By Brittany Berger
San Diego County is not immune to anti-LGBTQ views and right wing and religious parent groups and school administrators are ignoring laws set in place to protect all children. From county libraries to school curriculums to public events, these extremists are protesting the existence of Queer families and spreading hate and fear with their ploys for Queer erasure. They speak of their freedoms as if LGBTQ+ people do not live under the same constitutional rights and state legislature. The LGBTQ+ community has fought long and hard for safety and inclusivity, yet ignorance stands as a barrier still. With the start of the school year, it is of utmost importance to know your rights and those set in place for students.
Let’s explore the California Healthy Youth Act of 2016, Education Code (EC) §§ 51930-5193. California schools must provide LGBTQ+ inclusive comprehensive sexual health and HIV prevention education. This means that when teaching sex education and discussing reproductive organs, schools must be inclusive of all gender identities and sexual orientations. However, parents can choose to opt out of any sex education that discusses reproductive organs. The state is clear though, that in history and social studies, schools are also required to include information about the LGBTQ population, its history, and be inclusive in its teaching and that teaching history and social studies related to LGBTQ+ issues is not part of sex education in schools according to Senate Bill 48 signed into law in 2011, aka the FAIR education act. This law was set into place due to the overwhelming evidence that educating all students on these issues improves overall inclusivity and reduces bullying and discrimination in schools.
The FAIR education act, which stands for Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful went into effect in 2012 and provides guidelines for schools to include contributions in history and social studies of those in the LGBTQ+ community and those who are disabled. The law requires that teaching must portray accurately and equitably the cultural and racial diversity of American society; demonstrate the contribution of minority groups and males and females to the development of California and the U.S.; emphasize people in varied, positive, and contributing roles in order to influence students’ school experiences constructively; and not contain inappropriate references to commercial brand names, products, and corporate or company logos. There is no state-mandated curriculum on these topics. Instead, the state issues guidelines and then lessons are developed and approved at the local level, where school districts and school board members, with input from parents and teachers, will decide what’s appropriate for each classroom.
An important part of the discussion of rights for Queer students should include the use of bathroom facilities for Transgender students. In 2014, assembly bill 1266 went into effect. This bill includes California code section 221.5, aka School Success and Opportunity Act. This piece of legislation secures the right for Transgender students to use bathroom facilities in line with their gender identity, regardless of the gender listed on their school registration forms. They can be offered a single stalled bathroom or an all-gender bathroom, but they cannot be required to use those. Further, another California code, California Education Code section 35292.6, requires that all school bathrooms stock menstrual hygiene products in gender inclusive bathrooms, girls’ bathrooms, and at least one boys’ bathroom in every school. This went into effect last school year and so let’s make sure our schools are following through.
There is still some confusion and muddy waters around whether teachers have the right to display Pride flags in their classrooms. Some right-wing groups try to portray the flags as political and disruptive. Teachers cannot push their own political agendas and therefore cannot wear shirts in support of candidates running for office and the like. However, there is a Supreme Court ruling that supports flags as free speech. Pride flags do not represent any particular political party and are a sign of inclusivity and safety for our children. What this comes down to is that it is up to the local educational agencies to decide whether or not to allow them in the classroom. If they choose not to allow them, they are required to implement a clear and neutral policy as to why. This is a great topic for back-to-school night!
The anti-LGBTQ protesters are ignorant. They fail to see that local, state, and federal protections are in place for our youth and families. Queer families need to stay informed and have their arguments ready. Know your rights and make sure that they are being observed by our schools. If something seems out of place, we must speak up and take action. We need to talk to our kids about these rights and prepare them for discrimination that they may face. Our children have to go to school with children who come from these anti-LGBTQ groups, and they have to have a sound voice and understanding. Tell your kids how sad it is that these kids are so sheltered and misguided, and that while it hurts to be discriminated against, we have protections in place for our views and not theirs. We are validated by legislature that clearly supports inclusivity and respect and adamantly prohibits discrimination.
A guide to San Diego County Education
San Diego Unified School District Board Meetings
San Dieguito Union High School District Board Meetings
San Diego County Office of Education
California State Board of Education