Diversity includes LGBT students and staff

As more students and staff are asserting their identity as LGBT, schools and districts need to engage in practices to ensure that their opportunities for success are met. It’s incumbent upon school leaders to ensure that we live up to our mission and vision statements that promise respect for diversity and promotion of equity.

The LGBT events ACSA has held in the past year have evolved in strong networks of members who have planned amazing events that focus on these specific issues. Region 13 recently hosted an LGBT+ panel discussion focused on diversity and cultural proficiency in public schools in the context of LGBT+ students and staff. The panel showcased the work of powerful ACSA leaders and practitioners from Ventura USD, including retired district Superintendent Trudy Arriaga; Steve Bailey, retired Classified Human Resources director; Michael Tapia, retired principal at Montalvo Arts Academy, and Richard Underhill, assistant principal of Balboa Middle School.

The panel offered research, best practices and personal experience in addressing an aspect of equity that transcends race, ethnicity, socioeconomic and other diversity descriptors. Time was provided for participants to ask questions and interact with panel members along with each other, allowing attendees to gain new insights leading to refined thinking and improved actions and implementations as educational leaders.

Specifically addressed were topics around laws and policies around anti-harassment, workplace perception of discrimination, and support of LGBT+ students at the site level. Dr. Underhill shared his research on how the Fair Education Act of 2012 impacted the ways leaders have ensured instructional implementation through multiple perspectives within the social studies curriculum that includes LGBT+ accomplishments to support students’ self-esteem and positive approaches to difference. He also shared strategies around how to effectively support a safe and inclusive environment for LGBT+ students. These included:

  • Provide visible support through signage, interactions, and dialogue.
  • Provide a safe space such as a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance).
  • Provide inclusive curriculum with teacher support.
  • Ensure anti-bullying/harassment policy enforcement.

Participants left with numerous resources to support their knowledge base on next steps. These resources include GLSEN.org, to view the most recent school climate survey, the Lavender Effect, to view a timeline of resources for the Fair Education Act, as well as a host of books and articles for educators. Participants were also encouraged to consider the following to support LGBT students and staff:

  • Policies
  • Verbal leadership
  • Inclusive diversity work
  • Enact law/professional development
  • Support Gay Straight Alliances
  • Inclusive Library Collections
  • Health Kids Supplemental Survey
  • Web Filters

Tapia and Bailey shared powerful insight on their journeys as gay children and the impact of discrimination on their lives and careers. They also shared their experience as educators in a district that evolved its belief systems and core values around being inclusive and celebrating diversity. Under Arriaga’s leadership, Ventura USD became a model district that explicitly advocated for and supported students and staff through a culturally proficient lens where they prided themselves on treating all people with dignity and respect ensuring access and equity. The actions and values were evident in their procedures, policies, protocol and culture. Arriaga led with this resounding statement: “Don’t tell me what you value… show me what you do and I’ll tell you value.”

ACSA continues to celebrate diversity by hosting networking events for its diverse members. Through the Equity Project work, ACSA strives to be the strategically bold and authoritative advocate for students and leaders. The organization has committed to playing a major role in serving its diverse membership with intentional efforts to address their needs through networking events. These events are designed to bring members from diverse backgrounds together who share similar experiences both personally and professionally. They also provide an opportunity for allies and advocates of those groups to show support and learn about how to utilize their own passion and skills to create a more inclusive and safe environment for students and staff of these groups.

For more information about ACSA’s LGBT Network, visit acsaregion13.edlioschool.com and click the LGBT Network logo. you can find information and resources for working with LGBT students, staff, and families as well as how to make schools welcoming, safe, and supportive.

The events foster a safe environment where courageous conversations can occur without filtering or compromising the ability to address the unique experiences that our diverse leaders confront on a daily basis. These groups are empowered to encourage and motivate each other as they focus on building capacity together to effectively close the achievement gap. In ACSA’s efforts to support California’s diverse student population, the organization realizes the importance of serving its diverse group of leaders through providing relevant services that promote recruitment and retention efforts. ACSA also realizes the importance of promoting diverse leadership to expose and inspire students to become educators and leaders that reflect similar ethnic backgrounds. These networking events support these very efforts.

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