WEST NORRITON — The Education Association of Norristown Area and Norristown Area School District administration announced a new initiative to provide safe spaces in schools for LGBTQ+ students with the “I’m Here” badge, a badge that helps students identify teachers and staff to go to for help and resources. The announcement was made at a press conference held yesterday in the Norristown Area High School lobby. NAHS is one of the first schools to introduce this badge in Montgomery County.
In early April, the idea to implement the I’m Here badge was introduced to EANA (the teachers’ union) president Lee Speers, by Alan Malachowski, the president of PSEA (Pennsylvania State Education Association). Speers stated he was immediately on board with the need to include and offer support for all students.
After Speers brought the idea to Superintendent Christopher Dormer and the school board, there was no hesitation to implement the badges in the district. Dormer stated that the board wants to make a difference for the students who are not heard or seen.
After the press conference, an email was sent out to teachers with information on how to get the badge and an attached PDF with the guidelines for wearing a badge. A video of the press conference went up on the school’s website and social media to inform the community. In the next few days, more information will be sent out to students.
The I’m Here badge comes with an information card provided by the NEA LGBTQ+ Caucus through EANA. All staff that choose to be a “safe person” for students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the resources given on the card. When talking to students about what they are going through, participating teachers are encouraged to include other trusted administrators, mental health counselors, and guidance counselors.
Malachowski spoke about how the need for a safe space in schools is necessary. He brought up statistics on suicide rates for LGBTQ+ students and how when students are unable to express themselves or get the support they need, the suicide rate is higher.
The press conference is the first step in the initiative to have teachers wear the “I’m Here” badge. Teachers will sign up if they are interested in wearing the badge, which signals to the students that they can come to teachers who wear it no matter who they are. The badge has a QR code to scan where students and teachers can find not only more resources on where to reach out for help but also upcoming LGBTQ+ events in the area.
The resources given when scanning the QR code are places to go for more help if students are in danger. The website also offers more information on what the students might be feeling and who they might be able to talk to in their lives to help them. Speers stated that the goal is to protect students, all Norristown wants to do is protect every student that walks through the building. Students of every gender, sexuality, and race deserve to have a place in Norristown High School.
The press conference was very public and intentional to show exactly where the district stands on the matter of how students identify. Other states and districts have implemented rules and regulations that try to promote the same ideals for students and staff. It is important to share that Norristown is a safe place.
“If you are by chance a teacher working in another district, who is perhaps not as accommodating of all of their students, we have a place for you here too,” said NASD school board president Phil Daniels.
Dormer concluded that Norristown is taking a step forward in the fight to have a safe space for all, stating that Norristown strives to be open to all students and wishes nothing but the best for those who not only come to school here at NAHS in the district as a whole.
“How appropriate it is that we are here in front of the Wanamaker Eagle,” said Malachowski. “On the Wanamaker Eagle, it says ‘a place to meet for all’, not for some but for all.”
Note: The NASD school TV crew produced a YouTube video