Equity policies need to help LGBT students too, board told - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Equity policies need to help LGBT students too, board told

September 5th, 2019 development
Equity policies need to help LGBT students too, board told

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

As the Chandler Unified School District moves ahead with addressing issues of equity and diversity, some community members hope the LGBT students won’t be forgotten.

Adama Sallu, the district’s director of equity and inclusion, recently updated the CUSD Governing Board about the training staff has undergone this last year to better serve students who may feel marginalized.

“Equity done right is a gift to our children,” Sallu said, citing evidence-based training that’s underway to target suicide prevention, various equity committees that have been formed and new reading lists being explored that introduce students to diverse authors.

Every school district has to confront issues of equity, Sallu said, and CUSD is emerging as a leader in Arizona with its approach.

But some community members have expressed concern that not enough attention is being given to LGBT students.

A Bogle Junior School student who identifies as bisexual told the board last month classmates often use offensive language toward bisexuals and gays and wishes more could be done to have their behavior corrected.

Community members recently suggested the school board hold study sessions on the complexities of sexuality and gender.

Parent Jennifer Luke said she worries that the district is not creating a safe environment for LGBT students and believes the equity initiatives have gotten “watered down.”

“I feel that I need to know that when my child goes to school, he is feeling safe and he’s feeling safe to express himself,” Luke said.

Sallu said when she first came to the district last year, she met with leaders in the LGBT community to learn what more could be done in Chandler. They’re currently working on plans to implement infrastructure that will better serve these students, she said.

“It doesn’t happen overnight.” Sallu said.

The district’s counseling department provides resources for LGBT students on its website, including contact information for the Trevor Project, a national hotline that connects LGBT students with trained counselors.

Michael Soto, executive director of Equality Arizona, a LGBT advocacy organization, encouraged CUSD to ensure their students feel seen and represented.

“All students deserve to feel valued,” Soto said during a school board meeting. “I know that there is far too much misinformation and a lack of information about our community.”

Soto’s organization filed a lawsuit earlier this year against Arizona, challenging the so-called “no promo homo” law that prohibited school curriculum from portraying homosexuality in a positive light. Lawmakers repealed the law in April.

Soto applauded CUDS for its equity initiatives and reminded administrators that LGBT students face daily challenges that shouldn’t be forgotten about. He still remembers how isolated he felt attending schools in the East Valley and doesn’t want the same for Chandler.

“I never felt seen in my entire K-12 experience,” Soto said.