Legislation Supporting LGBTQ Students Authored by East Side Middle Schoolers and Council Member Ben Kallos Passes NYC Council Education Committee Vote
Slated for Full Council Vote Tomorrow;
Student Gender-Sexuality Alliance Clubs in City Public School Progress Reporting
New York, NY – Today, the New York City Council Education Committee passed Introduction 1638,authored by East Side Middle School students, who are representatives to the Manhattan Leadership Council, and introduced by Council Member Kallos and Education Committee Chair Daniel Dromm. This legislation requires reporting on which middle and high schools have a Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club, the number of teachers, principals, and administrators at each school who have received lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, and gender non-conforming (LGBTQGNC) training.
A GSA is a student run club that provides a safe place for LGBTQ students and their allies to meet, have discussions, offer support, and plan events and activities, usually with the aim of raising awareness. According to Advocates for Children of New York, the presence of a GSA in school decreases anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment and makes students feel safer and more comfortable.
This legislation was introduced in response to a doubling in the number of hate crimes in New York City since last year, with anti-transgender incidents cited by the NYPD as a major cause. According to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in their 2013 National School Climate Survey, “74% of students were verbally harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 55 % because of their gender expression. As a result of feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, 30 % missed at least one day of school in the past month.” However, “LGBT students in schools with an LGBT-inclusive curriculum were less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation.”
“The rise of hate crimes nationally and in the City means it is more important than ever that the City supports our LGBTQ youth through these student-run clubs,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to Education Chair Danny Dromm for his lifetime of leadership on education and in the LGBTQ community, it is an honor to partner with him and the students on this legislation. New York City has always been a leader on LGBTQ issues and that includes supporting our students I am proud of the entire City Council for seeing the need for this legislation”
“GSAs are vital to the physical and mental well-being of LGBTQ students,” said NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm. “By providing this support for LGBTQ students, we are ensuring that they get a quality education. GSAs are not only for gay students but for everyone who supports equal rights and safe spaces. I thank Council Member Kallos for his advocacy which will ensure that every public school has a thriving GSA. This has long been a priority for me.”
"At our school, our GSA is our most popular club. It is a place of community, celebration, and advocacy. It helps define us as an inclusive, compassionate community,” said East Side Middle School Principal David Getz.
Every year, the Manhattan Student Leadership Council (MSLC) meets once a month to focus on an issue that affects schools citywide. In the fall of 2015, the students of the MSLC narrowed these issues down to three options: funding for the arts; equity in resources; and acceptance. The Council took these issues back to our individual schools for a vote. The schools realized that all the issues were important, but there was an overwhelming amount of votes for acceptance. The MSLC then decided, as a whole, that the best way to address the issue of acceptance was to implement GSAs in all public Middle Schools citywide.
Throughout the past two years the Manhattan Student Leadership Council (MSLC), a group comprised of student representatives from middle schools across School District 2, has met with many elected officials and two of its representatives, Neil Sarkar and Katerina Corr, even testified in front of the Education Committee of the City Council in October of 2016 on the topic of “Bullying, Harassment, and Discrimination in NYC Schools – Protecting LGBT and Other Vulnerable Students.” The student leaders have also helped implement GSAs in all of the middle schools across their district. Following the hearing, MSLC students met with Council Member Kallos, Chair Dromm, and Education Committee staff to draft the legislation.
“A Gender and Sexuality Alliance is essential for creating a welcoming environment for students that are not able to access one at home. It is the responsibility of our schools to provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ students,” said Katerina Corr, a Manhattan Leadership student Council representative. “GSA’s are for everyone whether they are in the LGBTQ+ community or allies. Everyone is different in their own unique way and a GSA is a place where everyone can come together,” said Neil Sarkar, another student leader in the MSLC.
“Every student deserves to openly be themselves, without fear or judgment getting in the way. We believe that implementing GSAs is the first step in achieving that,” said Chloe Schamisso, a Manhattan Leadership Council student representative.
"As a queer student who is not out to my family, GSA is and was a significant part of my student life. We need GSAs not only to provide a supportive community for LGBTQ+students but to educate other students as well, said Ananya Roy student at East Side Middle School.”