How will LGBT history be taught in New Jersey schools after new law?

New Jersey schools will teach LGBT history under a new state law, but what does that mean for the classroom? That may depend on where you live.

The law requires that middle and high school students learn about the social, political and economic contributions of LBGT individuals, but leaves it up to local districts to determine how to teach those lessons.  New Jersey schools and LGBT history is now a part.New Jersey schools LGBT

School boards have to update social studies standards — a process that will unfold locally in hundreds of school districts — in time for the 2020-21 school year.

“I envision each board of education will set policy or set a foundation for the curriculum that is age-appropriate, and I don’t think that’s difficult,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood, one of the primary sponsors of the legislation.

Huttle offered examples of potential lessons: books about children with two moms or dads, or lessons on the achievements of leaders like Barbra “Babs” Siperstein, the transgender activist from Jersey City who died Feb. 3.

“When looking at someone like Babs, or Harvey Milk, or the Stonewall riots, these materials are readily available to implement and to teach students, for students to understand that there are differences,” Huttle said.

North Jersey Record, by Hannan Adely, January 7, 2020

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Kindergartner Invites His Entire Class to His Adoption Hearing

Nearly two dozen kindergartners gave testimonials in a Michigan courtroom about how much they loved the soon-to-be-adopted boy.

The 5-year-old boy, wearing a blue vest and a maroon bow tie, sat on a swivel chair in front of a judge as his kindergarten classmates filled two rows of courtroom seats behind him. The students held rulers adorned with paper hearts — the theme being “love rules.”Open Adoption

The boy, Michael Clark Jr., was one of 36 children to be adopted on Thursday during Kent County’s 23rd annual adoption day in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Twenty-one kindergartners and several parents, teachers and school administrators attended Michael’s hearing, said Carlye Allen, the principal of Wealthy Elementary School, where Michael is a student.

He invited his teacher and classmates to the ceremony because, he said, he wanted his whole family to be there on his special day, Ms. Allen said.

Judge Patricia Gardner, the presiding judge of the 17th Circuit Court’s family division and founder of the county’s adoption day, asked all the people in the courtroom to stand up and say what they loved or appreciated about Michael, Ms. Allen said.

One boy declared, “Michael is my best friend.”

Another child stood and said, “I love Michael.”

David Eaton, Michael’s adoptive father, said he started tearing up listening to the children’s testimonials. Michael seemed touched too, though it was hard to tell with a child that age, he said.

“He was in his swivel chair up front, swiveling around and facing his classmates,” Mr. Eaton said. “He felt like a king of a castle on that day, just loving it.”

After the official documents were signed, the kindergartners waved their handmade heart signs in the air. They were bumping in their seats with excitement, and all the adults were “extremely emotional,” Ms. Allen said.

“I think he understands that this means he has a permanent home now,” Mr. Eaton said. “He’s not going to be taken away.”

NYTimes.com by Maria Padilla, December 7, 2019

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Straight Allies – How straight parents can raise kids to be allies, during Pride Month and beyond

In a recent chat at our children’s school plant sale, a fellow parent shared some of the many ways their LGBTQ family loves to celebrate Pride Month each June, from wearing rainbow socks to hosting party nights.  Straight Allies welcome!

Although I write and speak regularly about parenting, sexuality and equality — and try year-round to teach my kids, 8 and 12, about inclusivity — hearing another parent describe Pride Month as “huge” for their family made me consider what more we could be doing as straight allies with my kids each June. Here’s what I learned when I went looking for ways all families can recognize LGBTQ Pride Month.straight allies

Learn and listen

Pride is not just a party. Some LGBTQ families and allies say they approach June not so much as a month of celebration but as a time to honor LGBTQ struggles, both historical and ongoing.

“The leap between being someone who’s kind of interested in the issue and being someone who is an active ally is an enthusiasm to learn,” PFLAG National’s Straight for Equality project says in a free online guide to being a straight ally. “Go online. Ask questions. Do some research. Reach out to other allies who might have grappled with the same challenge.”

The guide suggests studying a glossary of “gay-b-c’s” to get comfortable using the terms associated with the LGBTQ community. Straight allies and other parents sometimes ask how young is too young to teach children about gender diversity, sexual orientation and the many shapes families can take. Well before preschool, kids can grasp these basic concepts — and they’re usually quick to embrace messages that feel accepting, kind and fair. Starting an age-appropriate chat can be as simple as asking, “Did you know some families have two mommies? Or two daddies? Or one parent instead of two?”

“This is the month when your children of all ages will ask you questions about ‘what is LGBTQ?’ and ‘why the rainbows?,’ ” said Eliza Byard, the executive director of GLSEN, a national organization supporting K-12 LGBTQ students. “Be ready with a succinct and supportive answer for whatever level of development your child is at.”

Focus the message on other children’s experiences. Here are some examples: “What if you heard someone at a birthday party tell a boy he can’t have a pink balloon?” “Can you think of ways to make sure kids with two moms or two dads feel included in camp stories?” “Have you ever heard a classmate say ‘that’s so gay’ in a negative way? What could you do if you hear that again?” “Did you ever wonder what it might be like for a non-binary kid to have to choose every day between bathrooms marked ‘girls’ and ‘boys’? How could our community work together to make that easier?”

Greet Pride with a smile

Pride is solemn for some observers, but Andrea Hartsough, a San Francisco criminal defense attorney and lesbian mom of two, encourages families to go for the gusto and do whatever makes Pride Month fun.

WashingtonPost.com, by Bonnie J. Rough, June 14, 20`19

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Sam Thoron, former PFLAG president, dies at 79

Sam Thoron sold insurance and raced sports cars — but he was better known for changing the lives of thousands of straight families with gay children.

His decades of work and eventual national presidency of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG, began on the day in 1990 when his 19-year-old daughter, Liz Thoron, came home from college on vacation and told him she was gay.sam thoron

“I realized our daughter had not changed but that we needed support in integrating this new information into our lives,” Thoron said in an essay he wrote in 2007. “We found that support with PFLAG. I became deeply committed to the principle that my daughter deserves to be treated, in every aspect of her life, with the same respect and dignity as seems to flow so naturally to her two brothers.”

Thoron, who served for four years as national board president of PFLAG, died Nov. 17 of esophageal cancer in his San Francisco home at the age of 79.

Current PFLAG president Kathy Godwin said Thoron’s leadership was “personal, caring, thoughtful and filled with passion — but mostly it was about the right to love, to be authentic, and to share one’s life in joy and dignity.”

“He was the embodiment of what PFLAG stands for,” said Liz Owen, the group’s communications director. “Warm, loving, with a shoulder for everyone. A strong parental voice for equal rights, not just for his own child but for everyone’s.”

A native of Washington, D.C., Thoron was a 1964 graduate of Harvard University and a U.S. Army veteran who had a brief stint as an amateur race car driver in New England until his wife persuaded him, after an accident, to knock it off.

by Steve Rubenstein, sfchronicle.com, November 30, 2018

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L.G.B.T. Students in Oregon Were Bullied and Forced to Read Bible, Report Says

In the hallways of a rural Oregon high school, gay and lesbian students were taunted with homophobic slurs. In the cafeteria, students pelted a transgender student with food.

And when gay and lesbian students got into trouble, the school’s principal assigned a specific punishment just for them: readings from the Bible.

Students detailed those allegations in recent state investigative reports into the North Bend School District, a coastal area about 100 miles north of California. In the reports, gay and lesbian high school students described years of harassment and bigotry from school employees and other students, and a deeply religious culture that silenced their complaints.

The two reports, completed in March by an investigator in the Oregon Department of Education and made public this month, found that top officials in North Bend had for at least the past two school years fostered hostile conditions for gay and lesbian students, hesitated to intervene after reports of sexual harassment and retaliated against a school counselor who had cooperated with the state investigation.

The state found “substantial evidence” of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at North Bend High School. “The department finds that discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation may have occurred,” the investigator wrote.

In schools across the country, L.G.B.T. students are more likely to be bullied and suffer depression than their straight peers, studies have found. It is no different in Oregon, gay and lesbian activists said, despite the perception of the state, and particularly places like Portland, as a progressive paradise.

In the state reports, the district denied that students had been mistreated and said that when they had reported cases of harassment, it resolved them promptly and appropriately.

School officials initially denied that students were required to read the Bible as punishment. But they later told investigators it was true, adding that they handed down the punishment not to promote a religion but “to assist students in understanding the effects of certain behaviors.”

The state ordered North Bend in March to settle with a pair of female students whose complaints to the State Department of Education led to the investigation. But no deal was reached, so the state has scheduled a hearing on May 24 with both sides to help mediate a resolution.

North Bend’s superintendent, Bill Yester, said Wednesday that the district disputes many of the state’s findings and will present its evidence at the hearing. He said the Bible was used as punishment only once.

by Matthew Haag, New York Times, May 17, 2018

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