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By Ed Sibby

OUSD’s model of acceptance and inclusion is an example of progress for LGBTQ+ students in our public schools.

CA Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond joined local Superintendent Julie Vitale, school administrators, educators, and local school board members to honor Oceanside Unified School District (OUSD) for its exemplary work in meeting the needs of its LGBTQ+ middle and high school students.

For the leadership of OUSD, building a culture of understanding and safety for all students is an ongoing and intentional process. By doing so, Superintendent Vitale has built a team of board members, administrators, educators, and support personnel who act intentionally each day to see and support every student.

As an organization, Equality California Institute has worked with districts throughout the state, offering opportunities for assessment on the issue of campus safety for students who identify as LGBTQ+. The award represents the efforts of everyone in the Oceanside education community who has played a part in the change in campus climate. The organization has sent survey invitations to all 343 unified school districts throughout the state.

OUSD’s work began over four years ago as administrators and board members, participated that year in a Safe Schools Survey that informed educators, parents, and students about the needs of non-binary students. Staff and students engage in practices that disrupt hate-motivated behavior and work toward inclusive practices both in and outside the classroom. In completing this work, districts are performing a form of self-audit on inclusion that is both a report card and a path for improvement.

Questions include what level of access for LGBTQ+ students exists on their campuses, including bathroom accommodations and level of dialogue about anti-bullying, as well as whether historical contributions of the non-binary community are a part of the curriculum as directed by the California F.A.I.R. Act. In the eleven years since its passage, the goal toward Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful LGBTQ+ content in our public schools is ongoing.

These shifts are evolutional but Oceanside stands out for putting its collective shoulder to the wheel in offering professional training to all staff to help their non-binary students navigate their school experience. Additional counselors and crisis intervention specialists have been added as well.

While OUSD officials describe their work as ongoing and incomplete, their progress toward a safer and more equitable community for LGBTQ+ has already been transformational in the lives of their students.

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