The SOGI Conference Is Back, Teaching About Inclusive Education

By Crystal A. Proxmire

As parents and students become more demanding of inclusive educational environments, teachers and administrators are sometimes at a loss for where to find the resources they need. That's why Oakland University created the School of Education & Human Services' Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Initiative, and the annual conference that goes along with it.

Now in its third year, the 2014 Michigan SOGI Education Conference will be held Feb. 7 at a new location - Auburn Hills Marriott Pontiac at Centerpoint in Pontiac. The daylong conference includes breakfast and lunch and has a wealth of speakers and workshops focused on meeting the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and intersex students, staff, faculty and administrators, with plenty of opportunities to reflect, network, and plan for the school year.

The keynote speaker will be Kisha Webster, director of Education & Community Engagement for Welcoming Schools at the Washington DC based Human Rights Campaign. Webster develops Welcoming Schools materials for HRC and provides consultation, training and technical assistance to schools throughout the country in implementing the program. Prior to joining the HRC team, she spent 20 years as an educator and seven years as a school administrator in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County.

Jerry Peterson of the Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit will be the emcee for the conference. Peterson recently moved to Detroit from California, where he most recently served as facilitator for the LGBTQ Youth Advocacy Collaborative in Concord, California. He managed an innovative collaboration with six non-profits in Contra Costa County to reduce rejecting behaviors and increase accepting behaviors toward LGBTQ young people in families, schools, service providers, and faith groups. Prior to that he spent 14 years with the United Way of Allen County in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he served as its president and CEO for four years. In this position, Peterson led the $6 million, 30-person organization, nurtured community partnerships and launched a 10-year initiative to improve reading levels of children.

Several workshop options will be available throughout the day, including those led by Equality Michigan, KICK, Michigan State University LBGT Resource Center, Wayne State University School of Medicine, the ACLU and more.

Michael Behrmann and Rachel Guinn of Rochester Community Schools will present "Setting the Tone - Embracing All in a School Community." Katie Lamb and Josh Lee of the Gay,Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) will present "That's so gay!": How to Handle LGBTQ-related Bullying in K-12 Schools." And Jay Kaplan of the ACLU will talk about "What Schools Should Know: The Rights of Transgender Students and Staff in Schools."

In addition to giving the keynote address, Williams will facilitate a workshop on "Cultivating Conversations on Differences," which includes a viewing of the short film "What Do You Know? Six to twelve year olds talk about gays and lesbians." Participants will practice responding to students' and adults' questions and comments about differences based on gender, sexual orientation, race and religion.

This will be the third year for the conference, which continues to grow in scope and attendance. Not only does the SOGI Conference provide tools for schools, it gives teachers, counselors, and social workers opportunity for continuing education credits. Teachers and School Counselors can register for .6 State Continuing Education Clock Hours (SCECHs). Social Workers can register for 5.5 Continuing Education Units.

The conference is $100 for most attendees and $25 for full time students. To register, or for more information go to

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