Over the past several weeks, protestors and advocates have taken to the streets and school board meetings demanding increased support for LGBTQ+ students. While many of these efforts may have proved little impact on their district’s policies, they succeeded in creating conversation and raising awareness for a historically underrepresented student group.
A December 2022 survey conducted by YouthTruth, a nonprofit student survey organization, revealed that more than 30% of LGBTQ+ students in both middle and high school reported having seriously considered suicide, compared to 13% and 14% of their respective peers. These findings are just one example of why advocates are fighting for better representation in their local schools. In one instance, they are in fact fighting.
Earlier this week in the Glendale Unified School District in California, a scene of dueling protestors quickly turned violent—again—over disagreements surrounding whether the teaching of gender and sexuality should be discussed in the classroom.
“Leave our kids alone,” read one anti-LGBTQ+ activist’s sign, according to a picture from the Los Angeles Times. “Stop brainwashing our children,” read another.
Physical confrontations took place in the parking lot of a church close to the district office where the meeting was held before police intervened, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“I have pleaded for mutual respect as we undertake these difficult conversations and have said, even in our disagreements, let us see the humanity in one another,” board President Nayiri Nahabedian said before inviting public comment during the meeting. “Unfortunately, what we witnessed at the last board meeting in the parking lot outside of the building was the predictable result of what happens when people do really the opposite.”
In the San Jose Unified School District, parents and teachers report some LGBTQ+ students and staff are experiencing bullying and discrimination, prompting dozens to rally demanding change during a board meeting.
“There’s such a culture of fear in the district,” one teacher told NBC Bay Area. “There are so many students who use pronouns that are not ‘he or she’ and were constantly misgendered in school.”
As a result, parents are asking for programs and platforms that better support LGBTQ+ students, as well as an advisory committee that can report to the board, an LGBTQ+ site liaison on every campus, gender training for employees and an updated, inclusive policy for LGBTQ+ students.
On the east coast, one board meeting erupted this week surrounding a newly adopted policy in the Middletown Township School District in New Jersey. According to NJ.com, the amendment would require schools to notify parents if a gender-nonconforming student wants to be addressed by a different name or pronoun, shows interest in participating on a different sports team or requests to use a different restroom.
“I’m disgusted that I have to even speak at this board meeting because trans students’ rights and privacy are being put in danger,” one transgender student said. “You guys clearly don’t understand the amount of harm you are putting young trans kids in with this policy.”
Also this month, the U.S. Department of Education reiterated its recommendations for school districts surrounding LGBTQ+ policies with its toolkit for “creating inclusive and nondiscriminatory school environments.” Education leaders can use this resource to better understand policies and best practices for creating inclusive school environments to ensure “that all students are free to learn in an educational environment without harassment or other discrimination,” the toolkit reads.