News & Politics

Wisconsin high school taking important steps (again)

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Shorewood Gay-Straight Alliance circa 1998

I returned from my Junior year abroad to find that my high school, Shorewood High in Shorewood, Wisconsin – just north of Milwaukee – had a new club: a gay-straight alliance. This was a big deal in the 1990s and we were only the third high school in the state with one.

Last week, Shorewood led the way once again. It is the first high school in the city of Milwaukee to adopt transgender student guidelines and will make accommodations for students, including use of appropriate bathrooms and changing spaces.

According to Brian Juchems, director of programs at Madison-based Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools, Shorewood is the sixth district statewide to adopt the transgender student guidelines. Most of the districts are in the Madison area, said Juchems, making Shorewood the first Milwaukee-area district to make the change.

“It really is a shining example of a district being proactive to make sure students are protected and included,” Juchems said. “Hopefully others will follow the example Shorewood is setting.”

Juchems said the guidelines make it clear to students that transgender students are protected and give teachers the means to enforce that protection.

“I know most educators want to do that, but they don’t know how, or they don’t know the higher ups are going to support them,” Juchems said. “Passing these sorts of changes sends a clear message to students, staff and the communities.”

It is nice to see that my alma matter is continuing down the same path. In fact, when I read the news, I thought of the gay-straight alliance and the trip we all took (there were 7 of us) to Chicago to a Regional LGBT Youth conference. I went looking and found one box of stuff from high school. To put this in perspective, I have moved to more than a dozen cities in five countries in the 15 years since high school. In the very small box of memories, is a list of LGBT-friendly book suggestions, a pin from the conference, and the phone number of the cutest Chicago area girl who I met at the conference but never worked up the nerve to call.

I know that these changes will make a difference for students and I hope that other schools around the city and the country follow suit.

PHOTO CREDITS: CLARE MASSON

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