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Final California budget includes $3M for LGBTQ+ teacher training

“At a time when states across the country are attacking transgender kids, we are elated that California has taken this momentous step…”

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Governor Newsom signs Pre-K and K-12 education package a part of AB130 (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor of California)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom approved $3 million for the California Department of Education to develop an LGBTQ+ cultural competency training curriculum for public school teachers and staff on Monday. $2,402,000 of the funding request was included in AB 130, while the remaining $598,000 was approved in SB 129. The funding was requested by Equality California and supported by the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus.

The final budget allocation is a significant victory for the LGBTQ+ community and for Equality California, which has long advocated for such training, arguing that it is critical to ensuring teachers have the tools and training to support LGBTQ+ students, who face lower school completion rates, higher rates of depression and suicidal ideation and higher rates of youth homelessness. As many as four out of 10 youth experiencing homelessness in California identify as LGBTQ+.

In 2021 alone, state legislatures and governors across the country have introduced and enacted record numbers of legislation targeting transgender youth. According to Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.

“There’s no doubt that our schools must be a safe, supportive and welcoming for all students,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur. “At a time when states across the country are attacking transgender kids, we are elated that California has taken this momentous step toward ensuring that public school teachers and staff have the tools and training they need to support LGBTQ+ students.”

In 2018, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond — then a member of the California Assembly — passed legislation sponsored by Equality California to require school districts to provide teachers and staff with LGBTQ+ cultural competency training, but the bill was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown. The following year, then-Assemblymember Todd Gloria — who now serves as mayor of San Diego — authored similar legislation sponsored by Thurmond and Equality California, but the training mandate was ultimately stripped from the bill due to lack of funding.

“I am thankful to the Governor and the Legislature for prioritizing funding in the proposed budget for training and resources to support LGBTQ+ students,” said Thurmond. “Creating positive learning environments starts with us making our schools safe and inclusive for all students.”

The California Federation of Teachers and California Teachers Association — the state’s two largest teachers unions — have strongly supported Equality California’s proposals to ensure public school teachers and staff have the tools and training they need to support LGBTQ+ students.

“Our educators and classified school professionals are on the front lines every day, making sure every student feels safe, supported and ready to learn in school,” said California Federation of Teachers President Jeff Freitas. “The $3 million allocation to develop LGBTQ+ cultural competency training for school workers will help ensure they have the tools they need to best support LGBTQ+ students. As the president of CFT, as a math teacher, and as a board member of Equality California, I am so grateful to Governor Newsom, Superintendent Thurmond and the Legislature for their dedication to our LGBTQ+ students, teachers and the community.”

GLSEN’s 2019 National School Climate Survey found that 52.4% of students reported that their teachers or other school staff made homophobic remarks, and 66.7% of students reported that their teachers or other school staff spoke negatively about students’ gender expression. These remarks pose a risk of immediate harm to students’ well-being. These statistics also suggest that students may be learning anti-LGBTQ+ language and perspectives from school personnel, perpetuating the societal cycle of anti-LGBTQ+ stigma that feeds the negative health, economic and other disparities that LGBTQ+ people experience.

Beyond remarks, a staggering 86.3% of LGBTQ+ students experienced harassment or assault based on their sexual orientation, gender expression, or other personal characteristics. Over half (56.6%) of these LGBTQ+ students never reported the harassment or assault to school staff for a variety of reasons, including a fear of escalation, a belief that school staff would not effectively intervene, shame, the involvement of school staff in the harassment or assault, or other concerns. When students did report incidents, 60.5% of them said that staff did nothing.

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California

H.S. students steal Pride flag, defecate on it & post video to TikTok

“It was definitely an act of hate directed at the LGBTQ community and a lot of students felt it, you know, felt that attack very acutely”

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Paso Robles High School via Google Earth

PASO ROBLES, Ca. – Earlier this school year two students walked into a science teacher’s classroom at Paso Robles High School, they proceeded to rip down the LGBTQ+ Pride flag hanging in the room and fled out the door. The theft took place as there was a classes break and as science instructor Evan Holtz took out after them he lost them in the throng of students in the hallway.

Holtz, who is a chemistry teacher, tutor, and swim coach, has been teaching at Paso Robles since 2019. In an interview with the San Luis Obispo Tribune, Holtz told the paper he had displayed the Pride flag to show solidarity with the school’s LGBTQ students, making sure that they knew they were welcome and safe in his classroom.

What happened immediately after the theft has left the high school’s LGBTQ+ students angered and alarmed. First, the Tribune reported, a video surfaced on TikTok of students attempting to flush the rainbow Pride flag down a toilet. Then, the video showed one student defecating on the flag in the toilet, according to those who had seen and heard about the video.

“It was definitely an act of hate directed at the LGBTQ community,” Geoffrey Land, a social sciences teacher told the paper. “And a lot of students felt it, you know, felt that attack very acutely.”

The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District said that administrators at the high school had taken “disciplinary action” after being alerted to the situation and the TikTok video by students. The next action undertaken on October 1st by the school district has left LGBTQ+ students disillusioned and further upset.

District Superintendent Curt Dubost sent a memorandum letter to faculty that read:

The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District has received multiple concerns about certain flag displays in teacher classrooms, including those that are large and distracting and those that alter the American flag.

I want to start by reiterating my statement from last year that rainbow flags mean different things to different people but to many are a symbol of safety, inclusion and equity. All students deserve protection against bullying and harassment. A safe, caring learning environment is essential if students are to achieve their academic potential.

We have a duty as a school district to ensure that hate speech and bullying conduct does not create an unsafe campus environment. Students in protected classes are often among the most vulnerable and susceptible to bullying and discrimination.”

Superintendent Dubost then laid out the new district policy: No flags bigger than 2 feet by 2 feet may be displayed in classrooms, and no flags that are “alterations of the American flag” may be displayed in classrooms.

In a follow-up interview with the Tribune Dubost justified his actions telling the paper, “We don’t want to turn it into a politicized issue where a student enters a classroom and looks up, ‘Oh, there’s a rainbow flag here, or there’s a blue lives matter flag here — that determines what the partisanship is of my teacher.’ We think that that’s a real slippery slope. And so we continue to believe that this is a very reasonable compromise solution that allows rainbows, but within reason.”

In an op-ed written by PRHS students on National Coming Out day last week, they expressed their dismay over Dubost’s actions.

October 11 is National Coming Out Day, when lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people can celebrate support for LGBTQ equality. But in Paso Robles, where we attend high school, we cannot celebrate. Too often, LGBTQ students feel unwelcome, unsafe and targeted by hate.

After briefly mentioning the theft, video, and the action to ban flags other than a U.S. National flag taken by Superintendent Dubost they added:

Eventually, the school imposed minor discipline upon the offenders, and nearly two weeks later issued a policy statement that includes a ban on rainbow flags larger than 2’ x 2’. As the standard flag size is 3’ x 5’, the school purposefully banned the very flag that was desecrated. What message does this send to students? The flag ban means the school has allowed the haters to win, while LGBTQ students feel punished for wanting to be seen and supported.

The students cited a 2018 oral history project at PRHS which interviewed students in the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District area high schools of Templeton, Atascadero and Paso Robles.

They found that offensive slurs and open hostility directed at LGBTQ+ individuals were commonplace in classrooms. LGBTQ+ students reported not feeling included in their school culture. Students interviewed reported that teachers who wore rainbow colored pins or posted supportive flags or posters in their classroom walls helped create welcoming, safe spaces. Over the years, PRHS has witnessed loss of life, violence and intimidation — all in the name of anti-LGBTQ hate.

In their call to action the students stated that; “Enough is enough. How many more students will be traumatized by systems and people who fail to embrace the beauty and diversity of their students? The school’s response is a collective slap in the face of all LBGTQ students at PRHS. From our perspective, the school’s flag ban means they’re more interested in appeasing the bullies than protecting the safety of the victims of hate.”

There is a community forum event scheduled for Wednesday, October 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the PRHS performing arts center. Organized by students, the event, “Coming Out Against Hate,” is an opportunity for students to “share their experiences and visions for a more welcoming, inclusive educational environment,” and it’s the first forum of its kind in Paso Robles, according to a news release sent out about the event.

With the forum, we’re hoping that things change and they stop normalizing hate against us,” a senior told the Tribune, “I’m really proud of the fact that so many people are brave enough to come up against the adversity that is very obvious here. We might get a ton of hate for this. We might get hate-crimed ourselves.

But we can’t let this continue. We have a culture of homophobia here. We literally have no other option than to put ourselves kind of at risk and in danger. Because we can’t let this continue.”

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California

Gender neutral toy section in retail stores bill signed by Newsom

California now becomes the first state to require big box stores and large retailers to set aside areas with a gender neutral section

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Ballinger Family at Mattel's Creatable World dolls event 2019 (Screenshot from YouTube )

SACRAMENTO – A law that designates display of products like toys and childcare items in gender-neutral ways was signed Saturday by Governor Gavin Newsom. California now becomes the first state in the nation to require big box stores and large retailers to set aside areas with “a gender neutral section with a reasonable selection of items regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys.”

AB 1084 is co-authored by Assemblyman Evan Low, who chairs the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, and Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who chairs the California Legislative Women’s Caucus.

The new law addresses what LGBTQ+ advocates have been championing to address more open acceptance of diversity and inclusion of gender models outside of the more rigid ‘traditional’ established societal models that LGBTQ advocacy groups have said are archaic and harmful to healthy development for LGBTQ+ youth.

“I’m incredibly grateful to Gov. Gavin Newsom for signing AB 1084, which will bring California law up to speed with what many retailers have already realized: We need to stop stigmatizing what’s acceptable for certain genders and just let kids be kids. My hope is this bill encourages more businesses across California and the U.S. to avoid reinforcing harmful and outdated stereotypes,” Low said in an emailed statement.

“We need to stop stigmatizing what’s acceptable for certain genders and just let kids be kids,” Low added. “My hope is this bill encourages more businesses across California and the U.S. to avoid reinforcing harmful and outdated stereotypes.”

The California Retailers Association declined to comment on the bill after its passage last month. Formal opposition has come from a number of conservative groups. State Sen. Melissa Melendez, a Republican from Lake Elsinore, voted against the bill, the Associated Press reported, saying she would “recommend we let parents be parents.”

“Unlike the author, I actually have children, five of them to be exact, and I can tell you it is very convenient for parents,” she said. “I don’t think parents need the government to step in and tell them how they should shop for their children.”

The law, which does not include clothes solely applies to toys and “childcare items,” which include hygiene and tooth products. Retail companies with at least 500 employees are affected, however, small businesses are exempt.

In 2015, Minneapolis based Target Corporation with 1,914 stores across the United States, announced it would stop using some gender-based signs in its stores.

While AB1084 requires large department stores to comply, penalties for not doing so would be light. Starting in 2024, prosecutors could seek fines of up to $250 for first offenses and up to $500 for second offenses. Those would be civil, not criminal, penalties. Stores could also end up having to pay for reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

Related coverage from ABC7 News Los Angeles:

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Newsom vetoes Recovery Incentives Act, the meth & overdose crisis bill

So many people across California are dying from meth overdoses, disproportionately LGBTQ people and people of color

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California Governor Gavin Newsom (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Friday night that he had vetoed Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) legislation, Senate Bill 110, — which passed with unanimous and bipartisan support in both houses of the California State Legislature — aimed at confronting the growing methamphetamine addiction crisis facing California.

In an text message to the Blade after learning of the governor’s veto, Wiener said;

I’m deeply disappointed that the Governor has chosen to veto SB 110. So many people across California are dying from meth overdoses, disproportionately LGBTQ people and people of color. And they’re dying right now. Time is of the essence. We know from more than a decade of data and experience that contingency management is highly effective in helping people stop using meth. Contingency management is a proven tool, and we don’t need pilot programs to tell us that. SB 110 would have made clear that contingency management is legal and would have allowed its implementation across the state. This veto is a setback in our effort to confront this epidemic.”

The Recovery Incentives Act aimed to legalize the substance use disorder treatment known as “contingency management,” and authorize Medi-Cal to cover it. Contingency management has proven to be the most effective method of treatment for methamphetamine addiction, and is frequently used as a treatment program by the Veterans Affairs Administration.

This intervention program gives those struggling with substance use disorder financial rewards if they enter substance use treatment programs, stay in the program, and get and remain sober. This positive reinforcement helps people reduce and even fully stop substance use.

The meth crisis is devastating the LGBTQ+ community, and every day that we fail to act means more lives lost to this urgent, preventable epidemic. We are deeply disappointed by today’s veto, but we are committed to expanding access to this important program. We look forward to working with Senator Wiener to do so,”  Equality California’s Executive Director-designate Tony Hoang said.

In his veto message the governor noted:

This bill would require Medi-Cal substance use disorder services to include contingency management services as an optional benefit under the Drug Medi-Cal organized delivery system, subject to utilization controls. Given the promise of contingency management as a treatment for stimulant use disorders, the 2021-22 Budget includes funding to support a pilot
contingency management Medi-Cal benefit from January 2022 through March 2024
.

The Department of Health Care Services has sought federal approval for this pilot project and will work expeditiously to implement it once it is authorized. The outcomes and lessons learned from the pilot project should be evaluated before permanently extending the Medi-Cal benefit. As such, this bill is premature, and I am returning it without my signature.

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