PRIDE! Kent revamped its Safe Zone Program this semester, hoping to make the training easier to understand and to better prepare its members for possible situations they might face.
“In the past, it was just a sticker on their door, but they weren’t prepared to help,” said Jae Lerer, community service and financial liaison for PRIDE! Kent. “What do I do if a student on my floor comes out to me?” they might wonder.
A Safe Zone is a welcoming place where anyone who feels threatened or depressed can go and discuss their feelings, said PRIDE! Kent president Christopher Taylor.
“Our group is targeting the(lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) community because the LGBT youth has whopping statistics with depression and suicide rates,” Taylor said.
Suicide is the number one cause of death for gay and lesbian youth, Lerer told attendees of yesterday’s PRIDE! Kent meeting. The meeting offered people interested in becoming a Safe Zone member an opportunity to learn appropriate procedures.
The last Safe Zone initiative started three or four years ago and was very outdated, Taylor said.
PRIDE! Kent decided to revamp the program to make it more accessible to interested people, Lerer said. The old information packet was close to 40 pages, but this semester, PRIDE! Kent condensed the material into a short pamphlet with the most necessary information.
“Really, for people who wanted to be a Safe Zone member, it was a put-off: ‘I don’t want to take a course. I just want to help,’ they might think,” he said.
One page of the pamphlet can be removed and placed next to a door or in a window to let students know the room is a Safe Zone. Members are encouraged to attend informational meetings such as yesterday’s, but none are mandatory, Lerer said. Anyone, from faculty to RAs to community members, can be a Safe Zone member. This year, students are also getting involved.
“Students normally aren’t the ones who are included. Students are usually the ones targeted,” Taylor said. “However, students are now hanging Safe Zones on their doors.”
Freshman fashion design and merchandising major Eytan Hoenig said he plans on making his room a Safe Zone. He was the president of his high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance.
“In high school, no one talked to me about this issue. Now people e-mail me all the time saying they looked up to me because I was the only out person. They ask me what they can do,” Hoenig said.
“In Safe Zones, it’s not like your parents are there. It’s people your own age. You should be able to express yourself.”
Having a LGBT-friendly faculty is also important, Lerer said, because it helps create a tolerant, accepting environment.
Safe Zones are also important for people who are not out and are uncomfortable discussing their sexuality, Lerer said. This way they can ask questions without judgment.
“It helps because of who has the stickers as well. ‘He’s talking to his RA,’ not ‘Oh, he’s going to the “gay” office. He’s gay’,” Lerer said.
Yesterday’s workshop was PRIDE! Kent’s first this semester, Lerer said, and the group hopes to hold at least three a semester.
Anyone interested in becoming a Safe Zone member can visit PRIDE! Kent’s office in the Student Center and pick up a pamphlet.
Contact administration reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected]