The Out Accountability Project is inspired by our journey through the public school system.

Throughout middle school, my youngest child endured bullying, harassment, and physical assault. Sometimes theses abuses were handled appropriately as outlined in school climate policies. Oftentimes they weren’t. The message to my child, over and over again, was that his education didn’t matter. His safety didn’t matter. He didn’t matter.

We believe every LGBTQ+ student has the right to an education in a safe, affirming learning environment.

Fortunately we are on the other side now. Both of my children are in schools where they are embraced as full members of the learning community. They don’t spend every day in fight-or-flight mode, which opens their minds to absorbing the lessons their teachers offer. Their GPAs have increased more than a full point. They talk about their aspirations for higher education and a secure future.

They feel seen and heard. The Project wants this for every student.

I now understand what an affirming learning environment looks like, how it functions, and the profound impact it has on learning, mental health, and a child’s future. Over those two horrific years, I threw myself into finding solutions and spent thousands of hours researching, advocating for LGBTQ+ youth in schools, and networking. As I met other families around the state, I learned that our story is one of many. As I connected with LGBTQ+ organizations, I learned they were getting calls from parents and caregivers desperate for help with their local school district. Folx, we have an epidemic on our hands. And in a sanctuary state with some of the strongest nondiscrimination laws nationwide.

We believe when LGBTQ+ youth are embraced as full members of their school community, everyone benefits.

We know that LGBTQ+ youth in unsupportive schools experience adverse outcomes – poor academic performance, fear-based absences, little or no sense of belonging, to name a few. According to the Dalio Education Foundation, students like these – those at risk of not graduating and of economic instability – cost the state approximately $6,000 every year. The Williams Institute estimates there are 43,000 LGBTQ+ students in Connecticut. This means hostile school environments are costing the state $258 million every year.

The Project was founded to bring us all together to support each other, learn from one another, and work toward educational equity.

Parenting an LGBTQ+ child is extraordinary – getting to see our see kids grow into who they are and sharing their joy. It also adds a layer of complexity that only we fully understand. Together, through education, action, and sharing our joy, we can help schools create and maintain safe, affirming learning environments.

Founder + Chief Cogitator

Melissa Combs is the parent of two high-school teens. A Midwest transplant, she moved to CT in 2016 with her family. For more than two decades, she has worked with nonprofit organizations, primarily in fundraising, communications, and public relations. To stay sane, she cooks, grows roses and peonies, dabbles in graphic design and wordsmithing, and excessively coddles her two cats.

A favorite quote:

There can be no keener revelation
of a society’s soul than the way
in which it treats its children.

Nelson Mandela

With Gratitude


The Out Accountability Project was shaped with the input of LGBTQ+ organizations and advocates
who generously contributed their time, skills, and expertise. Thank you!

Matt Blinstrubas

(he/him)

executive director

Mel Cordner

(they/them)

executive director

Tony Ferraiolo

(He/Him)

Director of Youth & Family Programming

William Ollayos

(He/Him)

Law & Policy Fellow


LGBTQ+ Justice & Opportunity Network

Ace Ricker

(he/Him)

Founder, Educator & Advocate

(Awareness through Communication & Education)

Mallory James Sanchez, Esq.

(They/ShE)

Staff attorney & singer Fellow


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