Safe Zone training counters bullying of gays
For the past two years, Arizona Western College has joined other schools across the state in providing its Safe Zone training program to help stop bullying against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT).
AWC staff will be providing the Safe Zone training program on campus Sept. 28 for community members interested in participating. The training will be held from 8:20 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Frances Morris Board Room in the 3C building.
Violence prevention program coordinator Curtis Peterson said the program began at the University of Arizona years ago as part of a response to increased reports of discrimination against LGBT communities.
AWC adopted the program after being included in a statewide grant to promote the training.
“Until recent years, when we started having a Gay Straight Alliance club (GSA) on campus that came out about a year or so ago, before that I think a lot of LGBT individuals were kind of a silent population,” Peterson said. “They didn't come out due to fear and those kinds of things and so what we've seen is that as our Safe Zone has expanded, more and more students are feeling willing and safe to be who they are.
“We have a ways to go and we have a lot of work to do and training initiatives, but I think we're headed in the right direction as far as the college is concerned.”
He added that while the GSA group is a place for students to talk about advocacy issues and awareness issues that surround the LGBT communities, the Safe Zone Program is made up of staff members who coordinate the training program for the community to participate in.
The six- to eight-hour training program is split into two parts: education, and information on how to become an ally.
The educational component describes what LGBT individuals go through and the type of discrimination they may experience. Peterson said that the second part is “ally training” about how to reduce the amount of discrimination they could be contributing by the words they say.
“The program, while it focuses on LGBT communities, what the ally part actually does is helps individuals see how they can support any kind of disadvantaged community or minority community. It's open to anybody who wants to be a part of it.”
Peterson said that after going through the educational portion of the training, people are not required to continue onto the next step of becoming an ally if they don't feel ready to do so.
After the training is complete, community members receive a placard to put up in their offices or somewhere that shows and represents to the LGBT community that if they are having problems or are feeling harassed, they can talk to them.
“What the research from UA has suggested is that just the pure presence of those signs have helped people in the LGBT community to feel safer on campus and in their community,” said Peterson.
Training sessions are offered once or twice a semester in addition to a “train the trainer” session once a year so that someone can become a Safe Zone trainer to present the information to their workplace or organization.
For more information contact AWC Campus Life at 344-7576.
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