By Cady Kuzmich
Clifton Park — Shenendehowa Central School District held a training program Wednesday evening, December 14, to better equip school bus drivers, monitors and aides to be aware and sensitive to the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and other gender nonconforming students at the school.
Students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are exposed to an increased risk of both physical and verbal assaults than their heterosexual peers according to the Center for Disease Control.
Between 12 and 28 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual students were reportedly either threatened or injured on school property according to the Youth Risk Behaviour Surveys which was conducted in seven states over the course of eight years.
Considering the level of harassment these students live with each day, it comes as no surprise that LGBTQ youth face an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. One nationally representative study of seventh through twelfth graders found LGBTQ youth were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide than their heterosexual classmates.
The new educational program provided by the Cyr Foundation for Excellence in School Transportation goes over the laws governing bullying and discrimination of LGBTQ students. The program addresses school bus management and how to create a positive school bus environment, as well.
“Gender-related bullying has increased in recent years and students who are victims of bullying have been known to avoid school entirely or the school bus ride specifically,“ according to the Cyr Foundation.
“School bus drivers are the first personal contact that students have with their schools and they need to be prepared and ready to greet their riders and to be supportive of them so they are ‘ready to learn’ when the bus pulls into the schoolyard,‘ continued a statement from the Foundation.
The district‘s public information officer, Kelly DeFeciani, denied that the training was prompted by any one incident.
“This is a new program that we became aware of so we decided to offer it as part of our safety training program. It is not a result of anything other than the fact that we try to expose staff to many different training opportunities, “ said DeFeciani.
The training, organized by the Cyr Foundation for Excellence in School Transportation, was not open to the public.
“School bus drivers and monitors are vital to the safety of our children and ensuring that they are prepared to address and support all students who ride their school bus is vital to their effectiveness in the drivers’ seat,” said Cyr Foundation Executive Director, Peter Mannella.