The goals of the Penn College Safe Zone Program are:
- To increase the overall understanding and awareness of topics and concerns facing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities
- To provide a greater sense of safety for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender student community at Penn College
- To offer information to allies in positions where they may be in contact with individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (e.g. classmates, roommates, friends, residents, students, staff, faculty, etc.)
- To act as a resource of information regarding homophobia, heterosexism, transphobia and LGBTQ issues on the Penn College campus and the surrounding Williamsport area
What is a Safe Zone?
A Safe Zone is a space in which people of diverse backgrounds, especially members of the LGBTQ community, are welcome and included. Allies help create these spaces by being open in their support and acting as advocates. Safe Zones help to establish a campus as an inclusive educational environment where all members can learn and share new ideas.
At Penn College, Safe Zone's are marked by a decal outside an office door or suite indicating that individual(s) have gone through the college Safe Zone training. Folks who have gone through Safe Zone training are familiar with topics related to the LGBTQ community, and are a campus resource who is willing and able to discuss LGBTQ issues. Individuals at Penn College must complete a Safe Zone training program to receive a decal to display.
Who should take part in a Safe Zone program?
All members of the school community are potential Safe Zone participants. Anti-LGBTQ bias and prejudice affects all students and it is therefore everyone’s collective responsibility to work against it. Safe Zone trainings are offered to faculty and staff at various times during the semester through Human Resources professional development offerings. Students interested in the Safe Zone Ally program can attend an open campus session, or schedule a training for their student organization by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is this program only about LGBTQ students? What about other groups who experience bias?
Safe Zone programs focus on LGBTQ students because this issue remains largely invisible in classrooms and laws nationwide. Even in environments where bigotry is not tolerated, LGBTQ issues are considered taboo and an inappropriate topic for discussion.
While there is a need for programs that specifically address anti-LGBTQ bias, it is also important to acknowledge the intersection of all prejudices. The same conditions that allow homophobia to develop most likely promote racism, classism, sexism, ableism, and other forms of prejudice. Any effort to reduce one type of bias will likely help to suppress other forms, and to make individuals from a variety of backgrounds feel safer. In this way, a Safe Zone program focused on LGBTQ students may serve as a springboard for work in other areas.
Adapted from: Bridgewater State University