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 Supporting and Learning from San Diego County’s LGBTQIA+ Students

​As the community comes together to celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, plus (LGBTQIA+) Pride Month, the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) continues to expand partnerships with key LGBTQIA+ partners and learn from students who are LGBTQIA+. 

These collaborations aim to help educators cultivate positive and safe school environments that empower youth with the confidence and knowledge needed to succeed. 

“SDCOE is committed to safety, inclusion, representation, and affirmation for all students,” said San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold. “Research that shows that a hostile school climate affects students’ academic success and mental health, and that LGBTQIA+ students who experience victimization and discrimination at school have worse educational outcomes and poorer psychological well-being. It’s up to us to offer resources and supports to promote a positive learning experience.”

The resources include the LGBTQ+ Youth Standards of Care, a recently released document created by the San Diego LGBT Community Leadership Council’s Youth Services Committee under the leadership of San Diego Pride, the SD LGBT Community Center, The North County LGBTQ Resource Center, and Trans Family Services. The standards outline best practices and relevant resources that reflect and comply with California Education Code and laws.  

Dr. Julie Vitale, superintendent of the Oceanside Unified School District, said “The LGBTQIA+ Youth Standards of Care will serve as a guidepost to ensure we are meeting the needs of our LGBTQIA+ students.”

Max Disposti serves as executive director of the North County LGBTQ Resource Center and said he hopes the new standards empower adults to better serve our students.

“With the publication of this joint work from our San Diego County LGBTQI community, we are hoping to inspire all of our partners to do better, so that every queer youth in every corner of our county will feel fully protected and safe to finally pursue their educational goals without fear and isolation,” he said.

Incorporating Youth and Community Voices

The County Office of Education is also listening to the voices of LGBTQIA+ youth to inform our efforts. In May, SDCOE hosted an LGBTQIA+ Student Experience Panel where students from across San Diego County shared their experiences in local schools. The students asked that schools be mindful of language, pursue inclusive sex education curriculum, actively use preferred pronouns, celebrate LGBTQIA+ history and contributions, and do so with cultural humility and professional curiosity.

These conversations have helped SDCOE build support for local educators, including a 10-session online training this spring focused on best practices, support for Genders and Sexualities Alliance (GSA) advisors, and training for educators in collaboration with GLSEN San Diego County. 

Community participation is also critical. Last year, SDCOE established an LGBTQIA+ advisory committee to provide input to the county superintendent of schools. The committee is in addition to an ad hoc group that designs and shares best practices for instruction as well as social and emotional practices. SDCOE is also a member of the LGBTQIA+ County Collaborative, which offers a platform for the exchange of information and best practices in promoting the safety and affirmation of all students and fostering a culture of respect and care that supports and meets the needs of LGBTQIA+ students.  

SDCOE supports schools in implementing a history and social studies curriculum that highlights the contributions of members of the LGBTQIA+ community and allows students to see themselves accurately reflected, as prescribed by the FAIR Education Act, Senate Bill 48, which was signed into law on July 14, 2011.

Creating Welcoming School Climates

The County Office of Education also supports schools in the adoption and implementation of comprehensive bullying/harassment policies that specifically enumerate sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression with clear and effective systems for reporting and addressing incidents. California state law addresses discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying toward LGBTQIA+ youth.

For her community, Vitale shared, “Oceanside Unified supports the inclusion and acceptance of all people for who they are. Our non-discrimination policy ‘prohibits discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying in educational programs, activities, or employment on the basis of actual or perceived ancestry, age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, immigration status, religious beliefs or customs, sexual orientation, parental, pregnancy, family or marital status, military status or association with a person or a group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.’ During this month of Pride we stand with our LGBTQIA+ students, staff, and community members.”

Recognizing LGBTQIA+ Pride Month

This year, for the first time, the San Diego County Board of Education passed a resolution declaring June 2021 as LGBTQIA+ Pride Month. The observance is celebrated in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. 

“All students deserve to feel safe and welcome in their schools and to see themselves represented in the curricula,” said San Diego County Board of Education President Guadalupe González. “By offering pertinent resources, we can foster a school climate where students, staff members, and families who identify as LGBTQIA+ can live their authentic lives and be treated with dignity and respect.”