An activist school psychologist within the Mat-Su School District is using his position to encourage educators at several elementary schools to secretly affirm students who believe they are gay, bi-sexual or transgender.
Jake Balaskovits is a roving school psychologist who splits his time between Sherrod Elementary and Butte Elementary. He is also listed as a school psychologist for Finger Lake Elementary and his email signature includes Ya Ne Dah Ah School in Chickaloon.
On Sept. 6 he sent an email to local educators, encouraging them to display rainbow-colored stickers to signify to students that they are allies who will affirm their LGBTQ identity without divulging it to “others” who may not be on board.
Balaskovits wrote that he would hand out laminated rainbow “safe space” stickers to anyone who wanted them.
“I’m offering these every year, so get used to it,” he said.
Balaskovits explained that the rainbow stickers serve as a symbol to children that educators are supportive of LGBTQ identities.
“You do not have to be an expert in LGBTQ identity to display a Safe Space sticker,” Balaskovits explained. “However, teachers who display the Safe Space Sticker should be prepared for students to approach them about LGBTQ identity.”
He then tells educators that by displaying the rainbow symbols they are signaling to children that they will “affirm their chosen or shared names, pronouns, or other identities, and can refer them to someone in the school who they can talk to more.”
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He asks educators to use recommendations from an organization called GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network). Balaskovits’ email included a flyer from GLSEN which instructs allied teachers to be prepared to “act in allyship with the LGBTQ community in and outside of school.”
Balaskovits’ email notes that teachers should also be “familiar with a student’s right to privacy, where you do not disclose identity information to others.” According to recommendations from the GLSEN flyer, “others” can mean child’s “family members” and “adults” who may not be on board with the child’s LGBTQ identity.
Other recommendations from Balaskovits included asking teachers to “affirm students’ chosen pronouns in conversations,” and to “learn, use, and affirm new identity and relationship terms and experiences.”
Balaskovits said that LGBTQ identity issues are more “prevalant during middle and high school,” but that these questions “certainly start to come up in the grades we serve as well.”
Balaskovits works with children in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.
— Contact Butte Elementary Principal Joshua Rockey at Joshua.firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 907-861-5202
— Contact Sherrod Elementary Principal Lorri Cook at Lorri.Cook@matsuk12.us or by calling (907) 761-4102.
— Contact Finger Lake Elementary Principal Juliana Hardy at Juliana.Hardy@matsuk12.us or by calling 907-864-2202
— Contact Mat-Su School Board members by clicking here.