SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As legislatures and governors in dozens of states across the country advance a record number of bills targeting transgender children, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a budget proposal on Friday that includes $3 million for the California Department of Education to develop an LGBTQ+ cultural competency training curriculum for public school teachers and staff [p. 54]. The funding was requested by Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, and the request was supported by the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus.
The 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+.
“We’re thrilled that the governor has prioritized giving our public school teachers and staff the tools and training they need to support LGBTQ+ students,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur. “While states across the country are attacking transgender kids, Governor Newsom is working to ensure every child has a safe, supportive school and a shot at success.”
The California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers — 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.
“Governor Newsom and Superintendent Thurmond have once again demonstrated their dedication to supporting LGBTQ+ students,” said California Federation fo Teachers President Jeff Freitas. “The proposed $3 million to fund the development of LGBTQ+ cultural competency trainings for educators and classified professionals will empower these school workers to 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 applaud this effort.”
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.
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.
Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. We bring the voices of LGBTQ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. We advance civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating and mobilizing through an inclusive movement that works tirelessly on behalf of those we serve. www.eqca.org