The first was that we had our posters taken down by school administration. So the simplest piece of advice I have for you is make sure you get the right approval to have posters up!
- Sadly we had a number of posters being torn down by students. Largely dealing with this was resilience, we just had to keep putting up the posters-which did play on our environmental consciences a bit. We also quickly learnt where they were taken down from, and where they were mostly likely to stay up. We found putting them in classroom windows and staff offices facing out meant that they were not torn down.
Our group was largely populated by year 12’s who wont be here next year. Overcoming this so far has been largely through word of mouth, having the younger students who do come encourage mates to get along. We soon found that close to 50% of the students coming to our meetings were non-year 12 students. Today has also had a recruitment focus. Telling students about the group, advertising our meetings and we’ve planned a special meeting tomorrow with a guest speaker. We spoke at the year 9 assembly, and went around to the year 10 and 11 homeroom classes to advertise the day and the group-In the hope that these students will be able to take on leadership positions in the group next year.
Before we could put on rainbow day or get serious about a campaign to reduce levels of queerphobia we had to have the administration of the school accept that there was a problem in the school. When putting up posters to advertise our group we encountered hostility over the word “make” as in “make NHS a queer safe space” There were some people who disliked the suggestion that NHS was NOT already a queer safe space. Certainly we felt that this was something the school administration could not judge as they’re not students. They don’t experience and witness queerphobia in the same way we do. Suggestion that any queerphobia in the school was the result of “one or two bullies” was highly insulting to the group and put a bit of a block on what we wanted to do. After discussions and several proposed plans we decided as a group we really couldn’t do any work until the school was forced to recognize the queerphobia with in it. We submitted a letter to our school principal and school council detailing our concerns, with some suggestions for improvement including rainbow day as well as collecting anecdotes from students and teachers detailing experiences of queerphobia in the school. This resulted in us being invited to talk to staff meetings and committees- which has raised awareness of queerphobia among staff and has put sexuality and gender diversity back on the agenda.
I hope what I’ve said has been usefull but I must stress what I think is possibly the most crucial point: For their to be real change there must be student led and organized groups! Students will listen more to other students than teachers and a group like Q+A provides an ability for self empowerment of queer and allied students. This sense of being able to make change and stand up for what you believe in creates confidence and students create their OWN safe place.
So far this year Q+A has created a year 7 lesson plan which has been used to a great degree of success, put on an excellent day which sent a clear message to the school that NHS was a place of gender and sexuality diversity and that such diversity deserved to be celebrated, we have raised conscious levels of students and teachers, we have had a commitment from the school curriculum committee to make queer-friendly changes to the education and the manner in which staff are trained and simply by existing and meeting regularly we have given queer and question students a place to feel safe and supported, supported not only in that we will never mock them in regards tot heir sexuality and gender identity, we are also providing a support in which we work together to overcome the discrimination that Queer and questioning students are forced to put up with. We WILL be back next year! In fact our own curriculum committee (a Q+A sub group)intends to meet at the conclusion of exams to make reforms to the year 7 health curriculum which will then be put in place for following years.