The odds that San Francisco Giants would become World Champions were about as good as those of Jerry Brown being once again elected Governor, Gavin Newsom as Lieutenant Governor, and Larry Aceves as Superintendent of Public Instruction. I proudly advocated through money and mouth in all four of these potentially historic events.
Now I want to turn my attention to building support for an anti-gay bullying policy, while strengthening all anti-bullying efforts in Santa Clara County. As a small-time elected leader on the County School Board perhaps I might have a role to play.
The US Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Russlyn Ali, in a new advisory released Oct. 26, warns that schools can lose federal dollars if they do not comply with the civil rights laws to protect gay students. It has been a traditional Office of Civil Rights policy to protect US students against discrimination based on race, gender, religion, national origin and disability, however this is the first time a government advisory mentions LGBT discrimination. LGBT students should be protected from harassment due to “failing to conform to sex stereotypes” according to the new advisory.
There is a fascinating local connection to all these aforementioned policy makers and elected leaders. Both Brown and Newsom attended Santa Clara University. Russlyn Ali was Executive Director of the Education Trust in Oakland before being appointed by the President to her current position. Larry Aceves was Superintendent of Franklin-McKinley School District in San Jose.
Perhaps at the state level Brown, Newsome and Aceves can begin to discuss ways California can lead the nation in promoting school environments free from bullying and discrimination. I hope California can raise its grade from the Bully Police USA from a B to the A+++ Florida earned last year.
This can be done while consulting with Russlyin Ali and the US
Department of Education. But that might take a long time to get started as it involves the largest and one of the more polarized states in our union. Santa Clara County is much less polarized and has elected leaders that think out of the box. Therefore, I strongly believe Santa Clara County should lead the way to advocate for policies, procedures, and practices that help eliminate anti-gay bullying from any of our educational environments elementary through university.
Interestingly, San Jose State President Don W. Kassing sent out an Oct. 30 e-mail to all university faculty, staff and students titled, “Standing up to bullying and cyber-bullying.” Kassing writes: “Five recent suicides of young people across the country put the potentially tragic consequences of bullying in sharp relief…No one among our community has the right to harass, intimidate, humiliate, or propagate hate toward any individual or group.” He encouraged all to speak up if they witness an incidence of bullying.
I think all SCC superintendents and principals should follow Kassing’s lead and communicate a similar message to all faculty, administrators, staff, and students. I agree with Pres. Obama. At an MTV town hall on Oct. 14, Obama, referring to whether being gay or transsexual is a choice, said, “I don’t profess to be an expert…I don’t think it is a choice. I think people are born with certain make-up, and we’re all children of God … we don’t make determinations about who we love. That’s why I think discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong.”
Most high schools in SCC have Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs that advocate tolerance. These clubs assuage the pain inflicted by anti-LGBT harassment and advocate for respect. I think it is high time middle schools develop Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs, since bullying and anti-LGBT harassment is endemic to the culture of most. Some parents would protest, but the law is on the side of those school
leaders who desire to be bold and courageous on behalf of voiceless children.
Perhaps the Board of Supervisors, my colleagues on the SCCOE Board of Education and the respective staffs could pave the way for us to lead the nation in advocating tolerance, especially in academic environments. I have placed a call to President Ken Yaeger of the Board of Supervisors to find out whom to meet with to continue discussing the possibilities.
If you have any thoughts on how to achieve bullying-free school environments please let me know.