Two school districts in Santa Clara County are creating safe school environments for LGBTQ students, but a new report shows more progress needs to be made.
Both Santa Clara Unified and San Jose Unified school districts received mid-level scores according to the Equality California Safe and Supportive Schools Report Card 2022, which rates districts on LGBTQ advocacy using factors such as curriculum LGBTQ inclusive and staff awareness training. Equality California is the state’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization.
The study looked at a total of 118 districts in the state during the 2021-22 school year. Santa Clara Unified and San Jose Unified were the only two local districts in Santa Clara County surveyed. The measures targeted only unified school districts and did not include districts that are only elementary or secondary schools.
Santa Clara Unified School District received a score of 147 compared to Cabrillo Unified School District of San Mateo County, which received the highest score of 191. Santa Ana Unified School District of Orange County received the lowest score of 29.
Santa Clara Unified School District’s highest-scoring category was for school climate, which assesses the district’s welcoming environments for LGBTQ students. Its curriculum category, which includes LGBTQ-inclusive sex education and recognizes LGBTQ history, scored lower.
The district is working on changes to better support LGBTQ students, in part in response to trends in other states, said Brad Stam, district director of studies and innovation. The district implements gender-accessible washrooms, LGBTQ clubs on campus, and an LGBTQ policy committee led by the district board.
“What is happening nationally in some states…is quite scary. There were worries that made us look within and say, “Are we doing enough? Stam told San Jose Spotlight. “We can only judge ourselves by the experience of our most underserved and marginalized students.”
The San Jose Unified School District received an overall score of 117; the highest-rated categories in the district were for school climate for the LGBTQ community and mental health support. The district’s lowest-rated category was training, which includes staff developments on how to support LGBTQ students.
The San Jose Unified School District did not respond to requests for comment.
Districts must be at the forefront of ensuring school environments are supportive, especially as LGBTQ student safety is under attack across the country, local leaders said.
“Our young people deserve to see themselves reflected in what they learn: it’s not about pushing an agenda. It’s not about encouraging people to identify in a certain way,” said Adrienne Keel, director of The LGBTQ Youth Space. The organization provides youth counseling and professional development training for schools and other local groups. “It’s just about celebrating the validity, the experience and the resilience of different communities.”
Nationally, schools are increasingly being targeted by those promoting anti-LGBTQ policies. For example, book bans have targeted works with LGBTQ characters or by LGBTQ writers through book reviews offered in libraries and classrooms. Santa Clara County is not immune to national trends as political polarization hits school board races this election cycle and candidates openly express anti-LGBTQ views.
Schools need to address LGBTQ inclusivity on many levels, from curriculum to hiring, said Gabrielle Antolovich, president of the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ Community Center. Antolovich said classes and books can showcase LGBTQ authors, scientists and athletes.
“A lot of it is the hiring of teachers, counselors, even administrators impacting parents and students,” Antolovich told San Jose Spotlight.
Visibility is also crucial, said Mary Ann Dewan, superintendent of Santa Clara and San Jose County Schools. journalist. The county is working to provide training and supplies for staff to display posters or badges in their classrooms indicating LGBTQ support.
Next steps for the Santa Clara Unified School District include analyzing the curriculum to ensure book lists and lessons are more LGBTQ-representative, while providing staff training that goes beyond awareness and focuses on advocacy, Stam said.
“We need to be at the forefront of the districts at the forefront of this work,” Stam told San Jose Spotlight. “That is the responsibility we have taken on and the goal we have set for ourselves.”
Contact Loan-Anh Pham at [email protected] or follow @theLoanAnhLede on Twitter.