First off, language is everything. We know that silence=death. We know that our young people do not feel included in nonspecific language; they know that, unless explicitly affirmed, they are not respected or understood. Go for obtaining inclusive language in every possible policy and document. By inclusive languge, we mean language which specifically uses the words lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, same-sex partners, and sexual orientation.
You may very well have to start by finding generically inclusive language and leveraging that. Many many existing state (and federal and local, for that matter) educational policies and documents are rife with phrases such as "All children must feel safe to learn in schools" or "We hold as a goal that the dignity and worth of all individuals be respected" or "Students and educators alike are expected to understand and respect diversity," etc. etc. If you are faced with existing language which is only generic, USE IT nonetheless! After all, "all" means but one thing, "ALL." As the saying goes, "What part of liberty and justice for ALL don't you understand?" Bring to bear all the resources you have at your disposal (many cited in this document) to convince educational policy makers that there ARE LGBT young people in their charge (and LGBT parents, and LGBT teachers and administrators) whose needs are NOT being met unless specific materials are developed for them. Make educators realize that they have NOT met the needs of "all" their clientele unless and until they provide LGBT inclusive resources.
BUT, do NOT stop there. Do not settle for generically inclusive language. Strive for policy statements which spell out what all means, e.g.:
"Regardless of differences in age, culture, disability, ethnic background, gender, primary language, religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic background, the students must understand that the knowledge, skills, and behaviors discussed in class apply to all students." California Healh Framework, California Department of Education, 1994, p. 22.
Getting this language was a VERY hard-fought battle against the right wing. First they, and their minions on the State Board, before whom the final battle for the above specifically inclusive Health Framework language was waged, said, more or less, "We already have a list and it's pretty long. To add sexual orientation to it would make it too long, unmanageably long." We pointed out that not only was that discriminatory against one group and one group only, but also our young people as a delineated group are known to suffocate under the silence they experience, as witnessed by their high suicide rates. Demonstrate why LGBT young people need explicit affirmation of their existence. THEN, the Board had the unmitigated GALL to suggest "Everybody knows what "all" means, so why don't we just take out the whole long list and use "all"? We fought furiously against this particular strategem, but you are likely to see similar efforts to evade the requirement that protections for and inclusions of LGBT people be spelled out in so many words. We know that most laws of the land, for example, while purportedly protecting "all people," do not protect us, else why would we still suffer employment, housing, credit, medical, public accommodation and myriad other forms of discrimination?
You must have them. You will need every fact and piece of research you can lay your hands on to persuade the reluctant dragons in positions of power re educational policymaking. In California, the supposedly liberal, "tolerant" Superintendent of Instruction in the early 90s, Bill Honig, was very sure that the best home environment for a child was that with opposite-sex parents. He was so sure that he refused to listen to the FACTS, i.e. that research shows that it is not the gender, number, age, race, etc. of adults in the home raising the kids, but their ability to create a loving environment, which determines how well the children do in school!
Take another example, again involving dear Mr. Honig. In meetings with him regarding our efforts to get "truth in labelling" (the FDA has it, why shouldn't we?) regarding the sexual orientation of famous historical figures ALREADY being studied, he first asserted this couldn't be proven. When we adduced compelling documentation, he then said it was irrelevant. We pointed out that then all discussion of the concubines and spouses and offspring of kings and inventors and explorers would need to be excised as irrelevant, he was stymied but nonetheless did not give in.
You must have the facts because you must be professional and objective to be credible.
One key to successful organizing, we are exhorted over and over again by those who know, is building coalitions. Well, this issue is just MADE for coalition-building. It involves all school age children, parents, educators, administrators, voters, taxpayers. The issues range from psychology to civil liberties. Folks doing gender equity work re schooling are generally very supportive, for example. Every state has a gender equity specialist in its state dept of education. Sometimes it's a gender equity person paid for by Carl Perkins Vocational Education monies, sometimes by Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. They are great sources for training, consulting, resources and networking.
You can basically get everyone from your local PTA to the national ACLU interested. The ACLU, for example, fights the right and fights voucher initiatives.
We should be against vouchers initiatives, so if one is in progress in your state, join the anti-voucher coalition and be very out and upfront about being LGBT or pro-LGBT, so when your side wins, they'll know we were an important piece of the margin of victory. We did this in California...some thought we couldn't get LGBT folks interested in school vouchers but the community was VERY interested and understood the issue right away and voted nearly 100% against the voucher initiative, garnering us many new allies and much new respect and understanding throughout the state educational community.)
Dont forget pro-choice groups, too. (For example, Planned Parenthood fights against radical religious right wing school board candidates, and is VERY effective in doing so!)
In truth, you may well have your work cut out for you getting the LGBT community to engage this issue, raising as it does many deep-seated fears (internalized homophobia and reluctance to confront the myths about child molestation and recruitment). Start by finding allies wherever you can. Never rule out anyone as a potential ally until they've proven themselves otherwise! On this issue, support can come from the most unexpected places, including churches. Indeed, seek out support from progressive people of the cloth...they care about young people and often about justice. You will need religious allies to counteract the religious right wing, not by arguing scripture but merely by standing up and testifying that there is a diversity of religious opinion on this issue.
Many, many professional organizations are already allies, and more are becoming allies all the time. For resources regarding some of these, please refer to APPENDIX III. To cite just one example, the National Education Association has passed a resolution supporting the celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual History Month in October, promoted diversity training for students, backed the introduction of G/L issues into the curriculum, and changed its previously heterosexist language. Also look at Appendix I (national resource organizations) and Appendix IV (which begins with a list of mostly "strayt" organizations fighting the radical religious right wing) for sources of other allies.
Another key to success in this work is establishing individual and personal contacts with officials/bureaucrats. Many are just uninformed on our issues. Others need support in order to find the courage to do the right thing. Personal relationships are crucial to building trust. Initially, give bureaucrats the benefit of the doubt...provide them with the latest best resources and research you can lay your hands on. Send them excellent, readable, short stuff to educate and sensitize them. Send them clippings on good developments in other states; attach a note suggesting they need to take action to "keep up with the Joneses." Meet with them to hear their concerns. Work with them to address those concerns.
However, be wary. Bureaucrats exel at evasion and postponement. When pushed, they can even resort to proclaiming their own ineffectualness. We have just experienced this in California (see California section in state-by-state; note the letters at the end of that section). Both the Board President and the Chair of the Health Subject Matter committee of the Curriculum Commission denied (each independently of the other) that their agencies had any role in influencing what publishers develop to meet the frameworks they have devised. This is in direct contradiction of what the publishers say, which is that they work very closely with state bodies during the development phase to ensure they are meeting state criteria. IF some bureaucrats with cold feet start playing this "we're helpless" role on you, remind them that IF indeed they do nothing and have no role, then their existence can hardly be justified and hence they should cease to operate and cost the taxpayers money. Remind them that the radical religious right, which aims to eliminate state departments of education where possible and public education itself where possible, is just dying for pretexts, much less real reasons, to do so, and that by downplaying or denying their own roles and responsibilities, state educational authorities are playing right into their hands.
It is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to document, in WRITING, any issues, concerns, replies, conversations (take notes), visits to officials, meetings, telephone calls made and received, etc. We also recommend you cc the head honchos (superintendent, Board president, etc.) on everything sent to key contacts lower down in the bureaucracy. This is a way to educate policy makers up and down the ladder AND to cover your back so you are not sandbagged by someone saying they didn't know what you were up to. Be sure to cc any influential allies such as out LGBT state officials. This gives you back-up and recourse in case you are badly treated by the educational bureaucrats. You may be surprised, or maybe not, when a bureaucrat tries to deny that such and such ever happened...but, if you took notes on that phone conversation or kept copies of the correspondence, well, then you can back up your claims.
We suggest beginning your work by writing introductory letters to every bureaucrat in a policymaking position in the system you are dealing with. Once you've set up a template, it is no big deal to change the names and thus contact each Board member, for example. In every letter you write, always ask for some specific piece of information to ensure that you get a response. File EVERYthing. Using this method, you will quickly get an overview of the lay of the land, and who stands where in terms of how they will deal with you (quickly or not, helpful or not, etc.)
Find out which publishers are interested in developing materials to submit for adoption in a given subject matter area and set up meetings with them to provide "consultation": fact-based advice and input re LGBT people. Make sure that publishers have the latest and best information and know who the experts are and how to contact them. Bring marketing research to let them know there is a market for such books. Offer them support if they agree to put forward inclusive books for adoption.
Placing resources within educators' reach is important on a number of levels. If the resources are there, some bold souls may use them even without official sanction. If the resources are there, some may read them even if they don't use them, and, in reading them, they may become sensitized to and supportive of LGBT issues and young people. If the resources are there, when inclusive policies ARE obtained, the system can get right to the business of inclusion rather than stalling by saying "We don't where or how to get any good resources."
If there are any places in your area's educational system, such as official resource centers or book repositories, where school materials are made available for accessing by teachers, administrators, boards, and resource personnel, SEND THEM LGBT RESOURCE MATERIAL! Try to have it accepted officially if you are sending to a resource center or repository...i.e. find out what it takes to get something listed as an official resource. See also the section on ERIC, below...ERIC is a national resource repository heavily utilized by teachers.
ABOVE ALL ELSE, WE RECOMMEND STUDY OF THE MASSACHUSETTS MODEL. MASSACHUSETTS is the most advanced state when it comes to educational equity for LGBT people, and that despite its being largely Catholic and having a Republican governor! Write or call the Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, phone= 617-727-3600 x312, State House, Room 111, Boston MA 02133 and get everything they've got on how they organized re school issues!!! While this may not work in your area, it'll give you PLENTY of ideas to use as starting points and to modify to your own area's circumstances.
USE OF MEDIA There much in this manual about media: how to access and utilize news media. Why should you care? This is such a high profile issue that inevitably it becomes front page news, whether you wanted it to or not. You have to be ready to handle the media, and it is best to be proactive and put your side of the story out there first. As with bureaucrats and officials, as discussed above, get to know your area media people. Make sure you are always accessible to them. Make sure you provide them with accurate information. Be helpful to them, giving them story ideas and leads, background briefings, etc. Be persistent and polite. Remember, media are one of the most pervasive influences in our culture...they can make or break your efforts. Use them to teach the public at large, to organize, to develop allies. Never let media inaccuracies go unaddressed...the slightest misuse of a word can change a whole story and, if let go, can ultimately ruin all your efforts. We have provided statewide print media because the orientation of this manual is for systematic change at the statewide level in educational systems. Many smaller media outlets use wire service reports or stories from the major newspapers in their state or area. Thus, you will find that stories big and small bounce up and down the media ladder within a state. It is important to monitor media statewide, since stories, whether good or bad, spread in this multiplier fashion. Even more important, from the standpoint of your being PROACTIVE, you will want to get the jump on the opposition by sending your releases out by fax and email to as many media as possible. For tips on using media, please refer to APPENDIX VI.
USE OF EMAIL (SALES PITCH) You will find many, many references in this manual to electronic communications: email addresses, gopher sites, Web pages, etc. Why? Let us give just one sample reason:
In 1992 & 1993, a producer for a four-part PBS documentary on the history of lesbian and gay civil rights in this country ("The Question of Equality," to be aired in October '95) traveled with the Christian Coalition (largely under cover) in those states where anti gay amendments were being presented (at the time Oregon and Colorado). He states "I found it NO coincidence that the most vociferous of anti gay crusades were in those states where there was no viable, healthy, and vigorous gay press present. By the time the greater lesbian and gay communities of those states found out about pending anti gay initiatives, it was generally too late."
THEREFORE, USE EMAIL FOR ORGANIZING, ESPECIALLY IN PLACES WHERE THE LGBT PRESS IS SMALL OR NONEXISTENT or the community not out or organized. You have to be somewhat out of the closet to pick up a magazine or paper. But in the privacy of your home, you can do email organizing and activism while feeling safe as well as informed. And so can the people with whom you are sharing information. EMAIL is .a good way to convey information and strategize/group brainstorm. It is QUICK, CHEAP, ACCURATE, EFFICIENT. Time and time again, email organizing has turned an issue around within hours. Develop your own emailing lists. Some cautions are in order, however. EMAIL is NOT a substitute for personal calls and meetings. Conveying tone via email is very tricky...when in doubt, call the person up and talk.
HUGE amounts of information useful to your efforts can be obtained, FREE, from the Internet. If you can't afford it or don't have access to it, try to ensure that your group or organization DOES include someone who is online. Electronic organizing will almost certainly play a role in any successful organizing efforts henceforth.
Links to each state's Department of Education:
ERIC (the Education Resources Information Center) is "a federally funded national information system that provides access to an extensive body of education-related resources." (quoting from their own literature). The ERIC database is the world's largest source of education information, containing more than 900,000 abstracts of documents and journal articles on education research and practice. It is accessible to the general public but is probably used most often by educators themselves, the people WE want to reach, and teach, and sensitize.
There are 16 ERIC Clearinghouses nationwide which provide a variety of services, products, and resources at all education levels BUT MOST OF THEIR STUFF IS NOT LGBT INCLUSIVE, OR AT LEAST NOT SPECIFICALLY AND EXPLICITLY SO. WE HAVE TO FIX THIS, so that folks everywhere can access excellent LGBT resources through this federal electronic system. What follows is quoted from their own literature: "TO SUBMIT YOUR WORK TO THE DATABASE, SEND ONE LEGIBLE COPY ALONG WITH A REPRODUCTION RELEASE FORM (available from any ERIC component) TO THE ACQUISITIONS DEPARTMENT OF THE ERIC CLEARINGHOUSE MOST CLOSELY RELATED TO THE SUBJECT MATTER. You may submit documents to the ERIC Processing and Reference Facility if you are unsure which clearinghouse is appropriate."
Below please find SOME of the ERIC Clearinghouses to which YOU should consider submitting good LGBT material for inclusion. If you are not the author of such material, but know someone who is such an author, or the publisher of such material, get in touch with them to PLEAD with them to do this. This resource system responds to 120,000 inquiries per year and right now they have next to nothing by way of LGBT-inclusive resources to offer to educators, parents, and others!!
COUNSELING AND STUDENT SERVICES
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
School of Education
1000 Spring Garden St.
Greensboro NC 27412-5001
Toll free 800-414-9769
phone= 919-334-4114; Fax= 919-334-4116
Internet= [email protected]
ELEMENTARY & EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
University of Illinois
805 W. Pennsylvania Ave.
Urbana IL 61801-4897
Toll free 800-583-4135
phone= 217-333-1386; Fax= 217-333-3767
Internet= [email protected]
READING, ENGLISH, AND COMMUNICATION
Indiana University Smith Research Center
2805 East 10th St. Suite 150
Bloomington IN 47408-2698
Toll free 800-759-4723
phone= 812-855-5847; Fax= 812-555-4220
Internet= [email protected]
SOCIAL STUDIES/SOCIAL SCIENCE EDUCATION
Social Studies Development Center
2805 East 10th St. Suite 120
Bloomington IN 47408-2698
Toll free 800-266-3815
phone= 812-855-3838; Fax= 812-555-0455
Internet= [email protected]
TEACHING AND TEACHER EDUCATION
Am. Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
One Dupont Circle NW, Suite 610
Washington DC 20036-1186
Toll free 800-822-9229
phone= 202-293-2450; Fax= 202-457-8095
Internet= [email protected]
Teachers College, Columbia University
Institute for Urban and Minority Education
Main Hall, Room 303, Box 40
525 W. 120th St.
NY NY 10027-9998 Toll free 800-601-4868
phone= 212-678-3433; Fax= 212-678-4048
Internet= [email protected]
RURAL EDUCATION AND SMALL SCHOOLS
Appalachia Educational Laboratory
1031 Quarrier St.
POB 1348, Charleston WV 25325-1348
Toll free 800-624-9120
phone= 304-347-0400; Fax= 304-347-0487
Internet= [email protected]
ERIC Processing and Reference Facility
ARC Professional Services Group
Information Systems Division
1301 Piccard Dr., Suite 300
Rockville MD 20850-4305
Toll free 800-799-ERIC (3742)
phone= 301-258-5500; Fax= 301-948-3695
Internet= [email protected]
FEDERAL SPONSOR EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES INFORMATION CENTER (ERIC)
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI)
555 New Jersey Ave NW
Washington DC 20208-5720
Telephone: 202-219-2289; Fax: 202-219-1817
Internet: [email protected]
We do know of ONE helpful ERIC document, designed as a sort of "starter kit" on our issues for librarians, teachers, and researchers: ERIC DOCUMENT #359990
Be prepared to FOLLOW-UP ON YOUR MATERIAL SUBMISSIONS, AND TO FIGHT FOR THEIR INCLUSION. We will stand by you and help with action alerts...keep us posted!!!
An EXCELLENT WWW site for hotlinking to various states' curriculum standards is:
Here is another site which provides a list of all known state Departments of Education web sites:
AND a site which leads to ALL states' Home Pages for full government info is at URL:
What human rights activists did in Idaho re the anti-gay initiative:
"One of the things that we found in our research in Idaho was that people don't like discrimination, but that most of them didn't (consciously) know someone who was glb, so they couldn't relate to the issue. We found that by talking about discrimination (which was our primary message before our polling) that we lost votes. And we (people from communities around the state involved in the campaign) felt losing was much worse than not feeling like the message was about us... that a loss sent the message that 'The voters have spoken, and it is OK to discriminate.' We made a decision, before our research was in, to do what it told us. That's why you have research. We didn't 'de-gay' the campaign - we still had glb folks as our primary spokespeople, we used lots of glb materials in our supporter mailings and our house parties - but we spoke in a public voice about the issues that the voters could relate to... and we didn't make glb issues the central focus of our message because we knew it wouldn't work with voters. We did train about 250+ speakers around the state to speak on glb issues, and we did form a statewide glb network (the first for our state - prior to the initiative the largest in-state mailing list for a glb group was about 400 names... now it is about 5000...) And we tried to encourage folks to come out. That, in the long run, is the most critical thing that could be done."
For those to whom this kind of strategy resonates, in terms of campaigning for educational equity the translational equivalent would be to focus on fairness, censorship, academic freedom and the like as the primary issues to which all Americans can relate.
The radical right often uses school boards to influence community decisions on homosexuality and education. Local school boards are looked to in many communities for leadership around educational and social service policy issues, so their posture is crucial and they must be prevailed upon to exercise leadership in favor of human rights for ALL students despite their reluctance to incur the wrath of the radical right. Moreover, fundamentalists often organize to take over school boards by electing their own candidates, candidates who often escape close public scrutiny by concealing their true agendas. Such candidates are called "STEALTH CANDIDATES." To avoid a takeover of your school board, make sure to research thoroughly ALL candidates as to their platforms, qualifications, and sources of financial and political support. Fundamentalist groups are chameleon-like and clone rapidly, which is to say they change their names and forms rapidly and often and spawn spin-off groups with bewildering speed. This means that the groups you need be wary of this year may have totally different names and players than the ones you had to defend against last time 'round.
HOWEVER, the good news is that "If you have a really active group [of moderate parents]," says Matt Freeman of People for the American Way, a liberal activist organization, "you can often beat these guys." In Texas, California and Florida, ultraconservatives seized control of key school boards in 1992 largely by encouraging heavy turnout among like-minded voters. But in the next election cycle, moderate teachers and parents parried with a simple strategy: THEY PUBLICIZED THE CONSERVATIVES' RECORD. When voters learned that their school boards were spending more time squabbling about creationism in science classes and abstinence in sex education than debating such practical matters as teachers' salaries, they turned the conservatives out.
In another area, moderate voters mounted a recall campaign against conservative Christians who had taken over their school board, and found support among the area churches. In "Time" magazine, Ken Blalack, a parent activist in San Diego County said, "People get very upset when one group takes the position that they speak for God. The bottom line is who does the best job on campaiging." The National Education Association and People for the American Way recently agreed to cooperate with local coalitions in as many as 10 states to oppose right-wing candidates.
MORAL OF THE STORY: organize early, widely, and deeply, and GET OUT YOUR VOTERS.
FOR INFORMATION ON RADICAL RIGHT ORGANIZATIONS WATCH OUT FOR, SEE APPENDIX IV.
Next Section of the Introduction
Last updated 1/3/2000 by Jean Richter, [email protected]