Michael Emanuel Rajner

South Florida Schools Come Out for LGBT History Month

Filed By Michael Emanuel Rajner | October 22, 2012 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: bisexual, Broward, bullying, Equality Forum, FAIR Education Act, lesbian, LGBT, LGBT History Month, Los Angeles Unified, Palm Beach, School Board, transgender

LGBT History Month - Jeanette, Laurie and Eliana.jpgThis past September, the South Florida LGBT community and allies in Broward County came together as school district administrators, community leaders and organizations celebrated a school board resolution to support Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) History Month.

Laurie Rich Levinson, Vice Chair of The School Board of Broward County, Florida brought the resolution forward. The School Board of Broward County voted unanimously to support the board resolution. According to Equality Forum, Broward is the first school board to adopt such a resolution. For the last seven years, Equality Forum, a Philadelphia-based organization has been coordinating LGBT History Month worldwide, producing documentary films, undertaking high-impact initiatives and presenting annually the largest national and international LGBT civil rights summit.

The agenda item appeared before the school board on September 19, 2012. The statements made by each speaker moved the school board and the audience for nearly forty minutes. The most powerful of the speakers were the voices of two Broward County Public Schools high school students, Eliana Mor and Lapolaean Washington. They shared how important the resolution was for themselves and their peers for the school board to adopt the resolution.

Eliana Mor stated:

"As a public school student, I have seen discrimination first hand. I myself have been a victim of bullying in the past and statistics say that one out of four children are. Thankfully, I go to a school where we are fortunate enough to have a Gay Straight Alliance and many teachers and staff members who are accepting and understanding."

Eliana continued:

"It is devastating enough for children who are rejected by their friends and family, but when you spend six hours of the day, five days a week, in a learning environment, and you are forced to hide who you are because you fear you might be rejected there too, you begin to feel invisible. We live in a constantly changing fast-paced society, and we need to learn how to accept the differences in those who share the same hopes and dreams as we do. By validating the LGBT History Month through a resolution, not only will students be given the opportunity to learn about major historic events and potential role models, but they will be given a sense of pride and acceptance in their school and community. Expanding our curriculum and relating current events to our personal lives will make for a greater academic impact."

LGBT History Month 2012 - Leo & Laurie.jpgLapolaean Washington shared with the School Board:

"I'm eighteen. I'm a Christian. I'm an African-American. I'm an actor. I'm a model. I'm a varsity football player. I'm a team captain, I'm a club president. I'm all of those things. And I'm also gay."

"I've been able to become a better student and participate in extracurricular activities without being afraid. That's what I want for every student at every school. I want everyone to feel safe and to learn in an environment where they don't have to lie and where they can be honest and accepted for who they are. And for who they want to be when they grow up. That's why we need role models. Innovators, leaders and heroes with different gender identities and sexual orientations. People who are different and people who make a difference. That why we need LGBT History Month."

Lapolaean later returned to the microphone to speak about his fellow students who fear telling their parents that they are gay.

Several other speakers included the parent of a transgender child, school administrators, openly gay elected officials and community leaders. In the audience were other people, including an openly gay police captain who attended to support this historic day.

"The Broward School Board is to be commended. They have broken the cocoon of invisibility, affirmed the important role of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans and taken a pioneering step in embracing diversity, inclusion and respect," stated Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director of the Equality Forum and founder of LGBT History Month.

California is the only state to adopt the FAIR Education Act, making California the first state to require public schools to teach LGBT inclusive history; the resolution in Broward County, Florida does not establish or mandate any curriculum. This year, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the nation's second largest school district, has collaborated in LGBT History Month. The district utilizes Equality Forum's free LGBT History Month online educational resources.

On October 17, 2012, the Palm Beach County School Board in Florida, the 13th largest school district in the nation, unanimously issued a proclamation in support of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) History Month.

With 2013 being an off election year, I'm predicting more school districts around the nation will step forward with similar leadership. The video contained in this blog, nearly 40 minutes in total, includes all of the speakers and comments made by School Board Members. It is my hope that the video can be used as a teaching tool to help others move initiatives forward in their local communities.

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