Teens Host Workshop on LGBTQ Student Rights in SVVSD

March 30, 2019

If you go

What: Know Your Rights Workshop for LGBTQIA+ Students in SVVSD

When: 5 to 8 p.m. Monday

Where: Longmont Community Hub, 515 Coffman St., Longmont

More info: Registration is required. To register, go to bit.ly/yacworkshop2 .

St. Vrain Valley’s LGBTQ middle and high school students have an opportunity to learn from fellow students how to handle bullying or harassment.

The five local teens in the Youth Advocating for Change leadership group are hosting their second workshop on student rights Monday in Longmont.

“The focus is to educate students and the adults in their lives on what rights they have and how to advocate for themselves and the people they know,” said Youth Advocating for Change member Luka Hooks.

Youth Advocating for Change, which is facilitated by Boulder County Public Health’s OASOS — Open and Affirming Sexual Orientation and gender identity Support — Program, is in its third year.

The first year, six local high school students worked on a research project on the experiences of sexual and gender diverse students in the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley school districts.

Last year, another group of students endeavored to get the word out about what the research found, with a focus on bullying.

This year, five students created the content for the workshops, leading the first one last month. Recruitment for next school year’s leadership group also is starting soon.

Hooks, who attends Longmont’s Centennial BOCES High School, said he found out about the group from his counselor.

“One of the biggest reasons I applied was I wanted to do more volunteer work and more activism work,” he said. “Being more involved in my community was very important to me. I’ve really gotten to expand my knowledge of the community and power to help others.”

The workshops, he said, cover the difference between bullying — repetitive, verbal or physical, can be online and usually involves a power imbalance — and incidents like micro-aggressions, which he noted aren’t always intentional,

“It’s a pretty important issue to talk about,” he said. “Students aren’t often taught how to report bullying or address these issues.”

He noted that in 2017 in Colorado, almost twice as many LGBTQ students, 30 percent, reported being bullied on school property as their straight classmates.

David Breña, OASOS youth specialist, said the organization sometimes hears from students that they reported bullying to counselors or teachers, who took steps but didn’t solve the issue.

Students then feel like there’s nothing else they can do, he said.

The workshop lets them know they can get help from community resources, such as OASOS, go to the school or principal or, depending on the incident, can reach out to the district for support based on district policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment.

“They don’t have to live with that fear of being bullied,” he said.

The workshops also include information on how allies can support LGBTQ students and how students can support each other, as well as giving participants an opportunity to meet students from other schools.

Hooks said youth-led workshops can be more effective because teens are more receptive to hearing information from their peers. Plus, he said, they show “how capable young people actually are.”

“Seeing people in your own age group doing this kind of work can definitely instill some confidence,” he said.

Amy Bounds: 303-473-1341, boundsa@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/boundsa