Supporting our LGBTQ Students

Reflection

I’ve always been fond of this quote from Frederick Douglass…

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted…”

I think about this when I see messages from institutions that, “value your feedback”. That’s a system’s way of shutting down the conversation. That feedback doesn’t go anywhere. The only thing that ever works is a response in numbers large enough that has an impact. Not the kind of response that comes from a survey. It means showing up, asking for meetings, making phone calls, sending letters, and most of all, being persistent. I’m reminded of this when there are things I’d like to discuss with schools and it takes many months before something is finally put on the calendar that may or may not happen.

Background

We have an equity issue in the district I live in. If you are not part of the dominant cultural group then you are not part of the group. I hear this quite often from families with students who are not Christian, white, straight primarily, but I also hear it from families of students with disabilities. Kids as young as preschool are told by friends that they’re going to Hell if they don’t practice the same religion (or any); I hear stories of kids being isolated based on their race. While I have some things to say about each of those situations, there is one in particular I want to address first…

Those students who are afraid to use the restroom during the day for fear of being beat up for being part of the LGBTQ community. Many of our kids in that community end up seeking other options than the traditional classroom. They end up in Alternative Learning Centers, they take their courses online, or they drop out. In the worst cases, they commit suicide. There are a number of examples of some these things happening in the Stillwater district. And while I don’t know of anyone who has taken their own life yet, it’s a very real possibility. The suicide rates among our LGBTQ students are much higher than their straight peers.

While there are many reasons why I was prompted to run for the school board, this is one that helped solidify my decision after seeing this happening in our district.

While there is plenty to do at home with children as far as talking to them about the issue, there are things that schools can do to promote an environment where our students feel welcomed and supported. I also will never use the word tolerate. Our children don’t deserve to be tolerated; they deserve acceptance, support, true equity.

Information

OutFront MN, a LGBTQ advocacy group, has a whole list of resources for schools to review and adopt. They document the law relating to Equal Access and preventing discrimination, but they also have Gender Inclusion policies for our board to adopt. If you want to advocate for our students, please consider starting here. https://www.outfront.org/youth-schools

Action

Choose where you think you can put the most amount of pressure and add your personal experiences so we can demonstrate why we need this. There are people on the board who claim that they want to “increase the capture rate” to bring in more revenue to the district, well, here’s one way to keep more of our students and take a stand against hate at the same time. Continue to advocate for the adoption of these policies with board members, write to, call, meet with our Equity Coordinator and Curriculum Director/Coordinators, ask the superintendent what is being done in the district to address this issue, ask your children’s teachers what they are doing to protect our LGBTQ community. Are they shutting down homophobic and transphobic talk? Are they including representations of those communities in their curriculum? Share your interactions on my Facebook page, or organize a group in the district so we can talk about what we can do, next steps, progress, etc. Awareness is a first step, but it’s not enough. Wearing specific colors or pins is not enough. Education about this needs to be a part of the system.

There are things to be done at all levels of the district, but none of them will happen if we wait for it to happen on their own. Power concedes nothing without a demand.