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By Jim Larkin
Michigan PFLAG’s state conference on April 4 couldn’t come at a more appropriate time. Just as activists are trying to drum up support for the reintroduction of the “Matt’s Safe School” bill in the Michigan Legislature, the state PFLAG conference in Flint will focus on training PFLAG members how to create safe learning environments for schools and communities. It also comes just after the March 25 “Safe Schools Lobby Day” in Lansing.
And PFLAG has enlisted the help of an expert in the field to lead the way at the 10 a.m.-5 p.m. conference at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 2474 S. Ballenger Highway in Flint.
Suzanne Greenfield, who as senior safe schools coordinator for national PFLAG is the point person for PFLAG chapters across the country on how to create safe schools, will be the presenter.
Through PFLAG’s “Train the Trainer” program, she shows volunteers how to help schools and communities change their culture. Workshops she presents include the need for inclusive anti-harassment policies, how to stop anti-gay bullying and the importance of comprehensive sexuality education.
Greenfield graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison and has a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California. She worked as a lobbyist for a variety of non-profits including Common Cause, Stand for Children and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The “Safe Schools: Cultivating Respect” program she will present at the state conference next month will show participants how to go into schools and, with community resources, train the entire staff. Michigan PFLAG vows that after the training, participants should feel confident enough to develop a safe schools program in their communities.
There are about 20 PFLAG chapters in Michigan. Genesee County’s PFLAG chapter was chosen to host the state conference because of its work on the subject of safe schools, noted chapter Vice President Terri Dinsmore.
“Our regional director contacted us specifically because she knew we had been working on safe schools for a few years,” Dinsmore said. “We also have a few youth who come to our PFLAG meetings.”
The state conference comes as efforts continue to get the “Matt’s Safe School Law” passed in the state Legislature. The proposed bill is named for Matt Epling, an East Lansing teenager who committed suicide in July of 2002 following a hazing incident that involved older boys.
PFLAG chapters across the state are being encouraged to send their safe school coordinator and advocacy chairperson, as well as other people interested in the subject, to the state conference. Registration deadline for the state conference is March 19. For a registration packet or more information, contact Dinsmore at firstname.lastname@example.org or 810-639-3060.