California Educator

MARCH 2011

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Tips toward a safe school culture > Be aware — take the risk and challenge off ensive behavior. > Find a way to address anti-GLBT slurs like “That’s so gay.” > Display signs, symbols (rainbows/ rainbow colors) and posters that identify the classroom and campus as a safe zone where GLBT stu- dents can feel supported. > Support GLBT student clubs, such as a Gay-Straight Alliance. > Present positive GLBT images and role models embedded in the curriculum. > Become aware of your own language and make changes if needed. > Ensure that school personnel and the school district enforce poli- cies that protect against sexual orientation discrimination. > Work with your union or school district to off er training for staff . Both CTA and NEA off er specifi c trainings regarding GLBT issues. > Do not use stereotypes or biased language. > Respect the confi dentiality of your students regarding their sexuality. > Be supportive and empathetic if a GLBT student comes to you with concerns, and if you can’t be, take the time to identify indi- viduals who can. Compiled from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and “Creating Homophobia-Free Classrooms” by Eleanor Evans, San Diego Teachers Association Educators legally must prevent GLBT bullying by Priscilla Winslow, CTA assistant chief counsel Standing up for students who are ha- rassed or bullied by their peers isn’t just good policy and an ethical duty; it is re- quired by state and federal law. Failing to do so can have dire financial consequenc- es for both teachers and school adminis- trators who ignore student hate crimes or harassment. Just ask any of the administrators who were personally sued by several students who were either gay or les- bian or perceived to be by other stu- dents in the case Flores v. Morgan Hill Unified School District. The plaintiffs complained to principals and assis- tant principals about harassment and bullying they suffered, including be- ing physically beaten by students who yel led, “Faggot, you don’t belong here.” Two girls who had started dat- ing each other in high school were verba l ly haras s ed by boys in the school parking lot. In both instances, when the students complained, the administrators re- sponded in a perfunctory manner, such as urging the students to report the in- cident to the campus police, but failing to follow up. The boy who was beaten up was transferred to another school, and only one of his six assailants was punished. The court held that the ad- ministrators could be held liable for failing to take effective remedial mea- sures to stop the harassment. “Effec- t ive” in this context meant taking further steps if the initial discipline was inadequate and doing a thorough investigation of complaints. Instead, the district failed to discipline the ha- rassers, and failed to train students, 16 California Educator | MARCH 2011 teachers and other school personnel about the district’s policy prohibiting harassment on the basis of sexual orientation. State statutes also prohibit discrim- ination in schools on the basis of sex, race, sexual orientation or gender identity, physical disability, religion, and national origin (Ed. Code sections 200 and 220). The State Board of Edu- cation is charged with the responsibili- ty of adopting policies directed at creating an environment in K-12 schools that is free from discriminatory attitudes and hate violence. This includes revising curriculum guidelines to include fos- tering an appreciation of diversity (Ed. Code section 233). Students between fourth and 12th grades can be suspended or expelled if they engage in hate violence, which includes assault or battery or other vi- olent acts that are motivated by preju- dice on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical disabi li ty, etc. (Ed. Code section 48900.3; Penal Code sections 422.6, 422.7). School districts have an obligation to develop, implement, and annually review a school safety plan (Ed. Code section 33280). Discrimination and anti-harassment policies must be part of the overall school safety plan, and school employees and parents should be involved in the formulation of such a plan (Ed. Code section 32282). In addition, school safety is something about which the employer has an obliga- tion to negotiate with the employee orga- nization, so don’t hesitate to demand to bargain over any harassment or bullying issues that affect employment.

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