Dear SEEN Community,
With the start of Pride Month, we want to reshare a number of resources related to LGBTQ+ experiences in and with our schools. According to Gallup polling, Gen Z is the “queerest” generation yet, with 1 out of 6 Gen Z adults identifying as queer or transgender. Only 79% of those surveyed identified as exclusively cisgender and heterosexual.
How do we create environments that support students and affirm their identities? At each “A Seat At This Table” event, panelists shared the ways they were “othered” – overtly or more subtly – in classrooms, in halls, and in social events and clubs. According to the 2019 GLSEN School Climate Report, 92% of LGBTQ+ students heard “gay” used in a negative way (e.g. “that’s so gay”) and 77% heard other homophobic remarks or negative remarks about gender expression. Sixty-six percent of NYS LGBTQ+ students experienced verbal harassment, 22% were subject to physical harassment, and 10% were victims of physical assault in school. The GLSEN report outlines many ways LGBTQ+ students are discriminated against, but echoing what we’ve heard from BIPOC students, there needs to be an inclusive curriculum – history, English, sciences, and more. Another key component to this is comprehensive sex education that expands content beyond pregnancy prevention to address different identities and sexual orientations – a need expressed by students at this year’s Saratoga Women’s March, and which is the subject of legislation currently before the Education Committees of both the NYS Assembly and Senate.
The proposed legislation would require NYS school districts to meet the National Sexuality Education Standards at a minimum in order to provide age-appropriate, medically-accurate sex education that is inclusive of each and every student. At this time, no school districts in NY are required to teach sex education, let alone medically-accurate sex education or education which would address the full spectrum of students’ gender identities and sexual orientations. Instead, schools are only required to address HIV/AIDS prevention, and can use an abstinence-only curriculum. The National Sexuality Education Standards address a range of gender identities and sexual orientations, as well as help students to identify trusted people, use appropriate vocabulary, establish consent, identify harassment, and advocate for others through anti-bullying programs, with age-appropriate learning objectives from Kindergarten through 12th grade.
- Celebrate Pride. The official opening and celebration of Saratoga’s Pride crosswalk (between Hathorn Spring and the Carousel) will take place this Thursday at 6 p.m. with Saratoga Pride and the City of Saratoga. Saratoga Arts will have family-friendly art activities celebrating Pride as part of their ongoing First Thursdays programming.
- Contact Your Reps. Versions of the above laws have withered in previous legislative sessions (2017-18, 2019-20), never making it to a floor vote. Advocate for LGBTQ+ students in New York State and the addition of comprehensive sex education in our schools by reaching out to elected representatives. The legislative session ends June 10th.
- Board of Education Meeting. The next SSCSD Board of Education meeting is on Thursday, June 10 at 7 p.m. The district’s equity regulation is expected to be under discussion and up for a vote. Save the date, and stay tuned for the agenda, link to stream, and any additional actions.
- Eat Ice Cream, Share Books. As one of our first opportunities to come together in person, SEEN will be celebrating its first birthday outside Ben & Jerry’s with activities and information on Saturday, June 12 from 1-8 p.m. Check out the event page for more information, and come celebrate with us!
- LGBTQ+ Students: Take the Survey. GLSEN is currently collecting data for their 2021 School Climate Survey. If you identify as LGBTQ+ and are at least 13 years old and still in school, they want to hear from you. If you don’t identify as an LGBTQ+ youth, please share the survey with others.
- Umbrella Terms. The May 19 episode of Code Switch digs into the facility and limitations of the term “people of color.” The episode revisits and expands on the discussion in last year’s episode “R.I.P. to P.O.C.,” to tease out the dynamics of homogeneity, discursive power and coalitions, and erasure inherent in the terms we use to identify ourselves and others. Are you using “POC” to avoid saying “Black”? Is your language inadvertently erasing indigeneity? What is the power behind POC, or BIPOC, Black, or Cherokee? When should the language we use be specific, and when does broader language support coalition-building and recognition of people impacted by white supremacy? Listen on Apple, Spotify, or from NPR.
- Sex Ed Legislation. Listen to a more thorough breakdown of the sex education legislation, and the consequences for all students in forming healthy, consensual relationships with medically-accurate information from WCNY’s Capital Pressroom. The piece specifically outlines the importance of this legislation for LGBTQ+ students, who often do not get much information at home.
~ The SEEN Team