Safe Schools Work

In the 1990s I became increasingly aware of how closeted some of my colleagues were at school. While my desk contained a "shrine" of family photographs, they maintained secrecy about their lives. I grew more involved with our diversity committee and even tried to start a Gay-Straight Alliance to no avail. I gave up too easily.

In 1998, I could no longer give up. One of my students radicalized me, and that story is in my new teaching memoir. Thanks to him, I gathered some colleagues and, after an 18-month battle with my district, we had a GSA in each of the four buildings: PRISM was born. PRISM still thrives, and being invited to speak to its large group of members for its 13th birthday was a real thrill.

Seeing the impact of the GSA led me to continue the work past my retirement. I joined GLSEN Chicago, a chapter of the National GLSEN [Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network], eventually becoming chapter Chair. We then merged with CESO [Coalition for Education on Sexual Orientation] to form the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance [], which has become a national leader and resource even as it continued to make mergers and grow.

While I'm proud of my leadership here and the gift of learning from wonderfully fierce young people, I regret not having done more to fight racism and other forms of bigotry. That has become my current focus.