Gender and Language Discrimination in Schools

Hi Friends!
I’m planning to speak at the June 18 APS School Board meeting where the PIP update will be presented, but they haven’t posted the agenda yet. Our friends at Arlington Gender Identify Allies (AGIA) shared that they are hoping people will speak, “thanking the SB for supporting trans and gender nonconforming students, that you’re the parent of cisgender children and you’re comfortable having them educated in a school district that supports and affirms trans and gender non-conforming students, and that single-stall, gender-neutral bathrooms should not only be accessible, but conveniently located.” If you’re willing to read comments from others who need to stay stealth, please let me know and I’ll connect you to them. Please come if you want to speak (or just to be there in support).
There was a recent article in the Washington Post by Monica Hesse, who writes about gender issues, that really was a beautiful parallel to why people of color need white people to speak up about racism (just as, in the article, Hesse asks men to speak up about sexism). It’s a similar dynamic of asking those with an outsized amount of power in the situation to be the ones to ensure equitable change takes place. Maybe this comparison can be a tool for bringing the conversation up with people.
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Theresa Vargas wrote about the settlement APS reached with the Department of Justice regarding how it educates our English language learners and my main takeaway from it was a quote from an unnamed teacher (they didn’t want to lose their job): ““Most staff members don’t understand how big the issues are. Those of us who know are too afraid to say anything. Parents have no clue.””
This tells me that we need to push even harder to advocate, to learn about the challenges actually facing our students and their families, to empower our teachers and staff to speak up without fear for their jobs, to provide our staff with cultural competency training so they can understand the challenges their students face, so they can understand how big the issues are. We need to truly do the work of looking at our issues openly so we can address them, not pretending that they don’t exist. Speaking of pretending, everyone I spoke with after the settlement story broke had no idea that the suit was even pending. We cannot address what we cannot see.
One of the ways you can advocate is by helping your PTA become more of an advocacy arm to the district on behalf of your school’s staff (who often feel unable to speak up about what they observe). Make sure you’re engaging your school’s teachers, administrators, and staff in a way that supports and advocates for students. Provide ample opportunity for teachers to share with you and coordinate with your school community to advocate as a group.
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Culture change is a marathon of daily steps. Keep moving and bring along as many teammates as you can.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

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