Creating Safe Spaces and Empowering Students

Albuquerque Public Schools, New Mexico

Through a virtual districtwide Genders and Sexualities Alliance (GSA), Albuquerque Public Schools is promoting safer and more supportive environments for LGBTQ+ youth by empowering students to create positive change.

Albuquerque Public Schools formed a virtual GSA to continue meeting despite widespread school building closures due to COVID-19 pandemic-related disruptions. Through this virtual format, students and GSA advisors from across the district collaborated on “The Pronouns Project,” empowering students to advocate for being addressed by a name and pronoun corresponding to their gender identity in the virtual classroom setting. Students decided to focus on this change because many were being misidentified in classrooms, making them feel uncomfortable and unsafe.

Students first met with community leaders and school board members to gain guidance and support for their work before getting the change approved by Albuquerque Public Schools’ leadership. As a result of this work, students throughout the district can update their name in the student information system, which automatically updates teachers’ rosters and their virtual classrooms.

Smiling Asian teenager with LGBTQ colors in the back wall

Albuquerque Public Schools has provided a safe and empowering space for students to lead positive change in their district. “The Pronouns Project” has already created more inclusive, safe, and supportive school environments for LGBTQ+ youth and will continue their work to make the district a place where their LGBTQ+ peers are validated, protected, and can thrive.

“The Pronouns Project” did not stop there. The group wrote a resolution to make Albuquerque Public Schools more supportive for LGBTQ+ students. They presented their resolution with hundreds of signatures from students, staff, and other community members to the Board of Education. The Albuquerque Public Schools’ Board then approved their resolution, which includes mandatory Safe Zone training of all staff in the district and the creation of an advisory council of LGBTQ+ students to speak with the board and other district officials on issues facing LGBTQ+ youth.

Quotes from student GSA members:

“Pronoun use shows all people that they deserve to be happy with their identity.”

“We believe that it is essential to normalize using pronouns and sharing current names in order to create a more affirming place for LGBTQ+ students, especially transgender students.”

“Granting students access to changing their name to their current name and adding pronouns to their displayed name is an essential first step to normalizing pronoun use and including transgender students in the online environment, building positive relationships between students of the LGBTQ+ community and their peers and teachers, and promoting the academic and social success of all APS students.”