Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN, will speak in Charlotte on Wednesday.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As reported by qnotes yesterday, the national Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) wrapped up their three-year national campaign to get educational safe space kits in each of the 63,000 middle and high schools across the country. They completed their campaign right here in North Carolina, and GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard was on-hand in the Queen City all day, visiting with students and speaking a panel discussion that night.

Today, GLSEN is sharing the good news nationally. Take a scroll through their photos (courtesy of Time Out Youth member Scout Rosen!) from the day, then read Byard’s message below (plain text follows after screenshot).

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.



Dear ——,

“Welcome to East Mecklenburg High School, the most diverse high school in Charlotte!” Principal Richard Parker said as he ushered me into his office with a smile yesterday, and turned the volume on his walkie-talkie down for just a moment to take a break from the hard work of his daily routine as a school leader.

I was there to celebrate the completion of GLSEN’s Safe Space Campaign alongside representatives of the Wells Fargo Foundation, our local community partners Time Out Youth, and East Meck’s GSA President Brandon and Advisor Bill Allen. A local news crew recorded the handoff of one last (for the moment) kit, Principal Parker thanked GLSEN for our support of his goals for the school’s culture, and Brandon told reporters what the campaign and having a safe space meant for him and his classmates.

Then Principal Parker had to turn up his walkie-talkie as a squelch of static alerted him that something, who knows what, needed him to resume his vigilance. And Brandon had to go to his next class, as well as going back to the GSA’s planning for an upcoming action.

As for me, I had a moment to reflect on the quiet enormity of our accomplishment. Three years ago, we partnered with the LA Unified School District to launch our quest to reach every single middle and high school in the nation. On a cold day in North Carolina three years later, I realized that we had actually done it.

Across the country, more and more LGBT students have actually seen a GLSEN Safe Space sticker up at their school. And those who have are much more likely to report having had a positive discussion about LGBT issues with a teacher or school staff, the kind of experience that can make all the difference in a young person’s life.

Both the bigger picture and the small daily reality are an amazing portrait of change on the march – change that you, and GLSEN, and all of our supporters, chapters and community partners have made together.

And then I had to go, off to participate in an emergency community roundtable hosted by Time Out Youth and Equality North Carolina in response to immediate threats to Safe Schools progress across the state.

In my concluding remarks I told the capacity crowd, “GLSEN is here for the fight. We are here to help.”

And now I can say that knowing we have reached every middle and high school. I could think of no better way to celebrate.


Eliza Byard
Executive Director

P.S. Check out some of the photos from my visit on our Flickr.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.