Testimony to Support the AACPS LGBTQ+ Policy
The AACPS Board of Education (BOE) is developing and considering an LGBTQ+ policy that would make our schools safer, more inclusive, and better resourced for all LGBTQ+ students. The policy would include important ingredients including more meaningful and mandatory training and professional development for school staff around LGBTQ+ identities, enhancing resources to support LGBTQ+ inclusive student organizations, and applying and extending current trans-inclusive guidelines to all LGBTQ+ students. The purpose of such a policy is to make our educational spaces equitable and safe for our students which ultimately will enhance feelings of belongingness and academic achievement.
In the next few weeks, the proposed LGBTQ policy will be heard by the Board in three meetings where the policy will be considered, during which the public can testify. All testimony (both written and oral) MUST be signed up for and/or submitted by the deadlines listed below. The BOE will accept an unlimited amount of written testimony. There are only ten slots for oral testimony (each slot is for two minutes of testimony) at each meeting. That means that there are a total of 30 slots for oral testimony. The first meeting will be on 4/21/21, the second meeting will be 6/2/21 and the final meeting and board vote will be 6/16/21. To sign up for oral or written testimony, you need to get on the website listed below as soon as the sign-up times open up, as the oral testimony slots fill up very quickly. We urge you to sign up for the first reader meeting if possible, as we think there will be more people trying to sign up at the second and third meetings. It is critical that we provide oral and written testimony in support of a comprehensive policy, so please be sure to sign up and/or submit written testimony. Please share this with others you think may want to also provide testimony.
IMPORTANT DATES FOR TESTIFYING:
First Reader Meeting (4/21/21)
April 18 at 5pm SHARP sign up for oral testimony https://www.aacps.org/boardtestimony.
April 20 at noon written testimony due https://www.aacps.org/boardtestimony.
April 21 at 6pm first (reader) Board meeting.
Second Reader Meeting (6/2 and 6/3/21)
May 30 at 5pm SHARP sign up for oral testimony https://www.aacps.org/boardtestimony.
June 1 noon written testimony due https://www.aacps.org/boardtestimony.
June 2 at 2pm second (reader) meeting.
Final Reader Meeting (6/16/21)
June 13 at 5pm SHARP sign up for oral testimony https://www.aacps.org/boardtestimony.
June 15 noon written testimony due https://www.aacps.org/boardtestimony.
June 16 at 6pm third and final (reader) and Board vote.
SUGGESTIONS FOR TESTIMONY
Speak from your personal experience about why you think we need formal, strong policy and regulations to protect LGBTQ+ students in our schools. Personal stories from your own experience as an LGBTQ student, alumni, teacher, GSA advisor or parent about the problems that you’ve undergone or witnessed in our schools are the most powerful testimony. Know that your testimony is important for students, educators and administrators and for the entire community.
—When you think back on your own school experience, think of how you would have freely explored and expressed yourself if you knew you could do so without risk of being judged or mistreated. Our goal is for all students to feel free to safely be themselves within our schools.
–Existing data from GLSEN shows the staggering amount of trauma and hardship that LGBTQ+ students experience every single day in our Maryland schools. This is completely unacceptable. It is our duty as community members to ensure that no student who goes through our school system suffers unnecessarily just for being themselves.
–We hope that everyone agrees that any child in our school system deserves the right to safely be their most authentic self so they’re best positioned to be as successful as possible within our schools.
–What does it mean if a community member or educational stakeholder who is made aware of the data about the painful experiences of LGBTQ+ students, chooses to do nothing, allowing the suffering to continue on our collective watch? Why wouldn’t we want to provide what our students need to be successful?
–Adding policy for LGBTQ+ students takes nothing away from any other student. Policies that protect students who have been historically persecuted doesn’t equate to special treatment. It only serves to ensure that every student, regardless of identity, experiences a more equitable educational environment.
–Inclusive policies are essential for some, but good for all in that they help protect every student’s ability to be their most authentic selves without fear of persecution, judgment, or reprisal.
–AACPS has already passed trans-inclusive guidelines around gender identity and the new proposed policy is an extension of these existing guidelines.
–GLSEN research shows that MD schools are not safe for most LGBTQ students. LGBTQ students in Maryland are not protected by supportive and inclusive school policies and are not adequately protected by current anti bullying or harassment policies. Most LGBTQ students in Maryland have experienced anti-LGBTQ victimization at school.
–Many (50%) LGBTQ students in Maryland report discriminatory policies or practices at their school. Many never report discrimination to staff or parents. Many of the students that report discrimination indicate they did not get an adequate response from the school system. With strong policy, students would feel safer and more empowered to report problems. Educators and administrators would know better how to respond effectively.
— GLSEN research indicates that strong LGBTQ student organizations (GSAs) are incredibly important resources in schools, not just for kids who identify as LGBTQ but for all students. In some of our schools, GSAs are practically nonexistent. Every school needs strong support for GSAs from teachers and administration. School staff should have guidance about how to start and facilitate GSAs in their schools. Schools also need to increase visibility and student access to LGBTQ-inclusive curricular resources.
–The research demonstrates that schools need to provide meaningful and comprehensive professional development for school staff on LGBTQ issues—not just “training” that consists of a slide deck with no guided discussion or assessment of learning. The current mandated training is woefully inadequate. Without effective training, school staff who are well intentioned can easily misstep in ways that harm students, causing severe adverse consequences for the student.
—Educators are lifelong learners who need ongoing training and professional development around students’ identities, experiences, and best practices in education so that they can effectively educate every single student who walks into their classroom. Mandated continuous training does not push beliefs or values on any educational professional–rather it makes sure they’re doing their job correctly and creating optimal learning environments for every student.
GLSEN is a national organization that provides most of the data on LGBTQ students experiences in schools. Below is a summary of GLSEN data regarding Maryland schools.