MSW Student Project Helps Support LGBTQ+ Students

Photo by Lara Klopp of a Pride rally including people with signs and wearing rainbow and LGBTQ Pride clothing.
Brevard County Pride Rally (Photo by Lara Klopp)

Online MSW student Lara Klopp taught high school art for ten years. Her experience with her students and helping them develop their sense of self drew her to continuing her education through the FSU College of Social Work’s Online MSW Program.

Her goal focuses on augmenting her impact and ability to improve the lives of young adults, particularly those in the LGBTQ+ community or students with experiences in the foster care system. Lara’s passion for helping students in the former group motivated her to dive deeper into the barriers to support for LGBTQ+ students as Directed Individualized Study, or DIS, a self-directed research project under the supervision of a faculty member.

With the support and supervision of Dr. Craig Stanley, interim dean and teaching professor, Lara decided to develop a means to improve the support for LGBTQ+ students. Her project culminated in the creation of her website CreatingSafeSchools.com.

“When I was a high school teacher, I saw a great need for improvement in how schools work on being inclusive for their LGBTQ+ students,” Lara reflected. “I wanted to create a site to let teachers and administrators learn how to make their schools safer and more inclusive. Realizing how useful such a tool would have been to me, inspired me.”

Through her DIS, Lara researched in published journal articles what were both practical and served as barriers to creating more inclusive and supportive learning environments for LGBTQ+

students. Her research revealed that inclusivity efforts, particularly the creation of Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs, improved outcomes for LGBTQ+ students.

She determined that the main focus of her project was on:

  • How to overcome obstacles to the creation of Gay-Straight Alliance clubs;
  • Providing information on ways teachers and administrators can make schools more inclusive; and
  • Important focal points for Gay-Straight Alliance clubs to focus on once they are formed to improve inclusivity in their school.

“LGBTQ+ students are the most bullied and harassed the population of students, and most at risk of homelessness, self-harm, suicide, and other negative outcomes,” emphasized Lara. “Schools that support their LGBTQ+ students not only have less at-risk LGBTQ+ students but the entire student population benefits.”

Lara’s website provides information for teachers and administrators and students seeking to establish Gay-Straight Alliance clubs with the information they need to know to get them started.

Established in the spring 2022 semester, Lara continues to update her website with blogs and podcasts featuring perspectives of members of the LGBTQ+ community and her local government and school board representatives. Despite the demands of her coursework and field placement, Lara is motivated to continue developing the site and its content after receiving positive feedback on the impact on the website and how it is filling a much-needed niche. 

She recommends her fellow students explore the option of a DIS if a specific course doesn’t cover their interest in a topic. “A DIS can help a student explore a topic with the support and guidance from a faculty member,” Lara said. “I would have eventually created this site on my own when time permitted, but having Dean Stanley’s guidance allowed me to create it sooner and make it better due to his suggested improvements.”

Lara Klopp is an MSW student with the FSU College of Social Work's Online MSW Program and the coordinator of the Brevard Network, a community of FSUCSW graduates living in Brevard as a means to provide mutual support and encouragement. The network is an initiative established by FSU graduates Guy and Delores Spearman.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022 - 01:47 PM
Last updated: Thu, 10/06/2022 - 01:40 PM