LGBTQ+ networking event: A safe space to learn and share

May 23, 2019 Staff Writer

ACSA recently held its first Northern California networking event meant for LGBTQ+ administrators and allies.

“Everyone needs a community — and often a ‘like me’ community — to survive in the working world,” said Steven Bailey, a retired Ventura USD human resources administrator. “ACSA is in a unique position to openly provide that support through any number of outlets.”

ACSA members share their journey and build community during ACSA's LGBTQ+ networking event.A handful of ACSA members turned up at the event sponsored by Stifel to share their leadership journey, discuss the challenges LGBTQ+ school leaders encounter daily, and begin to build a supportive network for each other beyond their own school sites and districts.

Why is there a need? Unfortunately, studies show that many barriers for LGBTQ+ communities still exist. Data from GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey says:

• One third of LGBTQ educators feel their job would be at risk if they were to come out to colleagues.

• Half of all LGBTQ educators believe their job would be at risk if they were to come out to students.

Event attendees echoed these concerns as they grappled with the ability to bring their full selves to work, let alone “out” themselves. LGBTQ+ members often struggle to talk about their personal relationships and change the way they dress or speak in a professional setting in order to avoid discrimination.

LGBTQ+ leaders who have these fears and challenges should stay focused on doing great work, advises Mike Tapia, former principal of Montalvo Arts Academy in ACSA Region 13.

 “If you regularly demonstrate a strong work ethic, commitment to your students’ success and well-being, and collaborative attitude, then I think most people will accept you regardless of your sexual orientation, and at the very least, work with you on behalf of the students,” said Tapia.

“It is always a good idea to communicate early on with your boss about who you are, as well,” added Bailey. “You are going to need support as you let your colleagues into your sphere. You’ll probably be surprised to discover other LGBTQ staff and allies at your site or office who you can count on for support, too.”

Bailey pointed out that, at least in California, you cannot be fired or discriminated against because of your sexual orientation.

“This is a powerful piece of knowledge to carry with you,” Bailey said.

GLSEN’s report also highlights the negative experiences that LGBTQ+ students experience at middle and high school levels. The issues range from biased language from both students and adults on campus, experiences of harassment and assault, to lack of supportive school resources — all of which lead to a hostile school climate that affects educational outcomes and psychological well-being.

“It is to help change statistics like these that ACSA provides a platform for dialogue and a safe space for members of marginalized groups to gather,” said ACSA Executive Director Wes Smith. “When members can turn to their professional organization for support and use their stories to help others learn and build capacity for inclusive practices, it moves everyone closer to improving educational outcomes for all students, especially those marginalized, disenfranchised and disengaged.”

To learn more about ACSA’s other equity work, please visit our website at www.acsa.org/equity.

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