FHS student leaders support LGBT youth success

By: Telegraph Staff
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Dozens of parents, students and community members used their Tuesday night to learn about ways they can best support LGBT youth – and ways student leaders are working hard to do just that in Folsom Cordova Unified School District schools.  

Folsom High’s annual Parent Night, sponsored by the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club, promised an evening of education and acceptance as club officers and other speakers offered insight into the experiences of LGBT youth.

Emma Harvey, a Folsom High senior and GSA co-president, told the audience that the event’s goal is to help create welcoming, inclusive and emotionally safe learning environments for all youth and to support students or families struggling at home.

“There are kids in our community right here in Folsom who do not feel safe in their own home, and that’s truly heartbreaking,” Harvey said, whose mother, Karen, also spoke at the event.

In recent years, Folsom High GSA officers have created “Safe Space” trainings for any school employees who are interested. The training covers a variety of topics including the differences between gender, sexuality and biological sex; the usage of a student’s preferred pronouns; and answers to common questions.

Employees who participate receive a placard for their classroom or office stating that the space is a “welcoming and affirming environment for all students regardless of sexuality or gender identity.”

Earlier this year, Superintendent Sarah Koligian invited GSA officers – including Harvey, Co-President Rowan Graening and Officer Dayne Sakazaki – to provide the training to her cabinet-level leadership team and to all school district principals and department heads.

In April, the students also provided the training to employees as a workshop during a daylong professional development day for non-teaching employees (transportation drivers, custodians, instructional aides, food service workers and more).

Tuesday’s Parent Night event began with a presentation by the school district’s Child Welfare Coordinator, Scott Meyer, about the concepts of empathy and different ways our schools foster it through character education, positive behavior reinforcement and kindness campaigns.

Other speakers included Folsom High Principal Howard Cadenhead and Pam Whiteley, a representative with PFLAG Sacramento.