A Safer Place is a “supportive, non-threatening environment that encourages open-mindedness, respect, a willingness to learn from others, as well as physical and mental safety” (Coalition for Safer Spaces, 2017). Safer places are areas where everyone can come as they are. There is no judging, joking inappropriately or assumptions of gender/sexuality/race. Sometimes every one of us may say something disrespectful by accident, but those situations can be instructive and that way we can change our way to talk and think.
At the lecture we discussed how we and other students can make places safe by our own behaviour. Like mentioned before, recognizing our own limitations and prejudices, we are already considering other people’s feelings and by this way already creating open-minded atmosphere. Being part of majority culture often still makes us blind to cultural differences and possible discomfort of minorities. Little things that most of us majority group members take for granted, like proper accessibility in public buildings, may be a requirement for making a comfortable environment for, for example, disabled people. Because of this, opinions of diverse users should be heard and taken into account while making decisions concerning safer places.
Some criticism can be also focused towards safer places. Like discussed in the earlier lectures, social justice is a multidimensional concept and can’t be created by specific group of, for example, adults. The whole school and the community in it should be engaged in creating an environment that supports diversity and open-mindedness amongst all people, but this is easier said than done. For example bullying takes place also in other contexts than in schools, it might also appear outside schools and for example in internet.
In some respects, many hobbies and hobby groups can reinforce unsafe environments, particularly if there is a concept of masculinity or femininity that is considered inherent to the group’s identity. Very often places such as some forums on the internet (e.g. 4chan and some areas on Facebook and Reddit) as well as men’s sports teams are rife with language and social behavior that enforces gender, social, racial and economic exclusion and disparity – the infamous “locker-room talk” is a prime example of this.
Although this is a phenomenon in most social groups and age groups, it seems that this behavior is particularly prevalent in school. This relates to a previous lecture subject on (gendered) violence in schools, and how the school system can sometimes perpetuate these sort of behaviors. Indeed, for many children and adolescents, school is the most “non-safe space” of all.
What makes it difficult to tackle these issues is often the fear of social exclusion. In many cases, to point out these loaded comments and actions is to essentially break away from the group’s internal cohesion. In many cases, the groups that one belongs to consists of one’s very best friends, and we are reluctant to the extreme to be the ones who stick out of the crowd.
In addition to concrete school buildings, teachers and parents should co-work with each other and students to create an attitudinal environment based on trust and mutual respect. It is not only schools’ responsibility to take care of children’s safety and without proper collaboration with parents safer places are only based on superficial solutions. Proper communication and opportunities for open conversation are key elements for well-planned safer places, that are not only safe for specific groups.
Special education is for students with special educational needs. Common special needs can be learning disabilities, communication or behavioral disorders, physical disabilities and developmental disabilities. Special education is always tailored to meet each student’s individual needs and differences because there is no ”one size fits all” approach to special education. Students with special needs are likely to benefit from additional educational services like different approaches to teaching, the use of technology or a specifically adapted teaching area.
It is sad but true that children with disabilities have a bigger risk of being bullied. It is easy to pay attention to what is different or unusual. In special education all students have some problems or difficulties. However, it might be problematic if the special education is too focused on disabilities rather than the strengths. What if special educators would look at what a child can do instead of what he/she cannot do? Once you know your students’ strengths you can as teacher develop strength-based learning strategies. Maybe a safe space can be built by focusing on strengths and positive things.
In the lecture we talked about places where there are specific signs that say, e.g. “this is a discrimination free zone”. This kind of label exists for example in our university’s gym. The meaning of these signs is of course very good, but I started to think whether it’s really necessary to have these kinds of texts for adult people?! I think it’s kind of sad that you need to remind adult people to be kind and respectful towards each other. In our opinion every place should be safe from discrimination without specific texts to reminds us about it.