CORVALLIS - Helping teachers, counselors, administrators and parents gain a better understanding of the issues related to educating gay, lesbian and bisexual youth is the focus of a conference at Oregon State University Feb. 13-14.

"This is the first time we've done a conference on this topic and we are responding to a critical need in the schools and communities," said Brooke Collison, a professor of education at OSU and one of the conference organizers. "Our premise is: If you're working in schools, you're working with students who are gay, lesbian or bisexual."

Leading off the conference, called "Opening Doors," will be a presentation by Gerald Newberry, executive director of the National Education Association's Health Information Network. Winner of the NEA Award for Creative Leadership, Newberry will give a free public lecture called "Sexual Minority Youth," that begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13, in OSU's LaSells Stewart Center.

The conference will continue from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, with special breakout sessions for teachers, administrators, counselors and social workers, parents, and youth agency staff. Also scheduled are presentations, case studies, role playing and simulations designed to help professionals work more effectively with "sexual minority youth."

Gay, lesbian and bisexual students are at increased risk for school failure, homelessness, substance abuse, suicide and sexually transmitted diseases, Collison said. "Our goal with this conference is to get people who work with these youths to be more receptive and to develop a dialogue to help them understand some of these critical issues they're dealing with," he pointed out.

"Based on a figure of 10 percent of the population, there may be as many as 50,000 gay, lesbian or bisexual youths in Oregon schools," Collison added. "We want schools to be a friendlier, more accepting environment for all youths."

Conference registration is $65. For more information, call 541-737-5969.

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Brooke Collison, 541-737-5969