On Saturday a local organization called CARY (Community Allies of Rainbow Youth) released responses to a set of questions they had posed to candidates for the Board of Education. The reaction from the public has been, shall we say, varied. In addition, many people aren’t familiar with the group itself. Before I write about the BOE Survey I want to address what CARY is and where it comes from: a genealogy of sorts.
In the beginning there was PFLAG, whose roots trace back to 1972 and whose first meeting was held in 1973. From their website:
In the next years, through word of mouth and community need, similar groups sprang up around the country, offering "safe havens" and mutual support for parents with gay and lesbian children.
In Howard County, the first meetings of a group with similar goals were held in 1995. The resultant group became a local chapter of the national PFLAG organization: PFLAG Howard County. Here is the PFLAG Columbia-Howard County Mission Statement:
To support parents and caregivers of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer children. We welcome all people — gay, straight, bisexual, transgender and queer — as well as their families and friends. Together, we support each other, educate the broader community and advocate for equality.
One of the support groups provided by PFLAG Howard County is Rainbow Youth and Allies.
Rainbow Youth and Allies — a social group for LGBTQ+ youth and their friends, ages 12-22, in a safe space.
The term “Rainbow Youth” clearly connects to international use of the Rainbow Flag which celebrates the LGBTQ+ movement.
Over in the Howard County Schools, all high schools and some middle schools have student-led organizations called GSA’s. GSA used to stand for Gay-Straight Alliance, but, in recent years has come to be Gender Sexuality Alliance or some similar variant, in order to more explicitly welcome trans and gender non-binary students. I was unable to find a link on the HCPSS website which addresses these groups. (Still looking.)
In 2015 the school system created a partnership with PFLAG Howard County. To be honest I have no idea what, if anything, resulted from this, other than a press release.
HoCo Pride is a local 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to provide:
...a collection of events and programs that are geared toward the support of, advocacy for and education about the LGBTQ+ community in Howard County.
The inaugural HoCo Pride was held in Centennial Park in the Summer of 2019. I am guessing that the group’s founding was at least a year before this, as they formulated a core group to plan and fundraise for the event itself.
Onto this scene comes the newest LGBTQ+ advocacy group: CARY. (Community Allies of Rainbow Youth) CARY is a grass-roots, volunteer-based organization, whose first meeting was in March of 2019. Their Facebook page appeared in January of 2020. While their goals are wholly compatible with those of PFLAG Howard County, they are a completely independent entity. From their website:
We advocate for LGBTQ+ youth, raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues in the community, with a focus on the schools, increase understanding of youth experiences across the LGBTQ+ community, and support each other!
Now we come to the political part. PGLAG Howard County holds candidate forums for a number of local raises but they do not endorse.
CARY, a group whose focus is most especially on students, formulated a set of pertinent questions which they posed to this year’s Board of Education candidates. The questions are listed below.
1. Would you support a policy that requires all HCPSS schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms and changing facilities based on their identified gender? Please explain your answer.
2. Would you support a policy that requires HCPSS staff and non-official documents to use the name and pronouns that a student requests? Please explain your answer.
3. To what age groups (if any) is it appropriate for teachers and other staff members to disclose to students that they have LGBTQ family members or are involved in a same-sex relationship?
4. Should curriculum be revised to include reference to LGBTQ individuals, including the fact or possibility that the individuals were LGBTQ identified. If yes, what (if any) is the minimum grade level at which these changes should be made? Please explain your answer.
5. Would you like to see LGBTQ themed works of literature, art, and media be introduced into the curriculum, and if yes, what (if any) is the minimum grade level at which this should be done? Please explain your answer.
6. How should the school system provide more education to parents/guardians with regard to understanding and supporting LGBTQ youth? How should HCPSS reach out to parents/guardians who are unsupportive of their children’s LGBTQ identities?
7. What accommodations should be made for transgender students participating in athletics organized by the school system? Which policies should be revised to reflect these accommodations?
8. Should HCPSS make sure schools offer access to LGBTQ student clubs like GSAs to their students? At what levels (High? Middle? Elementary?) should this happen? Please explain your answer.
9. What changes would you like to see made to the way HCPSS handles identification, reporting, interventions, and prevention of bullying?
10. What measures should the school system take to prevent suicide among the student body?
How would you answer these questions? We’ll talk about the candidate’s responses tomorrow.