Members of the Sleepy Hollow High School Gay Straight Alliance were honored this week for the work they have done to promote equality and foster safe school environments.
Four members of the group; Nora Handelman, Violet Overn, Ben Slaw and Layla Fassa; along with faculty adviser Ms. Kristen Dreher, attended the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network Respect Awards at Gotham Hall on Monday.
The event recognizes individual and corporate leaders who have helped propel GLSEN's efforts to ensure safe schools for all of America's students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. More than 500 people attended the award ceremony.
"I think its great for the students to be recognized, I always say it's the students that do all the work," Dreher said. "Over the years we have done so much with the school."
The SHHS GSA began with only eight members in 2006, and currently has about 38 members. The group works with students, staff, and the community in promoting tolerance, spreading education, and creating a safe space within the club for open conversation.
In their short time together, the SHHS GSA has put on plays dealing with LGBTQ issues, and funded participants in the New York AIDS Walk. They also got 224 students to participate in the Day of Silence this year – the action is a quiet protest against the silencing of LGBT people due to harassment, bias and abuse in schools.
For the past two years, the GSA has also conducted anti-bullying workshops to upperclassmen homerooms and have worked with educators to promote zero-tolerance for name calling and bullying. Currently, the GSA is planning the school's first GSA-sponsored middle school anti-bullying workshop.
Dreher said that despite the group's efforts, making schools safe places for all students is an uphill battle.
"It's a touchy topic for some people unfortunately," Dreher said. "But I don't think it should be. The GSA is one of the most important clubs out there making kids feel safe, students know they have the support if they need it."