The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Teachers Network (GLSTN) announced its choice of Salt Lake City, Utah as the site for its first-ever national conference, to be held March 21-23, 1997. Hosted by GLSTN Utah, the conference will bring together hundreds of teachers, parents, community activists, and students working to create schools were all people are respected, regardless of sexual orientation.
The issue of anti-gay bigotry in schools has been a hot one in Utah this year. In January 1996, students and teachers at Salt Lake City's East High School formed a Gay-Straight Student Alliance, an act which prompted the Utah legislature to ban all student clubs in April 1996 in an effort to prevent the East High GSA from meeting. In response, teachers, parents, students, and community members banded together to form GLSTN Utah, one of the GLSTN's most active chapters, which led the national organization to choose Utah as the site for its first-ever national conference.
"We've chosen the theme 'Stand and Deliver' for the conference," said Kevin Jennings, GLSTN's Executive Director and a former high school history teacher, "because we need to stand and deliver a message of tolerance and justice in Utah. We need to let the folks who are fighting for equal educational opportunity there know that they are not alone." Doug Wortham, Co-Chair of GLSTN Utah, added "We couldn't be more proud to be the hosts of this historic event. The legislature obviously thought they would silence us with their actions last spring, but they've done just the opposite -- they've brought us support we never dreamed we had from both Utah and beyond." Wortham added, "To borrow the motto of the 2002 Winter Olympics, which are to be held here, 'Utah Welcomes the World' to the GLSTN National Conference!"
The Conference will be preceded by special one-day institutes on Friday, March 21 for "Straight Allies," GLSTN Chapter Leaders, People of Color, and LGBT Educators, as well as a "Change Agent" Training. That evening, Kelli Peterson, founder of the East High GSA, and Clayton Vetter, Utah's first openly gay pubic school teacher, will welcome participants at a free reception. The formal conference will begin on Saturday, March 22 with a keynote by Urvashi Vaid, former Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and author of VIRTUAL EQUALITY, followed by workshops that day and on Sunday, March 23. The conference will close with a Brunch Celebration with comic Suzanne Westenhoefer, at which GLSTN will present its 1996-97 Pathfinder Awards for leadership in the fight to end bigotry in our schools. Registration forms are available by calling 212-727-0135. "Looking over this program, there will obviously be something for everybody!" addedJennings
In a related announcement, GLSTN called for proposals for presentations at the conference as well as nominations for the Pathfinder Awards in the following categories: Student, Educator, Parent, Community Activists, and Organization.