Source: Education Minnesota
Donna Speake, a counselor at Maple Grove Senior High School, was awarded the 2010 Education Minnesota Human Rights award because of her efforts to make the school more inclusive of LGBT students. The school district had fought efforts by students to form a Gay-Straight Alliance and Speake fought alongside those students.

“Donna’s strength and courage are truly inspirational,” Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher said in a statement. “For more than a decade, she battled tirelessly against discrimination on behalf of students who needed her help. All of us who believe in equal rights for everyone owe her a debt of gratitude.”

The statement goes on to say, “Along with [Straights and Gays for Equality] members, Donna Speake endured years of threats and discrimination. At one point she feared for her job when she declined an administrator’s demand to reveal the names of all students in the group.”

SAGE formed in 1997 at the request of students and the Maple Grove school district fought them every step of the way, taking the case to federal appeals court. SAGE won the right to be a recognized student group and to use school resources to meet.

“They are a very visible group. One of the things the students wanted to be able to do is put up posters, use the PA [public address] system – and, they are now able to do that,” Speake told the Osseo-Maple Grove Press. “I think it seems like a simple thing, but it sends such as message to GLBT students that it is okay to see those words on a poster. That means we are becoming an inclusive community.”

“I think this award helped to show the kids that you can make an impact, you can make a difference,” Speake said.

For more information on SAGE and its lawsuit against the school, here are some resources:

On wikipedia

Our friend Fruit Fly has a lengthy description of the case.

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Andy Birkey
Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.


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