Training Focuses On LGBTQ Issues

Training Focuses On LGBTQ Issues
Posted on 11/17/2020
MOBOCES has joined a national program through Georgetown University aimed at developing environments that are more inclusive and accepting of LGBTQ students.

Special Education Coordinator Gina Calabro and a team of representatives from Career and Technical Education, Special Education and Adult Education are participating in a year-long certificate program through Georgetown’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform. The program, one of several tracks offered by the Center, focuses on “Supporting the Well-Being of System-Involved LGBTQ Youth.” The NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services is funding the team’s participation in the program.

Calabro said the team plans to focus on how to best advocate for LGBTQ (an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) youth and model inclusive school climate strategies. 

“Our students and our staff here are pretty good and accepting of each other, but there is always more to do,” she said. “A lot of our communities are rural, so just connecting kids with resources and contacts can be a challenge.”

Team members include social workers Deb O’Connor and Carrie Scalzo, school counselors Katie Hall and Shannon Collins, and Adult Education coordinator Rachel Burleigh.

trainingJill Adams, Deputy Director of Certificate Programs at Georgetown, said one of the MOBOCES team’s strongest attributes is its focus on utilizing a data-driven, youth-centered approach to identify areas for support and improvement in school policies and disciplinary referrals to ensure a school climate of non-discrimination for the LGBTQ population.

“We believe that the MOBOCES team has the infrastructure and relationships needed to develop and implement a meaningful and sustainable Capstone Project to support LGBTQ youth in Oneida County,” Adams said. “We were impressed by their philosophy of shared services and partnering with school districts and community-based organizations to identify needs and develop responsive programming and services to maximize limited resources.”

This week, the team is attending a week-long virtual training, learning from national experts in the field about a variety of issues from an LGBTQ lens, including education policy, personal identity, homelessness, the justice system, family support strategies, and mental and physical health. They will also hear from a national youth panel about their experiences.

After their training, the team will develop, design and implement an initiative on campus over the next year to address issues of equity and disparity as they relate to LGBTQ students. In particular, broad goals include: launching peer and adult mentoring programs, facilitating youth presentations at regional events, forming a student professional learning community focused on LGBTQ+ issues, hosting on-campus events related to LGBTQ History Month in October, more formally discussing gender identity and personal pronouns, reviewing school policies and enhancing social-emotional supports for students. 

safe spaceCalabro said that although MOBOCES program leaders and staff have maintained a commitment to an inclusive environment, it has often happened in pockets within different programs. This is the first organization-wide effort to examine inclusion practices specifically focused on LGBTQ youth, but it is not the first time MOBOCES has worked on LGBTQ issues. Staff members have been participating in the Madison County LGBTQ Network and the Suicide Coalition, both through Bridges, and the Oneida County Probation Department’s Regional Youth Justice Team. Around campus, there are many marked Safe Spaces for both students and adults.

 “We know LGBTQ youth struggle, have higher suicide rates, higher risk of entering the legal system, and that students are looking for help at a younger age,” she said. “Anything we can do to offer support and to learn more is going to help.”