Michael Emanuel Rajner

Broward Public Schools add Protections for Transgender Students and Teachers

Filed By Michael Emanuel Rajner | March 16, 2011 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Transgender & Intersex
Tags: BHRI, Broward County Public Schools, Broward Human Rights Initiatives, Equality Florida, Injustice at Every Turn, Jennifer Gottlieb, Michael Rajner, NCTE, NGLTF, Pride Center, public school, SunServe, The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, transgender, Transgender Discrimination Survey

More than a year ago, as an openly gay appointee to the School Board of Broward County's Diversity Committee,broward-schools.jpg I visited a high school to witness their inaugural Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) meeting. I held back the tears when a transgender student stood up and courageously shared the struggle and horrific reality the student endured after being rejected by their family and left to die homeless on the dangerous streets. It is a story too many LGBT-activists already know, a story of a youth forced into prostitution, street drugs, possible HIV-infection, and attempted suicide. Over the past several years, I'm proud to say that I have and will continue to be part of efforts to advance protections and inclusion for all people.

Broward County Public Schools, the nation's sixth largest school district, with nearly 35,000 employees and 250,000 students, amended the District's Non-Discrimination Policy to include protections for transgender students and employees on March 1, 2011. Paul Hyman, executive director of The Pride Center at Equality Park and Mark Ketcham, executive director of SunServe both thanked board members for continuing to support LGBTQ-youth.

School board members, administrators and members of the public listened attentively as the executive directors from two of South Florida's LGBTQ-organizations spoke in support of the change in policy. One parent spoke in support of the policy change and even shared her family's experience and disclosed her child is transgender. The school board voted unanimously to approve the change in policy.

Representatives from Equality Florida and Broward Human Rights Initiatives were present at the January 25th when the proposed changes were presented to the board on its first reading. In a written statement, both organizations voiced their strong support of the policy change to board members.

Continue after the jump for videos and more.

Shortly before the meeting began, I placed copies of Injustice at Every Turn, a study of transgender discrimination on every board member's seat. Throughout the morning, board members were seen reviewing the report, board member Jennifer Gottlieb quoted from the report.

Mother of transgender youth urges the school board to protect her child:

My statement to board members:

The poem below, read to board members, was written by a transgender youth (age 9) in September, 2010:

I'm lonely and I have no friends because they hate me. Sometimes I want to kill myself because of how cold my heart is. I sometimes dislike school because my friends act like I'm not even with them. Life Sucks!!!!!!!!! I wish everyone would treat me with peace and respect. Peace, oh how I love the way the word flows. I'm closing my eyes and peace is drifting in the vast sky. Children laughing and playing with me and adults working together. I wish that it's impossible to be horrid. That would be perfect but I try not to get my hopes up because no one is ever going to treat me properly. I try to be nice but no one cares. Life isn't fair!


Executive directors from South Florida's LGBT organizations thank the board for their actions of support:

While the inclusive language to add "gender identity" and "gender expression" to the district's policy looks great on paper, the real challenge, as is any system, will be to guarantee the policy is implemented correctly.

If you are interested to make this change in your local community, make certain to reach out to your local, state, and national LGBTQ organizations.

Below are the videos of the television coverage the issue garnered:

CBS4 News

Broward Transgender Students Protected by New Policy

WSVN Channel 7 News

Broward County Schools changes discrimination policy

Recent Entries Filed under Transgender & Intersex:

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Cheryl Cristello | March 16, 2011 1:24 PM

Particularly powerful are those parents who love their children unconditionally, who have the courage and are willing to stand up and advocate publically for their and our nations youth. Demystifying gender and sexuality, education will ultimately yield equality............someday.

Cheryl, working with the mother featured in this blog was truly an honor. She was one of the brave parents who dared to emerge from the shadows and serve as a voice for others who struggle in silence.

It's stories like this that gives me hope for the future.

This is great news, and thanks for all the video, Michael.

"While the inclusive language to add "gender identity" and "gender expression" to the district's policy looks great on paper, the real challenge, as is any system, will be to guarantee the policy is implemented correctly."

And does that mean for all employees... subs, freelancers, aides, clerical, etc. or only for tenured teachers? I taught for a district that had those policies and the reality of it was that it was extremely leaky and when push came to shove, they'd shove you out in a minute if they could do so and avoid litigation (especially if there was any, and I mean any dribble of concern from parents or staff). In this era of pink slipped employees it's extremely easy for school districts to give people the boot and, if it's done with a smile on their face, you have no protections. I just wish the reality of this would be acknowledged rather than pretending Trans people are actually somehow supported in the teaching profession.