authors to discuss their books with English classrooms. He also plans to design a curriculum that is inclusive of all students, and is looking into creating gender-neutral bathrooms in district schools.
In addition, he hopes to reconsider gender-based guidelines, establish a more hospitable workplace, and create professional development for all staff members, including secretaries, custodians, parent coordinators, and principals.
Fox said that is number one goal is to ensure that all students in New York City feel safe going to school.
Meanwhile, Seattle columnist Dan Savage created the "It Gets Better" campaign in an effort to offer hope to lesbian and gay students on a national level. Six years ago 12-year-old Astoria public school student Elijah Mendez hung himself, which his mother says he did after being continuously harassed by other students who thought he was gay. That same year, 15-year-old Billy Lucas of Indiana committed suicide for similar reasons. Rutgers student Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge when he was just 18.
Before the creation of this position, a school survey issued in 2013 by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network discovered that students across New York state said they are harassed and bullied, and that they do not receive the resources they need from their schools.