February 21, 2019 at 11:02 am PDT | by Craig Appelbaum
Proposed Legislation would help California LGBTQ students

Superintendent Tony Thurmond and Assemblymember Todd Gloria meet with students (Photo courtesy Equality California)

State officials proposed a new law that would require California schools to provide annual teacher and staff training on how to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students both at school and in their local community.

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond and Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) joined with Equality California on Feb. 13 to announce the Safe and Supportive School Act of 2019 (AB 493) to give teachers and staff the tools they need to support LGBTQ students to be successful.

“The bullying and name calling I experienced in school as a young gay kid is still a reality for today’s LGBTQ youth.  No child should have to experience that,” Gloria said in a statement. “Students should feel safe, accepted, included, and supported in their schools.”

“I’m proud to co-sponsor AB 493, which will help protect California’s LGBTQ students by providing teachers the resources they need to support them at both school and home,” said Thurmond. “Every child deserves a caring and supportive school environment, and we must continue to work towards closing disparities in health, mental health and academic outcomes for our LGBTQ students.”

“When LGBTQ students don’t feel safe and supported at school, they can’t learn,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. “It’s time for California to give our hardworking teachers the tools and training they need to ensure every student — regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity — has a shot at success. We’re excited to partner with Superintendent Thurmond and Assemblymember Gloria to get this done.”

The bill was welcomed by teachers.  “I think it’s a positive first step,” said Sim Leng, an LGTBQ teacher in South Los Angeles. “In the education community, to get to a kid academically, we need to meet their social and emotional needs as well.”

A 2017 GLSEN study reported that 82 percent of LGBTQ students heard anti-LGBTQ remarks at school; approximately 7 in 10 were called names or threatened based on their perceived sexual orientation; and more than one-third of LGBTQ students said they missed at least one day of school as a result of feeling unsafe.

Additionally, according to the Human Rights Campaign and University of Connecticut’s recently released California LGBTQ Youth Report, half of California’s LGBTQ youth have been teased or bullied for their sexual orientation or gender identity and 28 percent said they have been threatened with physical violence at school. Research also consistently shows that students who are the targets of bullying, harassment and discrimination are more likely to miss school, see their academic performance suffer or even drop out of school as a result. LGBTQ youth face additional disparities in health and well-being, including higher rates of homelessness, suicide and substance use and lower rates of economic success than their non-LGBTQ peers.

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