In June, Judi Burle, a teacher in the San Leandro Unified School District, sent an email message to fellow teachers and members of the community inviting us to march with her in the 2009 Pride Parade in San Francisco. She stated,
I am very proud of the pioneering work we have done in our district to teach respect and safety for LGBT people. We're really awesome in this work! So after many years of 20-20 hindsight, this year I'm organizing a group to march in the education section of this years LGBT Pride Parade.
I was glad to join Judi and other teachers in the district. We walked at the end of the Coalition of Independent Schools group. While small, this was the beginning of a group that will become much larger with time. It was also I believe the first time any San Leandro group has participated in the Pride Parade. Here is a short video I shot.
Finally, on a related topic, I want to share an email message I sent to the Alameda Unified School District Board of Education in May 2009 as they were debating whether to adopt an anti-bullying curriculum for their elementary schools that taught respect for gay and lesbian families:
Dear Alameda Unified School District Board of Education,
I am a former member of the San Leandro Unified School District Board of Education and parent of a Kindergarten child attending public school in San Leandro.
During my term, San Leandro adopted a Safe School K-12 grade curriculum, working with the assistance of Barry Chersky. I believe the experience of San Leandro is relevant to your decision on adoption of an elementary school Safe School curriculum.
After working through the challenges of development and adoption, implementation of the curriculum in San Leandro went smoothly. The curriculum has been widely supported by teachers, parents and students.
I recently asked my daughter what she has learned this year about bullying. She responded, “No name calling, no teasing and be an ally.” Students are taught to recognize and reject the techniques of a bully. When bullying occurs, students are encouraged to be an ally of the victim by speaking out and reporting the bully to the teacher.
The curriculum also strikes at many of the root causes of bullying including stereotypes, prejudice, and hostility toward students and adults based on sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation. Family structures that include those with two dads or two moms are acknowledged and respected. Children are taught to treat everyone with respect and that school is a safe place to be who they are.
If you asked me ten years ago whether teaching such messages to elementary school students was necessary, I would have expressed doubt. Today I see the nexus between educating elementary school children to respect all persons and families and schools that are free of bullying and violence among students.
Attached are some photos of work produced by students at Roosevelt Elementary School in San Leandro as part of the Safe Schools curriculum that was posted at the beginning of the school year in the library. The photos will give you a sense of the all-inclusive, positive messages students are taught.
From my experience as a school board trustee and parent, an elementary school curriculum that acknowledges our lesbian and gay parents as full partners in education and counters teasing, name calling, and bullying for all reasons, including because of a student’s sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation, benefits all students. The curriculum plays an important role in creating a positive school climate and culture of tolerance that values each student and parent.
Very truly yours,
I also submitted a shorter version of this letter to the San Francisco Chronicle which was published on May 30, 2009.