May 17, 2017 at 11:16 am EDT | by Steve Charing
Baltimore school’s GSA wins top honors from GLSEN
Roland Park Elementary/Middle School, gay news, Washington Blade

Roland Park Elementary/Middle School (Photo courtesy RPEMS)

Baltimore’s Roland Park Elementary/Middle School will be honored along with three other awardees by GLSEN at the 2017 GLSEN Respect Awards to be held at Cipriani 42nd Street on May 15 in New York. Dr. Jill Biden is slated to deliver the evening’s opening remarks.    

Roland Park Elementary/Middle School is being recognized for the work being done by the diverse, student-run Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) to ensure the school provides a safe and inclusive space for all genders and sexual orientations.

According to GLSEN, the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for all students, GSA members at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School “have led advocacy efforts both within their school’s walls and in their community. They have created positive environments in their classrooms by confronting hostility and prejudice against the LGBTQ community.

“Together they created a project called ‘Dear Mx’ in order to educate their school on LGTBQ issues, offering a way for their peers to anonymously ask questions. Their work has also led to a ‘GSA Edition’ in their weekly aired Student News, giving a platform and a voice to LGTBQ people and history, and raising awareness around multiple issues.

“In their community, the Roland Park GSA has worked actively with the GLSEN Baltimore Chapter as well as partner organization PFLAG. Serving as a model for other GSAs across the country, their group testified at a school board meeting to advocate for clearer district policy and guidance around LGBTQ issues.

“From pushing for all gender bathrooms to working towards intersectionality alongside other student groups such as The Diversity Club, the Roland Park Elementary/Middle School GSA continuously demonstrates how important our shared vision of inclusivity is.”

Jabari Lyles, executive director of the Baltimore chapter of GLSEN, explains it was not easy to get this group started at Roland Park.

“Initially, around the year 2009, Baltimore City Public Schools hesitated to allow a middle school to start a GSA,” Lyles told the Blade. “Through our advocacy, we urged the board to allow Roland Park to start their group. Fast forward to today, and this group has won this incredible award. The GSA at Roland Park Elementary/Middle is a model for GSAs everywhere. Their hard work, dedication and success show anything is possible when students are motivated, staff are invested, and safe space is created.”

According to a May 5 interview on WYPR’s radio show “On the Record,” eight members of the Roland Park Elementary/Middle School GSA, the principal Nicholas D’Ambrosio, and the GSA’s faculty adviser Kimberly Mooney will travel to New York to receive the recognition.

“I was not expecting this recognition as we were up against a lot of high schools,” Mooney said in the interview.  “Getting this proves that kids of any age can accomplish anything whatever they put their minds to and they are making a difference. It shows schools across the country what a small group of committed kids can really do to change the culture of the school and the environment in which kids are trying to learn.”

The other awardees to be recognized by GLSEN are Ryan Pedlow, Founder of Two Creeks Capital, who will receive the Visionary Award; Ann Clark, Superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, will receive GLSEN’s Educator of the Year Award; and First Data will receive the Corporate Ally Award.

“Now more than ever it is crucial to support those pushing to create safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ youth,” Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN’s executive director, said in a statement.

“I am proud to advocate for LGBTQ students’ lives by recognizing this year’s honorees, each of whom are playing an important role of fighting for justice by ensuring that LGBTQ youth have equal opportunities and the support to reach their full academic potential,” she said.

The GLSEN Respect Awards, introduced in 2004 and held annually in Los Angeles and New York, showcase the work of students, educators, individuals, and corporations who serve as exemplary role models and have made a significant impact on the lives of LGBTQ youth.

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