GLBT people know how difficult grade school and high school can be. Many were bullied relentlessly, while few knew other GLBT people or supportive allies. Our community knows the importance of having our voices heard. In many cases, our children's lives and well-being are dependent on it. With our youth's well-being in mind, The Long Island GLBT Services Network has chartered the nation's first GLBT-focused Parent Teacher Student Association.
Unfortunately, school districts are facing an ever growing set of demands, in combination with decreased funding and resources. New to the already long list are New York's Student Learning Objectives. With schools facing mandates from every direction, how does the GLBT community have a voice, and help local districts at the same time?
Bullying is a core issue for every school district across the nation. Stories of horrible treatment surface almost daily, yet increased media coverage does not prevent bullying from happening. Further, research shows that much of the bullying that takes place is based on perceived gender non-conformity and perceived homosexuality. For example, boys are called sissy, fag, gay, or queer. They may be challenged to physical altercations to “show” their masculinity.
The GLBT community knows how important parent advocates are. One supportive parent in a local community can make the difference for multiple youth. Whether parents are GLBT themselves, they have a GLBT child, or they simply believe in equal treatment for GLBT people, every parent that supports youth is providing valuable service for their communities.
In addition to parental advocacy, student voices are often what change hearts and minds. Experiences of GLBT youth and their allies will prove invaluable as the Long Island PTSA introduces itself to districts across Long Island.
In New York, the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), was signed into law on September 13, 2010 and took effect on July 1, 2012.“(Source) www.p12.nysed.gov/dignityact/
'(The Dignity Act) seeks to provide the state’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function.'
Bullying will signficantly decrease when districts are equipped with GLBT inclusive curriculum and faculty have been given the support and education needed to address bullying incidents. The Long Island PTSA has the expertise to help school districts address bullying, from elementary through high school.
The future of the PTSA will be to carry the voice of GLBT youth to PTA's across New York. The PTSA seeks to provide long-term consultation and support; including workshops and trainings, for every school district requesting it.
For GLBT people, family members, and allies, living in rural and suburban areas can feel isolating, and the courage needed to represent our community is significant. Participants in Long Island's GLBT Services Network know they have support. PTSA membership reminds participants that their mission, in their particular corner of the island, is immensely important, and they go forward with greater confidence.