Sue Campbell, deputy director of the statewide LGBTQ+ youth organization OUT Maine, has been awarded the 2020 Human and Civil Rights Award by the Maine Education Association (MEA).
According to the MEA, the award recognizes outstanding dedication in promoting human and civil rights for students and citizens of the State of Maine. This work includes promoting appreciation for diversity, working to eliminate discriminatory or abusive behavior toward groups and individuals, helping schools develop programs that encourage tolerance, and establishing an ongoing program or institution for the improvement of human relations and civil rights.
For the past five years, Campbell has been traveling the state of Maine from York to Aroostook Counties to provide training sessions for teachers, medical providers and other professionals who work with LGBTQ+ youth. The goal of the work is to build a statewide safety net of informed providers who can provide safe space for LGBTQ+ youth in their offices and schools.
“The statistics tell us over 80% of LGBTQ youth in Maine are bullied regularly and 40% have seriously considered suicide,” said Campbell, in an OUT Maine news release. “They feel unsupported by their schools, communities and families. Even supportive adults are often afraid of saying the wrong thing, so they don’t say anything at all. The youth then feel ignored or dismissed. These trainings give adults tools to feel confident in supporting all youth… in offices, schools, communities and their homes.”
OUT Maine has trained over 8,000 providers around the state in the last five years. Teachers, clergy, social workers, medical professionals and other training attendees have found the training makes them better allies to the LGBTQ+ youth. Participants report confidence in the ability to re-adjust to new pronouns and preferred names and to be better listeners. One elementary school principal told Campbell, that he felt this type of training should be mandatory, according to OUT Maine.
The Human and Civil Rights Award is usually presented at the Maine Education Association’s Representative Assembly during the MEA Awards Banquet in May. Due to current circumstances, the banquet is being rescheduled.
“This award is a tremendous honor and the staff and board of OUT Maine congratulate Sue on this achievement!” said OUT.
OUT Maine works toward a welcoming and affirming Maine for all rural young people of diverse sexual orientations, gender expressions and gender identities. In partnership with their allies and families, OUT Maine supports, educates and empowers these youth in their journey from adolescence to adulthood.