OUT Maine is a proud recipient of a generous grant from The Florence V. Burden Foundation to make Maine rural schools more welcoming and affirming for LGBTQ+ youth. The grant will help develop five on-line training modules for school professionals. The modules will address the questions and issues schools are frequently facing as they seek to provide safety and support for LGBTQ+ youth.
School is a critical place to provide safety and affirmation. In rural Maine, school is the place where youth spend most, if not all, of their out-of-home time. The COVID-19 pandemic greatly reduced school time and has left LGBTQ+ youth more exposed and vulnerable as they are locked down in their too often unsupportive homes.
Schools can also be challenging places for queer youth. The Department of Education’s 2019 biannual survey of Maine’s high school teens shows that LGBTQ+ youth are twice as likely to feel unsafe at school as their heterosexual peers and more likely to be bullied in school.
In recent months, calls to OUT Maine from schools have increased considerably, as schools are faced with increasing challenges for LGBTQ+ youth and very limited resources that are already overstretched due to the pandemic. Returning to school in the fall also will be challenging. Many Maine schools are very motivated to improve their school climate for queer youth. This grant will make OUT Maine’s support more accessible to schools across the state.