All schoolchildren deserve equal rights
On a recent airplane trip, I sat next to an African American AARP executive who is tasked with developing policies and programs to address the needs of senior LGBTQ members in our communities.
He told me that he is also on the board of the National Foster Youth Institute. I said, “Wow, you are hitting both ends of the age spectrum.” He replied that the two are inter-related. The ability of all children, especially children of color and LGBTQ children, to develop in a secure and fair environment will impact them as they age and affect the quality of life of our entire community over all generations.
He recommended that I consult the landmark Maintaining Dignity study done by AARP (see AARP.org/pride) and the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index. The latter rates different cities, including eleven cities and counties in Virginia, on their policies concerning equality.
One of the most important factors is whether the city has an anti-discrimination ordinance. Lynchburg does not. We have the opportunity to take a major first step toward equality by changing our Lynchburg City Schools’ anti-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity as covered categories.
Such a change is currently being considered by the School Board; please urge them to enact it. This would improve the life of all people, young, old, and in between, in our beloved community.
In light of issues brought forth at the October meeting for the Lynchburg City School Board, I want to reinforce the urgency for having the Student Non-Discrimination policy to be updated.
As it stands, the identities of sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected under the current policy, which presents a significant danger to Lynchburg’s LGBTQ students. As a crisis clinician working with Lynchburg students, and a proud member of the LGBTQ community, I implore the board to provide this protection to the students.
I grew up in a small, conservative town in North Carolina where it was not uncommon to hear a queer slur in the school setting, not only from the students, but from teachers as well. This created an environment where being public about one’s LGBTQ identity was shameful and even dangerous.
I am now a graduate student at Liberty University, and the social pressure to keep my queer identity quiet has not changed. It pains me to think that an LGBTQ student would have to endure the same feelings of shame during their time in an educational setting.
It is a logical and necessary move to update the Student Non-Discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTQ Lynchburg students would have protection from the School Board and would have increased freedom to focus on their education during their time in school.