As the President of the Ward Melville Gay & Straight Alliance, I am writing to express my support of concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) students in the Three Village School District. GSA is an organization that includes LGBT students, as well as straight allies, and works to address the needs of the LGBT community at Ward Melville. These especially include policies and curriculum structures that directly affect students in the district. Since I identify as a lesbian, I’ve sometimes felt like the “oddball out” while in class and in the high school in general. In Health class, I only recall learning about heterosexual sexuality and health. We did learn about AIDS, but that was it. I’ve heard about LGBT-identifying students being singled out and treated differently by Health teachers, in instances such as, “Blue for boys, pink for girls, and [insert lesbian-identifying student’s name here], you can have green.” Suggesting that a girl isn’t a “real” girl because she’s a lesbian can really affect that student’s self-worth and such behavior should not be tolerated, especially from staff.
Some people argue that including LGBT history and health in the curriculum would upset parents. Whether those parents like it or not, there are gay and trans students in the school and they have as much of a right to be included as heterosexual students. That is why we propose a curriculum that includes LGBT writers in English classes, LGBT history in Social Studies classes, and LGBT health and sexuality in Health classes. We all learn about civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, but how many students can identify Harvey Milk? How many students can name a book studied in class with a protagonist who wasn’t a heterosexual?
The times are changing. Students are more willing to be out about their sexuality. But there needs to be a greater awareness of the increasing amount of LGBT voices calling for change. Some staff members and people in authority are stuck in their outdated way of thinking. We are everywhere, and we deserve to be included in the curriculum.
There is still anti-gay bullying going on in the school. In the locker rooms, in the hallways, even in class. People voicing their disapproval or hatred of racial or religious minorities would be shut down in a second. Yet teachers still hesitate to call out students on their slander of LGBT students. We are all people equal in value. Students need to be educated about the LGBT community in order to make the school a safer place for all students.
The Ward Melville GSA has done more this year than ever before. But we can’t do it alone. It is no longer acceptable for the school to just allow a GSA to exist and then wash their hands of everything else to help LGBT students. Administrators need to step up their efforts to stop anti-gay bullying and include everyone in the curriculum. We can’t create a change without help from the district. And I mean the whole district. We would love to see the creation of GSAs in Gelinas and Murphy.
Junior high can be a terrible experience for many students. The children can be nasty and cruel as they attempt to climb the rungs of the social ladder. They break each other down with bullying and hurtful words. I would know. I was bullied incessantly at Gelinas. Junior high students are at an age where it is crucial to show them that they can be themselves, that life will get better as they grow up. This is why a Gay & Straight Alliance would be extremely beneficial to LGBT or Questioning students. Studies show that the simple fact that a GSA exists in a school can help LGBT students feel safer and more normal.
I look forward to working with the district to adopt new policies to help make our schools a safer place for all students. We urge administrators to consider the changes we have called for. We are all human beings. And everyone deserves to be included.
– Cassie Madison, WMHS Senior