By Greg Hernandez
Following powerful testimony from students, teachers, parents, and community groups on June 12, the Los Angeles Unified School District unanimously passed a resolution that outlines ways to better serve its LGBTQ students.
The Los Angeles LGBT Center was among the groups who urged the district’s board of education to take action in a wide range of areas including increased LGBTQ+ competency training for teachers, staff, and administrators.
“I know LAUSD has strong policies. This is an issue of implementation,” the Center’s Education Policy Manager Krystal Torres-Covarrubias told the board. “I get calls from school members across the district saying, ‘Please come and train us. We have a student and we need help.’”
The resolution also calls for the district to recognize October as LGBTQ+ History Month, add a platform to the district’s official website LAUSD.net that will share LGBTQ+ information and resources, and include students as part of a high school textbook adoption committee to help ensure LGBT-related content is included in history and social science materials.
In addition, the Increasing Support for LGBTQ+ Students, Their Families, and Schools resolution, calls for an analysis of single user, all-gender bathrooms. This involves determining whether a school is complying with AB-1732, a state law aimed at combating gender identity discrimination.
Axel Ortega, a 17-year-old transgender student from Garfield High School, shared with the board what can happen when faculty or staff are insensitive to such important details as a change of name and gender marker.
“I was very excited to start school last year, but when I got to my homeroom, everything fell apart,” Ortega said. “The teacher was calling out everyone’s name and then I heard my birth name called out several times. Of course I didn’t respond. I was the last one standing and I just wanted to break down and run out. I had to go to every one of my teachers to ask them not to call out my birth name. Staff members need to be aware that this is a big deal.”
The entire school board co-sponsored the resolution and said they were appreciative of Ortega and the other students who spoke out.
“It’s so important to get your story out there because your light inspires,” said Board Vice President Nick Melvoin. “Kids who come after you are seeing you tell your stories. What you’ve all done by creating these flickers of light throughout L.A. is you’ve created a force that no one can look away from and you are leading us forward.”
Board President Monica Garcia also offered her support and admiration. “We are all with you,” she said. “Thank you for being here. Thank you for your courage!”
Prior to the vote, local students and staff members from the Center, Latino Equality Alliance, GSA Network, and ONE Archives joined together for a small, but lively rally outside district headquarters.
The school district’s superintendent will report back to the board within 60 days with recommendations on how to implement the resolution.