Escape

We don’t do a lot of blogs here at Iowa Safe Schools, we’d much rather attempt to produce a mildly funny podcast or low-budget video promotion. Nonetheless, here is my crack at blogging and telling you why #GivingTuesday is more than a “hallmark holiday” for our organization.

In an attempt to draw you in without completely losing you on the complexities of our seemingly straight forward youth-serving organization, I want to paint a very broad picture of what we accomplish here on a daily basis here. The catchphrases “more than marriage” and “protect kids, stop bullying” provide both fuel for our messaging machine, but are also very in-depth realities we face as a queer youth organization.

Let’s start with “protect kids, stop bullying”.  Since 2002, we have been dedicated to sticking up for marginalized students by creating safe & inclusive learning environments. As our organization has grown, we have expanded our programs to reflect the needs of the “queer youth experience”. This translates into us providing direct services, affirming literature through our 50-title affirming resource library, gay-straight alliance sustainability/support through our Iowa GSA Network (120+ GSAs), post-secondary student support through our Queer Campus Coalition, educator training through the Schools Academy and much, much more. That was a mouthful, but the point is, we are out here doing things no other statewide queer youth group is doing—especially at the level we are doing it at.

Where we struggle and where #GivingTuesday comes into play, is with the “more than marriage” piece. After a very successful marriage equality campaign, the majority of national funders bailed. Probably for a number of reasons, but mainly because they all thought the battle was over. Why does it matter? National funders set the tone for localized community giving. If the focus is on things like wedding cakes, then we are abandoning some of most vulnerable youth and saying bullying and suicide rates don’t matter. With 70% of LGBTQ students experiencing bullying and with a suicide rate 4-times higher than their hetero peers, it is safe to say we have A LOT  of work left to do in creating safe & inclusive communities for LGBTQ youth.

It takes a village to create change and we have carried out a very robust development plan to build our team and make it happen. #GivingTuesday is your chance to join our team. We are very grateful for the support #GivingTuesday provides our organization and appreciate the gracious charity of folks who allow us to “Continue Our Fight for LGBTQ Youth”. —Yes that was a new catchphrase, but it is the most important one and is the drive behind our organization. If you’ve made it this far in the blog, I hope I have compelled you to join our team and make a difference.

https://www.iowasafeschools.org/monthly or https://www.iowasafeschools.org/contribute/

Thank you for your consideration,

Scott Heldt

 

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Des Moines (July 27th, 2018)- In memory of AJ Betts’ passing on July 27th, 2013, Iowa Safe Schools, in coordination with AJ’s mother, Sheryl J. Moore, have proudly launched the “AJ Betts LGBTQ Youth Memorial Fund.” Sheryl J. Moore and Iowa Safe Schools Executive Director, Nate Monson, released the following statement.

“Even in death, AJ continues to give. Opting to be an organ donor just six months prior to his passing, he was able to save numerous lives. We wanted to do something to help others and create smiles, just like he would have done.” Sheryl added, “Our main goal in establishing the AJ Betts LGBTQ Youth Memorial Fund was to provide lifesaving direct services and resources to students across Iowa, while affirming their identities. AJ was passionate about standing-up for people that needed help, so that is what we are doing.”

The AJ Betts LGBTQ Youth Memorial Fund will provide scholarships for LGBTQ students to attend the Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth, Pride Camp, the GSA Conference, the Queer College Coalition Conference and will support direct service outreach by Iowa Safe Schools.

“The passion from AJ’s mother, Sheryl J. Moore, in creating the AJ Betts LGBTQ Youth Memorial Fund has been very emotional and motivating. We work tirelessly to support LGBTQ youth in all 99 counties and this fund will serve as a vital lifeline for ensuring programs and direct services are readily available for any student who seeks them. We are honored to preserve AJ’s bright memory through dedicated outreach and unwavering student support”, said Monson.

For more information on AJ Betts LGBTQ Youth Memorial Fund, please visit www.iowasafeschools.org/ajfund or contact Becky@IowaSafeSchools.org

About Iowa Safe Schools

Iowa Safe Schools is Iowa’s leading LGBTQ statewide organization and provides safe, supportive, and nurturing learning environments and communities for LGBTQ youth through education, outreach, and advocacy.

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Des Moines (June 4th, 2018)- Today the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Craig & Mullins vs Masterpiece Cakes case 6-2. Iowa Safe Schools Executive Director, Nate Monson, who is available for interviews, released the following statement.

“We are very disappointed over this ruling. As a statewide organization serving thousands of LGBTQ students across Iowa, this decision opens the door for mistreatment and discrimination against marginalized groups of citizens. Unfortunately, today’s decision will be seen by some to tell LGBTQ youth “we don’t serve your kind here”. With 85% of LGBTQ students reporting they have been harassed because of their sexual orientation at school and 66% reporting they have personally experienced discrimination, this ruling puts our most vulnerable citizens in unsafe and unsupportive situations.” Monson Added, “We should be working to lift our youth up, not creating more barriers to success through “religious exemption”. We (Iowa Safe Schools) are dedicated to continuing the fight for LGBTQ youth and are here for any student that needs our help to feel safe & included.”

For more information on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case and the decision, please follow this link: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/craig-and-mullins-v-masterpiece-cakeshop-decision For more information on LGBTQ school climate, please visit: https://www.glsen.org/article/2015-national-school-climate-survey For anybody seeking our services please visit: www.iowasafeschools.org

About Iowa Safe Schools

Iowa Safe Schools is Iowa’s leading LGBTQ statewide organization and provides safe, supportive, and nurturing learning environments and communities for LGBTQ youth through education, outreach, and advocacy.

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Iowa Safe Schools Statement on Pride 2018

IOWA (June 1st, 2018)- Today officially kicks off LGBTQ Pride Month, a celebration of monumental victories, equal rights, and an important reflection time for those we have lost. Iowa Safe Schools Executive Director, Nate Monson, who is available for interviews, released the following statement.

“On behalf of Iowa Safe Schools, we are very excited to be a part of all the Prides across Iowa. It is an important time to celebrate and affirm identities, recognize the progress we’ve made, and remember those who sacrificed so much to get us to where we are today. As our fight continues for LGBTQ youth, Pride is a time to re-energize for all the work we have yet to accomplish, including banning conversion therapy, adding gender identity to the states hate crimes law, and building mental health services for LGBTQ youth.”

Iowa Safe Schools will be attending Prides in Sioux City, Dubuque, Des Moines, Iowa City, Coralville, Mason City, Cedar Rapids, Orange City, Waterloo/Cedar Falls, Ames, and the Quad Cities. If you would like Iowa Safe Schools to attend your Pride celebration, please contact info@iowasafeschools.org

Monson added, “Pride is much more than a celebration, it symbolizes the collective progress of creating safe and inclusive communities across Iowa. We are grateful and thankful for all the individuals planning and hosting Pride’s across Iowa—thank you for all your hard work!!

About Iowa Safe Schools

Iowa Safe Schools is Iowa’s leading LGBTQ statewide organization and provides safe, supportive, and nurturing learning environments and communities for LGBTQ youth through education, outreach, and advocacy.

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Des Moines (February 8th, 2018)- This morning, the education subcommittee met regarding HF 2176, the suicide prevention bill for Iowa educators. This bill mandates professional educators in Iowa to receive suicide prevention and trauma-informed training.  Iowa Safe Schools Executive Director, Nate Monson, who is available for interviews, released the following statement.

“I appreciate the spirit and intent of this bill, however in its current form it does not address the underlying microaggressions facing adverse populations. This bill offers a one pillar solution while additional pillars are needed to effectively address and combat suicide rates in Iowa.” Monson said, “cultural humility must be a focal point any time we discuss trainings and strategy. We can provide as much training on prevention and trauma-informed care as we want, but until we have a comprehensive prevention plan which focuses on marginalized populations, microaggressions, and triggers, we are only putting a band aid on very serious wound.”

According to the Trevor Project’s research on suicide prevention (2017), each episode of LGBTQ victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average. Additionally, LGBTQ youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth. Monson added, “These troubling statistics are completely preventable. Comprehensive means we take an inclusive approach, starting with shifting the cultural of our schools and communities.”

About Iowa Safe Schools

Iowa Safe Schools is Iowa’s leading LGBTQ statewide organization and provides safe, supportive, and nurturing learning environments and communities for LGBTQ youth through education, outreach, and advocacy.

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Des Moines (January 4th, 2018)- On Thursday, January 11th, 2018 Iowa Safe Schools will partner with Capital City Pride and the Des Moines Social Club to host Iowa’s first LGBTQ Gubernatorial Forum—the Rainbow Forum. All gubernatorial candidates have been invited to attend, with six confirmed to participate. Iowa Safe Schools Executive Director, Nate Monson, who is available for interviews, released the following statement.

“This is a monumental opportunity for the LGBTQ community to come together and ask the future Governor how they will work to protect marginalized groups. Marriage equality was not the end of our legislative agenda, there are still countless issues which disproportionately effect and harm our community.” Monson added, “It is time that there are legislative protections for kids like Kedarie Johnson, access to quality mental healthcare for students who experience bullying/assault, and a ban on the prehistoric, life-threatening practice of conversion therapy. Historically, Iowa has been a progressive state when it comes to LGBTQ issues, it is time we get back to our roots and put our youth and quality of life back at the top of our agenda.”

The Rainbow Forum will be held at the Des Moines Social Club Kum & Go Theatre on January 11th, 2018 from 7-9pm. There will be a pre-forum drink reception with the candidates from 6-6:45. All are encouraged and welcome to attend. You can follow the Rainbow Forum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat with #RainbowForum2018. Iowa Safe Schools will also be streaming the event on Facebook Live. For more information on the Rainbow Forum please contact Scott@IowaSafeSchools.org or at 515-669-3476.

About Iowa Safe Schools

Iowa Safe Schools is Iowa’s leading LGBTQ statewide organization and provides safe, supportive, and nurturing learning environments and communities for LGBTQ youth through education, outreach, and advocacy.

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There is a lot to be thankful for this holiday season, but Iowa Safe Schools is especially thankful for all of you who make serving LGBTQ youth in Iowa possible. Because of you, Iowa Safe Schools provided hundreds of affirming resources to kids in all 99 counties, supported 100+ GSAs (gay-straight alliances), served thousands of LGBTQ students through advocacy, victim services, and lifesaving resources, and has been able to lay the groundwork for preventing homelessness, labor/sex trafficking, and mental illness. We are grateful for your continued support and look forward to continuing to create safe and nurturing learning environments for LGBTQ youth!

To make a holiday gift to Iowa Safe Schools follow this link!

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This year alone, at least 24 transgender and gender nonconforming individuals have been murdered in the United States. Due to misgendering or lack of familial acceptance, it is estimated there are many more cases involving the murder of transgender individuals.There is a Transgender Day of Remembrance because of the large number of murders committed against the transgender community every year.

Transgender individuals experience higher rates of violent crime than their cisgender peers. One study estimates that half of all transgender individuals will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. These violent crimes occur because transgender, gender nonconforming, and genderfluid individuals are targeted because of their identity.When the motive for a violent crime is based on the victim’s identity, that is when it becomes a hate crime. The motive is to cause harm to someone because of who they are.

Laws are a statement of the values we hold true as a society. The lack of inclusion of gender identity in our state’s hate crimes law is a statement to transgender Iowans that they are “less than.” Transgender Iowans are a part of every community in our state – they are our neighbors, they are our co-workers, they are our students, and they deserve to be protected just like anyone else from violent crimes.

In 2016, the Iowa Senate voted to include gender identity in Iowa’s hate crime statute. The bill did not move forward in the Iowa House. Tell Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Legislature that it is time to add Gender Identity to Iowa’s Hate Crime Laws. Sign this petition and share! 

Iowa Legislature: Add Gender Identity to Iowa's Hate Crime Laws

  

This year alone, at least 24 transgender and gender nonconforming individuals have been murdered in the United States. Due to misgendering or lack of familial acceptance, it is estimated there are many more cases involving the murder of transgender individuals.There is a Transgender Day of Remembrance because of the large number of murders committed against the transgender community every year.

Transgender individuals experience higher rates of violent crime than their cisgender peers. One study estimates that half of all transgender individuals will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. These violent crimes occur because transgender, gender nonconforming, and genderfluid individuals are targeted because of their identity.When the motive for a violent crime is based on the victim’s identity, that is when it becomes a hate crime. The motive is to cause harm to someone because of who they are.

Laws are a statement of the values we hold true as a society. The lack of inclusion of gender identity in our state’s hate crimes law is a statement to transgender Iowans that they are "less than." Transgender Iowans are a part of every community in our state – they are our neighbors, they are our co-workers, they are our students, and they deserve to be protected just like anyone else from violent crimes.

In 2016, the Iowa Senate voted to include gender identity in Iowa’s hate crime statute. The bill did not move forward in the Iowa House. Tell Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Legislature that it is time to add Gender Identity to Iowa's Hate Crime Laws. Sign this petition and share!

**your signature**

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Des Moines, IA (October 25th, 2017)- Iowa Safe Schools will host Iowa’s first ever Transgender Education Summit on Friday, November 17th, 2017.  The summit will provide Iowa educators with the opportunity and tools to improve their school’s culture and climate surrounding transgender individuals. Iowa Safe Schools Executive Director, Nate Monson, who is available for interviews, released the following statement.

“10% of transgender students will attempt suicide during their lifetimes. This Summit will provide tools and resources for educators, administrators and schools officials on creating safe and inclusive environments for transgender students across Iowa. Furthermore, this is monumental in equipping educators with increased mental health awareness amongst students and providing active solutions for at-risk individuals. At the end of the day, it is about keeping ALL of our kids safe no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

The Transgender Education Summit will be held on Friday, November 17th, 2017 at the Embassy Suites in Des Moines. The Summit is in a workshop style format, with 12 experts presenting on topics from Mental Health in the Transgender Community to What (Not) to Say and When (Not) to Say It: Being an Ally in the Classroom. License renewal and other professional credits available. For more information please visit http://www.iowasafeschools.org/tes2017/ . Follow the Transgender Summit on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter with #TransSummit17

 

About Iowa Safe Schools

Iowa Safe schools is the largest LGBTQ statewide organization and provides safe, supportive, and nurturing learning environments and communities for LGBTQ youth through education, outreach, and advocacy.

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Des Moines, IA (October 11th, 2017)- Iowa Safe Schools Executive Director, Nate Monson, who is available for interviews, released the following statement on National Coming Out Day.

“National coming out day is a very important day for LGBTQ individuals across Iowa. This day signifies the inclusive communities and cultures we have worked so hard to develop across Iowa. It also serves as a very important time of reflection for our LGBTQ community, recognizing the countless individuals who weren’t as fortunate to have the opportunity to openly share their LGBTQ identity. No matter their age, gender identity or sexual orientation, students can and should celebrate today, a day dedicated to the significance of coming out as LGBTQ.”

Monson added, “When students proudly identify as LGBTQ, they will be met with the full support and resources Iowa Safe Schools has to offer. We will continue to build inclusive environments across Iowa and celebrate the success of our community. While today is a great celebration, there are still hundreds of kids across Iowa who are fearful of coming out and who need our support, and we will continue to tirelessly work for those kids.”

About Iowa Safe Schools

Iowa Safe schools is the largest LGBTQ statewide organization and provides safe, supportive, and nurturing learning environments and communities for LGBTQ youth through education, outreach, and advocacy.

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