Weighing In on the Joint Legislative Audit Committee
Today, Equality California (EQCA) and the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Network will be asking the Joint Legislative Audit Committee to approve an audit of California school districts’ compliance with recent legislation, including Seth’s Law (AB 9) and the Safe Place To Learn Act; (AB 394) . As someone who has learned from and worked for California’s public school system, I feel especially invested in the outcome of this hearing.
During school hours administrators have an obligation to their students’ safety. On-campus organizations like GSA Network are irreplaceable advocates for LGBT youth. Administrative figures, however, must ultimately be held accountable for school-wide safety; it’s the law. The fact that such attainable progress is being hindered by some California schools’ inactivity strikes me as disconcerting.
Schools are ideally meant to be places of learning for all students, regardless of gender, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. And yet the stigma that accompanies these societally placed labels, particularly in high school, often makes access to learning less equitable. In school, I remember witnessing a negative perception of, and discomfort with, the LGBT community. Physical bullying was not common at my high school, but verbal harassment definitely occurred, which I believe can be equally hurtful. Degrading slurs slung across the hallway and the derogatory use of the word “gay” were commonplace, and treated largely with apathy.
These incidents were hurtful to both LGBT youth and those who were perceived as LGBT, yet victims often felt powerless to report their harassment. Our students deserve laws that protect them from this discrimination, bullying, and harassment, and they deserve to know that they have legislative rights. LGBT organizations across California have worked tirelessly to ensure youth’s protection; now schools must act. Our public education system must be audited so that we know if our students are being supported as these laws intended. With this audit we would be one step closer to promoting safe schools, furthering inclusion, and finally giving LGBT youth the voice they deserve in their education.