Advocacy in Action, With Feather Boas!
By: Sacha Mittelman, Colorado Society of School Psychologists Collaborative Relations
In February 2016, I cheered as the floats rolled by, pelting me and 5,000 other school psychologists with brightly colored plastic beads. The NASP convention was held in New Orleans on the heels of Mardi Gras. Janet Mock was our keynote speaker, shining a light on our space in the educational landscape as fervent advocates for marginalized students. In her conversation with past NASP president Todd Savage, Mock pointed to the intersection of race, sexuality, gender, and ability in the vulnerability of some learners and just how badly certain kids are in need of champions at school. This topic was particularly timely for me as I serve as the GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance) club facilitator at my middle school. I had recently been trusted by a student to help her come out to her parents, organized a transition ceremony for another student with her entire class, and mailed a batch of brilliant letters written by kids to their state representative in support of legislation to ban conversion therapy. As with so many sensitive subjects, we are often the first line of support available to young people.
The collision of parades, school psychologists, and promoting affirming school climates for students across the gender and sexuality spectrums lead to an obvious conclusion, the Colorado Society of School Psychologists needs to march in the Denver PrideFest Parade. My best friend from high school happens to be the executive director of Capital Pride in Washington DC. From my VIP spot in the judges' booth at Capital Pride, I had seen educational groups march at Pride to proclaim their support for the LGBT+ community. I had considered floating the idea of marching in the Denver parade to our board in Colorado but NASP 2016 cemented my determination to make it happen. At our next Colorado Society of School Psychologists (CSSP) meeting, I wound up to give an impassioned speech about how advocacy is one of the pillars of our practice model and demonstrating our alliance with LGBT+ youth was in keeping with our mission. It turned out, no convincing was required, the board agreed immediately.
We created a banner, donned our rainbows and sparkles, and marched down a packed avenue in the June heat with our banner. The mood was particularly electric as only a week had passed since the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. As our contingent covered the mile of the parade route, you could see the spectators squint to read, "Colorado Society of School Psychologists," pause as they considered for a moment, then break out cheering, "Yay! School Psychologists!!!" We grinned ear to ear as we received recognition for the valuable allies students can find in their schools. Pride Parade has become an annual tradition for CSSP and provides a festive opportunity for members of our profession to come together, celebrate one special facet of our work, and let the world know, "We're here for you!"
NASP offers many resources to its membership to assist in supporting LGBT+ youth, including a long list of FAQ's and tips. These resources can be found at http://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources/diversity/lgbtq-youth.