‘Overnight’ successes that take decades to achieveEpiCenter Thursday, April 21st, 2011
Last week the headlines read, “San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) Board of Education – representing the second largest school district in California – voted unanimously in support of a Bullying, Harassment and Intimidation Prohibition policy.” The policy states that the SDUSD will not tolerate any student or staff member being bullied, harassed or intimidated in any form at school or school-related events.
To some, it seemed to have happened almost in months. But, unfortunately, that’s rarely how important life-changing policies are established.
Instead of happening overnight, there are almost always private individuals, advocacy groups and community organizations who have spent years, even decades and lifetimes, doing all of the hard work of changing hearts and minds, of bringing growing understanding and visibility to the social justice issues that we hope to address. That is certainly true for the decades-long work to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and it will be true when we finally repeal DOMA and Proposition 8, and was true about these local school bullying prevention policies and programs.
In August 2010, The Center met with new school district Superintendent Kowba to discuss the situation in San Diego schools for LGBT students, or those perceived to be LGBT, and the children of same-sex parents. The superintendent was deeply concerned by the statistics he saw and the clear negative impact on student achievement. He was most interested in finding solutions.
Very shortly thereafter, bullying became a national concern following more than 13 suicides of LGBT victims of school related bullying. Superintendent Kowba and I reached out to Board President Barrera and the SDUSD school board to begin the formal process of establishing policies, procedures and programs that might help San Diego Unified prevent such a tragedy and make schools safer for all students, including LGBT students.
This led in October to the “Resolution in Support of a Nondiscrimination Policy to Ensure a Healthier Learning Environment for All Students, Including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Students” and the formation of the Safer Schools Task Force, a joint effort between community and the school district that resulted in the adoption of the anti-bullying policy.
The Task Force is co-chaired by Dr. Nellie Meyers and me and includes Superintendent Kowba, Board Chair Richard Barrera, Boardmember Kevin Beiser, a variety of current and retired school administrators and educators, a variety of community group leaders and members, including The Center, GLSEN, Trevor Project, CA Faith for Equality, Anti-Defamation League, City of San Diego Human Relations Commission, PFLAG and Jan Garbosky as well as representatives from the offices of State Senator Christine Kehoe and Assemblymember Toni Atkins.
Last Tuesday’s vote to establish an official anti-bullying policy isn’t the end of this process. The Task Force must still write the procedures for implementation; review training programs and write educational materials for educators, staff and students; develop reporting procedures and intervention plans; ensure that all staff, educators, parents and students are aware of and understand the anti-bullying policies; and ensure larger San Diego community involvement in supporting anti-bullying policies and creating and maintaining safer schools for all students.
But that vote was an enormously important step, and a direct result of the years of hard work of everyone involved in the process. We thank all of them for their continued dedication and commitment to protecting our LGBT youth.
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