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The Paw Print

The Student News Site of Wilde Lake High School

The Paw Print

The Student News Site of Wilde Lake High School

The Paw Print

Ms. Bailey Leads School in Earning Rainbow Ribbon Award

Gay+Straight+Alliance+members+and+juniors+Tommy+Heffner+and+Sabrina+Yastuake+walk+through+Main+Street+with+the+progress+flag+on+their+backs.+Through+Wilde+Lake%E2%80%99s+inclusive+environment%2C+they+bond+over+their+shared+identity.+This+community+earned+Wilde+Lake+the+Rainbow+Ribbon.
Blaiz Blackston
Gay Straight Alliance members and juniors Tommy Heffner and Sabrina Yastuake walk through Main Street with the progress flag on their backs. Through Wilde Lake’s inclusive environment, they bond over their shared identity. This community earned Wilde Lake the Rainbow Ribbon.

Media specialist Ms. Annora Bailey grew up in a world full of bias. She hid throughout her childhood. Now, she wonders how different her life would be if she had been given the opportunities and support she hopes to provide for the LGBTQIA+ students of Wilde Lake.

Motivated by her own story and those of her students, Ms. Bailey undertook a two-year long process to earn the Rainbow Ribbon School award for Wilde Lake in June of 2023. The award is given to schools for their safe and affirming LGBTQIA+ environments through the Community Allies of Rainbow Youth (CARY) organization. 

Schools must meet different requirements, such as having an inclusive curriculum, a rainbow representative, and professional learning for staff to qualify for the award.

While working to earn the award, Ms. Bailey says she put in volunteer hours towards integrating aspects of the LGBTQIA+ community into the curriculum and professional development events for teachers. 

Ms. Bailey’s perseverance toward the award was to “ensure a welcoming and safe space for everyone,” according to Ms. Leonard. “It’s imperative that we are fully and enthusiastically and loudly affirming our love of all of our students for all of the ways that they identify,” she said. 

According to students like junior Sly Li, it is important for Wilde Lake to affirm the LGBTQIA+ community so students can feel “represented” and “normal.” 

“From personal experience, I didn’t even know being queer was a thing,” they said. “Learning that you could use different pronouns was a really big step in newfound land. It was like this is normal; this isn’t just me.”

Sophomore Milo Nielson says

LGBTQIA+ support is important for high school students because “this is the time that people kind of figure themselves out. I think it’s important for [students] to be able to have support whenever they need it,” he said.

— Sophomore Milo Nielson

Although Wilde Lake offers resources to the LGBTQIA+ community and was named a Rainbow Ribbon School, it still has a long way to go, according to staff and students. Junior Kay Timmons describes Wilde Lake’s student environment as “divided.” 

Throughout America, 14 states passed laws limiting the LGBTQIA+ community in 2022, according to USA Facts. Three states banned teaching about gender or sexual orientation in schools, while gender affirming care for transgender children was banned in 12 states. With homophobia and transphobia present at the national level, it continues to be a problem within Wilde Lake, according to Kay. 

“Certain groups are silently homophobic,” Kay said. “I think we need to be a little more accepting, like not giggling or whispering about trans students or students who are openly lesbian.”

Sly also says they have heard discriminatory remarks in the hallways towards LGBTQIA+ students. Science teacher and GSA sponsor Brittany Franckowiak says their students have expressed encountering transphobia within the school. 

“The student to student transphobia is very real and it’s not something that I can fix,” they said, “It has to be something that shifts within our student culture.” 

According to Ms. Bailey, the staff played a large role in Wilde Lake being awarded the Rainbow Ribbon, as aspects of the LGBTQIA+ environment had to be weaved into the curriculum. 

Franckowiak describes the staff as the “most important resource” for LGBTQIA+ students. “We really have invested a lot of time in trying to train staff on language use, pronoun use, and how to support students who are transitioning their gender expression,” they said

Students like Sly have seen the results of this training in action. “Especially this year, [teachers] actually asked for pronouns and preferred name. I’d say that’s played a pretty big part in students feeling fully accepted.” 

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