Safe Schools South Florida is celebrating its 30th year of service to the safety, support and education of LGBT students and their educators and staff in South Florida schools.
Established in the fall of 1991 by two Miami-Dade County Public School teachers and activists, Rolly Funk and Robert Loupo, offers district-wide training for teachers, counselors, administrators, and staff to help create safer classrooms and schools for LGBT students.
Safe School’s mission is to help these students grow, thrive, and succeed in their academic careers, personal lives and career endeavors.
“When we first started 30 years ago, information on LGBTQ issues was not readily available, it wasn’t something that you could just google and find a wealth of information,” said the Executive Director of Safe Schools South Florida Scott Galvin. “During COVID, we temporarily rebooted the organization because all the programs we were doing before were in school classrooms, like training, faculty training, etc.”
With schools not meeting and the dangers of the pandemic, it was not the time to host any special events or field trips, such as their diversity day, in which students can meet other LGBT students from other schools, and leadership training programs, in which gay-straight alliance officers are trained on how to have a successful GSA.
“We have trained more than 20,000 teachers and counselors, and about three million students,” the Vice-Chair of Safe Schools Elizabeth Morales. “I feel like even in high school, I’ve opened up the minds of a lot of kids, to stop being so close-minded and start being more accepting.”
In response to COVID, they started being more active on social media and launched their own YouTube channel. They also started to do weekly TV shows and have had several special guests on the show, including Perez Hilton, who is local to the organization.
“We’ve really had to adapt our messaging,” Galvin said. “We have done some silly, some serious, to try to get kids to tune in and enjoy interacting with other kids.”
Considering that COVID has blocked most of Safe School’s year, they are trying to come up with how to celebrate their anniversary.
“We are planning a celebration, but we are still working on that,” Morales said. “We’re trying to figure out, in what ways can we have a big party for the 30th anniversary.”
Morales is also an English teacher at Felix Varela Senior High School, where she has created a haven for all her LGBT students.
Every year Safe Schools South Florida gives out scholarships to a student. This year they are awarding a student $1,000 and are planning a celebration for them.
“We’re coming out of COVID in a good spot, and hopefully the next 30 years are all going to be great ones too,” Galvin said.