If we don’t teach peace, what do we teach? It is our job to educate our children about as many varied perspectives as we can, to speak about injustice and discrimination and the systems that help them thrive. When we teach, we hold our children at the center of their learning. We help them develop skills to build stronger relationships and collaborate. We value their creativity and who they are as an individual in this world. We teach about the importance of action and standing up. It is our job, our privilege, to learn from our children. When our children have found their truth, we teach them how to turn that truth, that passion, into action.
Our GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance) is just one example of how the passion of our students drives their involvement and their action.
Sara Wayne, Assistant Head of School; Jill Pedersen, Teaching Assistant; and Travis Bell, Media Specialist/Front Office Support/Summer Camp Director; are the staff advisors at FSMN supporting our children in this work. Our staff advisors got involved when our students requested to form a GSA.
“I am so impressed with the students in the GSA. They have a much broader and more inclusive worldview than I did at their age,” said Travis, “As an administrator helping with the GSA, it is my job to help them make their ideas happen. They really inspire me and I am incredibly proud of them and how involved they are in these issues.”
I spoke to Eva, Abbey and Ezra, three GSA members.
They have big hopes and dreams for the changes that the GSA can help make at this school. They want non-gendered bathrooms, more LGBTQ+ history added to our curriculum, better representation of LGBTQ+ in our children’s books in the library and education for families so the adults in our children’s lives can be more educated.
Recently, the students in the GSA met with OUTFront Minnesota to learn more about how to most effectively run a GSA. During that conversation the students learned about a statewide bill banning conversion therapy.
Ezra and Eva were able to attend the Health and Human Services Policy Committee meeting at the Capitol where the bill was being discussed.
“It was packed and a lot of the committee members had really powerful speeches. We heard people testify for both sides. It was strange to hear people testify for conversion therapy. It was really inspiring to be there,” said Eva.
“I wanted to testify, but it was super crowded. We were the only two teenagers there. I was so glad we were able to go,” said Ezra.
Abbey was disappointed that she wasn’t able to go, but she has gone to hearings and protests before, “Going to hearings and protests make me really nervous and tense. You are usually really hoping for something and you don’t know if it will happen. I go even though they make me nervous and tense because it seems to be an easy avenue for change. It is an easy way to express yourself and be heard.”
The bill banning conversion therapy did pass through the Health and Human Services Policy Committee that night.
“I think it is tremendously important to support the students, especially when they have created a club for themselves and it is a club that will help them make a difference.” Jill said, “I am happy to share my voice as part of the LGBTQ community and that by doing so I hope to help students feel seen and understood as they walk their own paths. I am grateful to be trusted to share myself with our school community.”
When asked why she is involved in the GSA, Abbey said, “I identify as bi-sexual. The GSA is a safe place to talk. There is a lot activism. Because I identify as bi-sexual, I would feel like I am betraying myself if I wasn’t involved.”
These students have a commitment to make our school a more inclusive space and to do the hard work to make this world a more inclusive place. With our support, they will do it.