Kenosha educators examine ways to keep classrooms safe and inclusive

From the Kenosha Education Association

Kenosha Education Association Executive Director Chris Perillo (left) welcomes GSAFE Senior Director of Education and Policy and workshop presenter, Brian Juchems.

The Kenosha Education Association is always looking for ways to provide opportunities to both educators and students that make them feel appreciated for who they are and prepared to take on challenges they face in and outside of the classroom. With a sudden increase of bullying incidents at some of the schools, KEA recognized there was a need to educate its members about how to keep their classrooms a safe and inclusive space for their students. As a result, KEA collaborated with GSAFE Wisconsin, an organization whose mission is to create just schools for LGBTQ+ youth in Wisconsin, to host an exclusive, members only workshop to help attendees learn how to navigate an oftentimes sensitive topic. The workshop was titled “From Perspectives to Practice: Creating Welcoming Schools for Transgender and Gender Expansive Youth.”

The 90-minute session taught participants to understand the differences and connections between assigned sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and also outlined simple day-to-day practices educators can use to demonstrate an awareness of gender diversity.

Beth Djuplin, a middle school teacher and KEA member who attended the seminar, stated, “…The gender workshop was a life-changer for me. The question about describing your gender without describing what you look like or what you do…that was the epiphany moment. I just am.”

Twenty members participated in the session at the KEA office with an eagerness to learn and engage in meaningful and reflective conversation.

GSAFE Senior Director of Education and Policy and workshop presenter, Brian Juchems, said, “It was heartening to see a committed group of educators in various roles come out to learn how to create gender inclusive schools that are safe and welcoming not just for transgender but for all students. The audience was engaged, informed, and ready to take action. Congrats to the Kenosha Education Association and its members for creating this opportunity.”

The Kenosha Unified School District is currently in the midst of a discrimination lawsuit involving a transgender student, making it impossible for them to create and provide non-discrimination policies and practices for LGBTQ+ students until after it is settled. The KEA is focused on making sure educators and students of Kenosha are being provided with the resources they need to be effective in the classroom and decided to step in and provide a workshop that would benefit everyone.

KEA plans to host more educational events like this in the future with the hope that the takeaways will be just as positive and useful for its members as this one was. “I’m so glad KEA put on this session,” another participant said. “I learned so much – this is something that all teachers should be taught and talking about.”