Volume 16 Issue 3
By Bill Guy
Top row from left: Lisa Bartoli; Robert V. Rodriguez; and Samantha Pullen. Bottom row from left: Daniel Perez; Lori Regaldo; and Bill Fisher.
Nine out of 10 GLBT students have experienced harassment at school at a rate two to three times as often as straight teens. More than one-third of GLBT kids have attempted suicide. Designed to provide information and resources to prevent this kind of discrimination, CTA’s third annual Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Conference took place Oct. 28-30 in Palm Springs, drawing almost 300 participants from throughout California under the theme “Pride in Education.”
CTA President Dean E. Vogel gave the conference’s keynote address, and Vietnam veteran and Bronze Star recipient Col. Grethe Cammermeyer, who successfully challenged the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, gaining reinstatement in the National Guard, spoke to participants at Saturday’s lunch. “I have learned that ‘If I am uncomfortable, it is where I need to be.’ It is only by challenging others with our humanity that we will become human in their eyes. I will continue to speak out, and I hope you do too,” said Cammermeyer.
State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), author of the newly signed SB 48, the Fair Education Act, concluded the conference with a Sunday morning address.
The CTA GLBT Issues Advisory Committee, co-chaired by Los Angeles educator Sue Cirillo and Santa Ana educator C. Scott Miller, coordinated the conference.
We caught up with a few of the participants at the GLBT Conference, and here’s what they had to say.
Lisa Bartoli > 4th Grade, Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association
I know that some of my elementary students may be experiencing a sense of being different without attaching such feelings to a specific identity. One reason for participating in the GLBT Conference was to learn how better to help such students and those around them become more tolerant of differences. Sen. Mark Leno’s remarks about commitment to finding “common ground” inspired me to further dedicate myself to this practice. As a passionate believer in respectful treatment for all, I have served as a team member for the bullying prevention program implemented by my district. My colleagues are already extremely sensitive to GLBT issues, and I have already started inviting my straight allies to join me at next year’s event.
Robert V. Rodriguez > Grades 4-8 Special Education, San Bernardino Teachers Association
My most significant “take away” was the Laramie Project, a powerful presentation on teaching GLBT issues within the content area aligned to state standards. The strategies were engaging, thought-provoking and empowering. California legislation now mandates incorporating safety in school and the positive contributions of GLBT historical figures into the curriculum, so this conference was especially timely. I also benefited from workshops on Bullying Prevention, Creating Safe Zones for Students and Staff, Legal Rights for GLBT Members, and Unconscious Bias. I’d like to bring back some of the things I learned at the conference to help create a more positive culture at my school toward GLBT issues, including bullying prevention.
Samantha Pullen > President, Student CTA
Since the GLBT community is under attack on all fronts, it is essential for organizations like CTA to do everything possible to educate and support the rights of all members and students. My participation has helped me realize that although I think I am sensitive and supportive of GLBT issues, it goes to a much deeper level. After engaging in productive discussions on a large range of GLBT issues, I will leave the conference sobered by the degree to which many GLBT educators and students wrestle every day with the fear that their sexuality could make them targets of discrimination or even violence. Educators and students should not have to hide part of who they are. The bottom line is equitable rights for all.
Daniel Perez > High School English, Fremont Education Association
Traditionally, GLBT issues in education have been swept under the rug, but with more students and educators coming out, there’s a growing need to help them become aware of their rights, protections and history. As the Gay-Straight Alliance adviser at my high school, I found many valuable resources at this conference. Mobilizing my students and colleagues to participate in Gay-Straight Alliance events continues to be a challenge, and support is often more talked about than acted upon. I’m hoping to increase the visibility of GLBT issues, highlighting that respect and safety affect us all. I think once people understand that GLBT issues are bigger than they might think, maybe they’ll be more active in their support.
Lori Regalado > Preschool Teacher, Redlands Education Support Professionals Association
It is extremely important for all who work in a school to become educated about GLBT issues so that there can be more support for colleagues and students. Before attending this conference, I did not have a good understanding of the obstacles faced by GLBT students and colleagues on a daily basis, but I have learned so much valuable information. It is important that all conference participants could be themselves without hesitation or anxiety. With a graduate degree in school counseling and a PPS Credential, I’m hoping to go into that field, and I know that my experience at this conference has given me many resources toward that goal. I can’t wait for next year’s GLBT Conference!
Bill Fisher > President, Corona-Norco Teachers Association
Our local chapter does not currently have an active GLBT Committee to advocate for our members or students who belong to the GLBT community. I participated in this conference to get knowledge and ideas about how to actively seek out members willing to help build an infrastructure in CNTA to support those who may not feel supported or safe in traditional groups in CNTA or at school sites. As a leader, I need to show by example the responsibility all educators have to be good allies for all our GLBT members and students. Knowledge is the key. No one who becomes informed about the issues facing our GLBT population can comfortably sit on the sidelines. All in the education profession have a responsibility to understand these compelling issues.
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