They are easy to miss when you walk in your classroom. You see them every day and may never take the time to look at it. A single sheet of paper taped up in your teacher’s room labeled “Shawnee Mission East Safe Zone.”
These signs were put in a few years ago by the Gay Straight Alliance, or GSA. GSA is a club that meets every Wednesday. The club is for any open-minded person who feels like talking about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, or other, also known as LGBTQ+ issues.
The group has a student president and a teacher sponsor each year. This year’s senior is Chloe Neighbor, and this year’s teacher is English teacher Melinda DiGirolomo, who both lead the meetings. Most GSA meetings are more like discussions. The members talk about current LGBTQ+ school and community events and give advice to anyone seeking it.
“We try not to do too much in your face activism,” Neighbor said, “and mainly focus on being a support system.”
This is where the safe zone stickers come in to play. Teachers would designate themselves and their classroom as a safe spot in the school to feel free to voice your thoughts about anything: if you or a friend is LGBTQ+ and doesn’t know what to do or who to tell, social issues with LGBTQ+, domestic violence in LGBTQ+ people and any other feelings they have and want to talk about.
GSA member sophomore Daniel Long found out about the papers last year. He believes that the papers are intended for the LGBTQ+ members at East, but not limited to them.
“They are symbols of protection and sanction for anyone,” Long said. “[These classrooms are] a place you can go when you feel threatened or intimidated.”
Any time you see one of these papers with a pink triangles inside a blue circle and rainbow in the bottom left corner, know that there is a place for you in that classroom. GSA works every day to help East be more of a community for everyone.