Call to Action to Advance Equity & Justice for LGBTQ Youth of Color
National Organizations Partner in Call to Action to Advance Equity and Justice for LGBTQ Youth of Color
WASHINGTON, DC – The National Black Justice Coalition, the Education Trust, Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC), and GLSEN – leading national organizations working to advance equity for youth, including youth of color, LGBTQ youth, and youth at the intersections of these identities hosted the first of many engagements the organizations will be partnering on to convene students, families, educators, and education advocates in dialogue about the experiences and needs of LGBTQ youth of color to improve both policy and practice.
“We must make sure that schools and campuses are safe and supportive,” said John B. King Jr, former Education Secretary for President Obama and President and CEO of The Education Trust. “LGBTQ students of color have a unique experience navigating their identities, and we must be intentional about creating spaces where they can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. I am proud to join the fight toward justice for LGBTQ students of color – it’s time we listen to and stand with them to help build and advocate for a better, more prosperous future.”
LGBTQ students of color, like all students, deserve access to an excellent education. But that cannot happen unless we protect, support, uplift, and include LGBTQ youth of color in conversations about and actions impacting their future and the future prosperity of our nation. Harassment and discrimination, including disparate school discipline policies, negatively impact the cognitive, social, and emotional development of LGBTQ students of color, preventing them from reaching their full potential. For LGBTQ youth of color, and other youth who live at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities, the challenges faced can be compounded and have a long-term negative impact.
On Tuesday at the Duke Ellington School of Arts in Washington, DC, National Black Justice Coalition, The Education Trust, EdLoC, and GLSEN hosted a round-table conversation, Educational Justice for Students of Color, featuring The Education Trust President and former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr, National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director David Johns, EdLoC Deputy Director Sharhonda Bossier, activist and writer Johnetta Elzie, and GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard, as well as Duke Ellington student Chloe Griffin and Howard University student Justin Calhoun.
The two student presenters kicked off the conversation by sharing insights into the experiences of LGBTQ youth of color in schools. Chloe Griffin shared with the round-table, “A lot of being young in the LGBTQ+ community is being bullied and having troubles…if you’re not accepted at home or even in your school, it can lead to depression and anxiety.”
Justin Calhoun added, “If I’m black in a white classroom, I have to think about how I show up… how I should shrink myself. If I’m black and gay, I have to think about two things: how I show up as black and how I show up as gay. And those two things often conflict.”
“It is impossible to support the cognitive, social, and emotional learning and development of students without centering their experiences and expertise in the process,” said David J. Johns, National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director. “LGBTQ students of color especially have unique perspectives on learning, teaching, and schooling and their insights warrant not only the attention but the responses of adults. The round-table was critical in centering students who are too often neglected and ignored and the recommendations made will help advance both conversations and the work required to ensure that all students thrive.”
“The time for action is now. Years of progress for LGBTQ students is in jeopardy, and the compounded systemic barriers facing LGBTQ students of color continue to deny them access to the education and opportunities they deserve,” said Eliza Byard, GLSEN Executive Director. “Amidst our current challenges, however, there is good news. Research and experience clearly indicate the school-based interventions that make a difference for LGBTQ students of color. And LGBTQ students of color themselves are ready to forge ahead, if we can eliminate the barriers, listen as they lead, and share the support and resources necessary to do the work. The question is not whether we can make things better, but whether administrators, educators, policy-makers, and school communities themselves will come together to get the job done.”
Research by the National Education Policy Center has found that systemic violence and disparate school discipline policies hinder equitable, just, and safe schooling for youth of color, while data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights shows that youth of color are disproportionately the subjects of harsh school discipline. GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey shows that while roughly half of LGBTQ youth feel unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation (60%) or gender expression (45%), the majority of LGBTQ youth of color also reported feeling unsafe because of their race or ethnicity, compared to less than 1% of white LGBTQ students. Furthermore, the NSCS also found that Black/African American LGBTQ students are more likely than their peers to experience out-of-school suspension or expulsion.
The panel conversation sought to identify solutions to ensuring LGBTQ students of color have access to an equitable and safe education where they can thrive and become their best selves. The National Black Justice Coalition, The Education Trust, EdLoC, and GLSEN released three recommendations school administrators can implement to support LGBTQ youth of color, including:
- Develop and teach curricula that is all-encompassing and responsive – representing positive contributions that diverse members of the LGBTQ community have made.
- Provide and ensure LGBTQ students of color have access to appropriate mental and social supports. Access to school counselors, mental health and socioemotional services are vital to ensure students thrive in and outside of school.
- Affirm the place of organizations that serve LGBTQ people of color as partners in the fight toward justice for students.
About the National Black Justice Coalition
The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS. NBJC’s mission is to end racism, homophobia, and LGBTQ/SGL bias and stigma. As America’s leading national Black LGBTQ/SGL civil rights organization focused on federal public policy, NBJC has accepted the charge to lead Black families in strengthening the bonds and bridging the gaps between the movements for racial justice and LGBTQ/SGL equality.
About The Education Trust
The Education Trust is a nonprofit organization that promotes closing opportunity gaps by expanding excellence and equity in education for students of color and those from low-income families from pre-kindergarten through college. Through research and advocacy, the organization builds and engages diverse communities that care about education equity, increases political and public will to act on equity issues, and increases college access and completion for historically underserved students.
About Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC)
EdLoC is a membership organization dedicated to elevating the leadership, voices and influence of people of color in education and to leading more inclusive efforts to improve education. Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC) aims to break through the polarizing divides that have consumed efforts to improve public education. Only by forging a third way can we stem the backlash facing even the most innovative, effective solutions and forge the alliances needed to realize and sustain EdLoC’s vision of providing low-income children of color expansive and substantive opportunities for the highest levels of academic and economic attainment.
GLSEN works to create safe and inclusive schools for all. We envision a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression. Each year, GLSEN programs and resources reach millions of students and educators in K-12 schools, via action at the national, state, and local level. Over nearly three decades of work, GLSEN has measurably improved conditions for LGBTQ students across the United States and launched an international movement to address LGBTQ issues in education and promote respect for all in schools. Find more information on GLSEN’s policy advocacy, student leadership initiatives, school-based programs, research, and professional development for educators at www.glsen.org.