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Spreading Change: Safe and Just Schools

                Developing meaningful workshops that appeal and inspire to a large number of educators is no easy measure, but the Wyoming Education Association (WEA) is doing just that. Recently, we talked to the Vice-President of WEA Kim Amen about the series of workshops they are doing called “Safe and Just Schools.” This series of workshops is funded through grants from the National Education Association and developed by Wyoming educators to unite Wyoming-specific material with nationally recognized training received.

                “Safe and Just Schools” came about last year due to the discussions of racial justice, social experiences of students, and inequity lived by multiple Wyoming student populations. The original focus of the grant was to assist students during these times of COVID-19, but the team at WEA found that more could be done if this was expanded. Once the grant was received, they began looking for passionate educators who already had some level of background knowledge. Coming together, they formed a team to reach out across the state of Wyoming to discuss multiple topic areas related to safe and just schools. When talking to Kim Amen, she made it clear that these workshops may have some sensitive topics and yet they are accessible to a broad range of educators due to the philosophy that governs this work – a philosophy that every student should be able to feel safe and have appropriate access to get an education.

                The workshops focus on having conversations with educators and community members about the laws related to how students should be treated and what is the role of the educator in various circumstances. As mentioned earlier, many educators are surprised to learn quite a bit about Wyoming that they had never known about before. During one of the popular workshops where they discuss the timeline of race relations in the United States, they also talk specifically about some of the lesser-known events that have taken place in Wyoming. Other workshops they provide center on implicit bias, LGBTQ+ issues, how to have difficult conversations, the social justice umbrella, and Title IX. One of the workshops they are developing currently was sparked by conversations from participants around the topic of the school to prison pipeline that so many students end up having experienced.

                These are often not the easiest conversations for people to have in the education field, but WEA and the educator presenters work to take out some of the confusion by focusing on the policies and on the students. One of the pieces that Kim articulated multiple times is that she understands different opinions exist in the state of Wyoming, but there is no doubt in her mind that all educators would agree that students deserve safety and justice when entering their schools. The passion of the educators involved also shines through with their nuanced understanding of what it means to live in Wyoming and to discuss these national topics with a focus on the specific nature of our schools. Workshops such as these are a testament to the work that is being done by Wyoming people to bring conversation into communities so that students can rest assured that their education will be a place of learning and support.

                As part of this grant, the WEA team and educators can provide these free workshops to your educator team or your community agency. For more information about setting this up, please contact Kim Amen at kamen@wyoea.org.

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