By John Rosales
Published in NEAToday, Summer 2015 Issue
As a paraeducator at Rye High School in Rye, NH, Sharon Sparks teaches education colleagues how to create school environments that are more inclusive and supportive for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered (LGBT) students.
When LGBT students she tutored committed suicide, Sparks decided to help raise educators’ awareness about challenges facing LGBT youth.
Today, she conducts professional Association trainings on how to communicate effectively around LGBT issues. She also teaches participants about the social stigma, discrimination, and family rejection faced by LGBT students.
Attendees learn that more then their heterosexual peers, LGBT youth become victims of violence, abuse, and exploitation, and 30 to 40 percent of homless youth identify as LGBT.
Sparks believes raising educator awareness is the best way to support LGBT public school students.
“We can create educational environments that nurture everyone,” Sparks says. “No one should feel excluded – especially some of society’s most vulnerable youth. Even if they are not accepted at home, they should have a safe place at school.”