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February 8, 2008

Guide for LBGT support sent to every high school in Ohio

Cleveland--With their new book on making schools more gay-friendly now in educators’ hands across the state, the northeast Ohio chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network is ready to celebrate.

Five years in the making, the 144-page Ohio Educator’s Guide to GLBTQ Resources: A Guide for Creating Safe Schools for All Youth was mailed in December to every high school in Ohio.

The group is officially unveiling it on February 9 with a reception at Bounce nightclub in Cleveland.

The party was originally set for January 26, but was delayed so that members could attend a memorial service for P-FLAG Cleveland and Akron member Bruce Kriete, who passed away on January 17.

GLSEN was hesitant to promote the resource guide outside of their own newsletter, fearing a backlash from conservative state administrators and anti-gay activists.

However, both in their own newsletter and in conversations with the Gay People’s Chronicle, they expressed pride in the long work they have now completed.

“No other chapter has undertaken the distribution of so large a body of material to so wide an audience,” noted Gene Ashley, one of the chapter’s directors, “every one of Ohio’s nearly 1,200 high schools.”

“The Guide includes articles, sample lesson plans, and information about case law, various websites, support groups, organizations and agencies, an assemblage of resources never before brought together in one publication for use by high school counselors and staff,” he continued. “As schools in Ohio work to comply with the requirements of House Bill 276, the anti-bullying law, they will find the Guide to be a valuable resource.”

GLSEN Northeast Ohio formed its school organizing committee in 2003 and began compiling the guide, intended to be a packet of materials sent out to Cuyahoga County high schools.

The original goal was to begin printing it by mid-2004.

“However, each time we met, we added a bit more in one section, added a new section, or decided we needed artwork,” Karen Scebbi, former chair of the school organizing committee, recalled in the January 2008 newsletter. “We began to broaden our audience and focused on sending the packet to 250 Northeast Ohio schools in 22 counties.”

“We missed our deadline but we kept on working, adding and editing,” she continued. “We missed the next deadline, and the next and the next. We had been working on it so long we had to replace some of the initial information with updated information.”

“By the time I joined and agreed to chair GLSEN Northeast Ohio’s school organizing committee in August 2006, the Ohio Educator’s Guide to GLBTQ Resources had evolved to a point where we were sure we’d be able to publish and distribute it by the end of 2006,” noted Judy Montgomery, the current chair of the committee. “Then we made a comprehensive list of all the many, many details with which we had not dealt and realized that was just wishful thinking.”

“We made a conscious decision to maintain a low profile about the project until the Guide was published and in the hands of high school library media specialists,” she went on. “This seemed to be the best way to ensure that the Guide would be most able to help students.”

Montgomery said that there are 21 articles in the guide, and that the support of Equality Ohio enabled them to increase coverage from 23 counties in northeast Ohio to all of the state’s 88 counties.

She also pointed to groups like GLSEN Cincinnati, the Cleveland LGBT Center, Equality Toledo, the Dayton LGBT Center, Kaleidoscope Youth Coalition and various P-FLAG chapters across the state, who volunteered to be “on call” should educators in their area respond with a desire for more training in LGBT issues.


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