Saturday, February 12, 2022

Local Story Inspires Blogger. Now It’s Your Turn


On Thursday I wrote about how Zach Koung, an HCPSS graduate, is using his voice to advocate for LGBTQ+ students. Today I want to share what others in Columbia/HoCo are doing to support the LGTBQ+ students in our schools. 

On December 4th, community members turned out at the Lakefront to take a stand against suppression of student reading materials* in our schools. I wrote about this in “Love Gets Loud”.

Attacks on teachers and schools staff have promoted us to stand united and drown out the noise. 

  • We stand for LGBTQ+ students and educational professionals 
  • Teaching accurate history to our students 
  • Supporting equitable practices in our schools
  • Providing students with relevant LGBTQ+ reading materials through their school libraries 

Here are some of the messages shared by those in attendance. All photos are shared with permission.

CARY, (Community Allies of Rainbow Youth) was one of the groups who sponsored the rally. CARY is a grass-roots, volunteer-based organization formed in 2019. 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!

Their goals are clearly outlined here.

Throughout this academic year, members of CARY have been speaking at Board of Education meetings in support of LGBTQ+ students and against the suppression of learning materials in our school libraries. In addition, they have been advocating for the creation of an LGBTQ+ Initiatives Specialist position to be funded in the HCPSS FY23 budget.

An organization's budget is more than a financial planning document, it is also a statement of values and priorities. It is time for our school system and the community to acknowledge the pressing needs of LGBTQIA+ students and staff, and more importantly, to make a commitment to them through budgetary priorities. (CARY)

The good news: Superintendent Martirano has included this position in the budget he presented to the Board of Education. The next step: the Board of Education must affirm his choice by keeping it in the budget that they pass. 

Members of the BOE need to hear from the community that this position is needed and valued. Here’s how you can help. 

Email the BOE  and Dr. Martirano to express your support. The subject line should read: Budget request- LGBTQIA+ Initiatives Specialist.

CARY has prepared a helpful document which may be useful to you as you compose your letter. I am including it at the conclusion of this post. The Board is working through the budget now. They need your input ASAP. If you know people who would be interested in supporting this issue, please pass this post along. 

I truly believe that there are far more people in Columbia/HoCo who are accepting than those whose loud and angry voices seek to censor books and school curriculum. (Love Gets Loud)

It is the Board of Education’s responsibility to lift up all students. It is our responsibility to hold them accountable to that commitment and to articulate “loud and clear” exactly what that means.

*I want to be clear that the rally was held both for supporting LGTBQ+ positive learning materials as well as those that speak honestly about racial equity. For the purposes of this post I am focusing on the former. Both are vital to mission of our schools. - - jam


Dear Members of the Board of Education and Dr. Martirano,

 I am writing to request the funding of a full-time LGBTQIA+ initiatives specialist as part of the FY23 budget for HCPSS.

Our school system’s budget is more than a document of financial planning, it is also a statement of our values and priorities. One of these priorities should be addressing the pressing needs of LGBTQIA+ students and staff. For LGBTQIA+ youth, this is sometimes a matter of life and death.

According to this Trevor Project report, it is estimated that LGBTQIA+ youth are four times more likely to seriously consider suicide, to make a plan for suicide, and to attempt suicide compared to their peers.

The biennial National School Climate Survey has documented many of the unique challenges LGBTQIA+ students face. On the other hand, this survey, which began in 1999, has also consistently indicated that specific school-based resources can promote a positive learning experience for LGBTQIA+ students. These resources include:

• Supportive educators

• LGBTQIA+-inclusive curriculum

• Inclusive and supportive policies

• Supportive student clubs, such as Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs).

While we have witnessed encouraging signs of better understanding of LGBTQIA+ issues and more people voicing their support for LGBTQIA+ students and staff, it is not nearly enough. To make sure that school resources translate to measurable impacts on students’ educational outcomes and well-being as well as a positive environment for LGBTQIA+ staff, we need committed leadership at all levels, allocation of adequate funds, and dedicated staff with experience and expertise to implement policies and practices that ensure safe and affirming school climate for all.

 A full-time LGBTQIA+ initiatives specialist may serve as an expert and advocate in support of LGBTQIA+ students and staff in our school system, providing leadership to all LGBTQIA+ initiatives, promoting collaboration among administrators, staff, students, family, and community organizations, and ensuring any ongoing efforts to support LGBTQIA+ students and staff to be more efficient and streamlined.

 An added benefit of having this position funded is to help mitigating the workload currently shouldered by some central office staff absent of a dedicated specialist, a benefit that is urgently needed at a time of severe staff shortage and burnout.

 In conclusion, I strongly recommend that HCPSS funds a full-time LGBTQIA+ initiatives specialist in its FY23 budget.




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