Tag Archives: LGBTQ

Bay Area teachers who promote LGBTQ acceptance create welcoming school environments

By Brian Bodestyne, Jenny Hu and Darren Macario 

Staff Writers

Schools in the Bay Area need to support the LGBTQ community. Many schools use a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) club, but not everyone does because students might not feel comfortable creating or joining such a public group. Therefore, schools should show support for their LGBTQ communities by encouraging teachers to promote LGBTQ acceptance in their classrooms.

The lack of LGBTQ clubs / programs at Summit Shasta does not seem to affect school-wide acceptance of LGBTQ rights. The GSA club has been inactive for more than a year, and Dean of Instruction and Culture Adelaide Giornelli reports that no student has approached faculty about the issue. Does the lack of a GSA club mean that promoting LGBTQ acceptance in the classroom is now the primary way to make the school environment more welcoming to students?

In the Bay Area, lesbian and gay adolescents are increasingly coming out at younger ages than earlier generations, according to the Family Acceptance Project. The Williams Institute of Law states that 10.3 percent of California’s public middle and high school students identify as LGBTQ. According to a 2009 California Healthy Kids Survey, “Nearly half of LGBT youth surveyed […] reported being ‘pushed or hit at school because of their LGBT identity” and only 37 percent accounted that their school had a GSA club.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that schools should encourage student-led clubs that “promote a safe, welcoming, and accepting school environment” and that teachers should be trained on “how to create safe and supportive school environments for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

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Dean of Instruction and Culture Adelaide Giornelli PHOTO CREDIT: Jenny Hu]

At Summit Shasta, there is no GSA club, nor are there many incidents of LGBTQ-targeted harassment/bullying, according to administration. Dean of Instruction and Culture Adelaide Giornelli explains: “Incidents of bullying, which includes any use of homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, anything like that type of language […] that criteria is considered a disciplinary offense […] if it’s a repeated offense, that student will have to do work to restore their standing with the community.” Ms. Giornelli said teachers are supportive of the LGBTQ community by having posters in the classroom. Later, she commented that while there is no active school club / program for LGBTQ discussion at Summit Shasta, “Students who feel like this is an important thing to address […] should please reach out for faculty support.”

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Shasta freshman Alonzo Huerta PHOTO CREDIT: Jenny Hu

Shasta freshman Alonzo Huerta, an openly gay student, believes that the LGBTQ community at his school doesn’t need a GSA. At Shasta, Huerta states that having a GSA club would be good for celebrating “the accomplishments that we’ve made but it’s just us being people. […] There are some rude remarks but […] I don’t take offense to them much. […] I feel like it would make things worse because the whole point is that we don’t need one […] to be ourselves.” Huerta later commented that teachers being silently supportive of the LGBTQ community is fine.

Darren Macario Photos for Article

Riordan freshman Elijah Calip PHOTO CREDIT: Darren Macario

In contrast, Elijah Calip, a freshman at Archbishop Riordan, a San Francisco private high school, says that LGBTQ support groups allow “deep conversations with students who include themselves in the LGBTQ community and how they are supported in their school.” Calip and his fellow freshman schoolmate, Justin Samaniego, both believe that their school community, including staff, generally is supportive of their LGBTQ population.

Samaniego mentions that there are “derogatory speeches” about the LGBTQ community in their school but adds, ”People with problems they face such as being a part of the LGBTQ community and the criticism they receive is something I want to help them overcome. I want them to embrace the way they feel and […] their sexuality. […] Even though some students may be apart of the LGBTQ community, they treat others equal […] and that should be the way teachers treat their students in all schools.”

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Riordan freshman Justin Samaniego PHOTO CREDIT: Darren Macario

According to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), California Education Codes outline that school policy enable student expression of gender identity in dress, thought/speech, name, and faculties. It appears that as LGBTQ peer acceptance thrives in the

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Westmoor freshman Jasmine Osuna PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Bodestyne

Bay Area, so does the LGBTQ community in schools. Westmoor freshman Jasmine Osuna believes that there should be more support from school staff. Osuna states that, at her school, people are unwilling to go to counselors because of trust issues: “They don’t really show appreciation to people in that community. The school acts neutral and fair to every kid.”

2016 data from Support Services for LGBTQ Youth, established by SFUSD’s Board of Education, shows that including “LGBTQ-inclusive education, LGBTQ pride and safe space posters, faculty training, Genders and Sexualities Alliances, groups, peer education, restorative practices to address bullying, and referrals to LGBTQ-inclusive sexual and mental health services and programs in the community” quintuples the chance that people will seek services with their school’s wellness center or health clinic. While Bay Area schools foster safe LGBTQ communities, continuing to promote LGBTQ acceptance at school, in the classroom, in discussions, will help students to seek staff support.

Featured image (at the top of this post): Shasta English teacher Laura Friday displays a LGBT Safe Zone Sign in her classroom. PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Bodestyne

Summit Shasta confronts the concept of safe space

By Katie Scribner and Amanda Yon

Staff Writers

When walking through the Summit Public Schools: Shasta campus, you see signs / banners / stickers in multiple classrooms calling that room a “safe space,” a space where everyone is welcome, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. The staff also constantly tell students how this school is a welcoming and accepting place for all.

However, there are still derogatory slurs (such as “gay” being used in a negative way, or the f-word) and harmful actions used in passing, even if it is not directed at a specific person. Instances like these could be a huge problem for students, causing them to not feel safe or welcomed at the school.

How accepting is Shasta of the LGBTQ+ community?

A survey was sent out to the Summit Shasta students, 96 of which responded, and 58.3 percent of the people who responded stated that they are very comfortable with people who identify with the LGBTQ+ community, 17.7 percent feel somewhat comfortable, 18.8 percent feel neutral, 4.2 percent feel somewhat uncomfortable and 1 percent feel very uncomfortable. In total, 76 percent of the students who took the survey stated that they feel comfortable in some way around people who are in the LGBTQ+ community.

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Student survey data revealed mainly supportive attitudes toward members of the LGBTQ+ community.

As someone who is actively a part of and involved in the LGBTQ+ community, Shasta freshman Evelyn Archibald explained her view of the community at school: “I think it’s a pretty safe space, but I’m not totally sure; I don’t have a lot of experience.”

Archibald’s views on the community are important since she is a part of the community. She is a representation of how LGBTQ+ students feel at Shasta. While there are others who share similar beliefs as her, this is not the only viewpoint among Shasta students. 

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Shasta freshman Evelyn Archibald PHOTO CREDIT: Katie Scribner

Another student, who preferred to remain anonymous when contacted, stated on the survey: “Just because I will not support the LGBT community does not mean that I will not accept them as people.” This student said that they felt this way because of their religion: “My beliefs state that the idea of homosexuality is a sin, but that does not mean that the person is bad because of it. We hate the sin, not the committer of the sin.”

Even those who aren’t a part of the community still accept and support the community, regardless of religious beliefs.

Shasta senior Abby Wagner said that she is supportive of people who are in the LGBTQ+ community because she doesn’t think “it’s anyone’s right to pass judgment on who someone is attracted to, what they identify as, or any other characteristic that someone is born with.” She feels like it’s the “equivalent to judging someone based on their eye color” and further explains that “they believe it’s natural. The same thought process should be accepted regarding sexuality and identity.”

As well as Wagner, Shasta freshman Sophia Woehl shared her views on the LGBTQ+ community: “Yes, I support them because they’re just people, and I’m just a person too. We are all equal, and they can be who they want to be.” Woehl also said that if she were to ever see anyone being singled out for their identity / sexuality she “wouldn’t want to be a bystander” and that while it “depends on the situation” if she “[felt] like [she] could do something [she] would speak out.”

Most who responded to the survey and the followup interviews shared similar beliefs. Either they stated that they had no problem with the LGBTQ+ community at all, or they stated that they didn’t accept the community because of religious reasons but that they harbored no ill will toward the community either.

While the students at Shasta still have a few problems fully accepting the LGBTQ+ community, when different head staff members were asked their opinion on how accepting Shasta is of the community, a different light was shed on the issue. It was put very clear when the Shasta Executive Director Wren Maletsky said that Shasta is “overwhelmingly accepting” of the community and that there are efforts being put in to make sure that these students feel safe. As a “protected class” the students are “entitled to extra rights,” Ms. Maletsky further explained. 

In addition to this, Adelaide Giornelli, the Dean of Culture and Instruction at Shasta, reinforced the idea of Shasta being an accepting space, not just for LGBTQ+ students but for everyone, by claiming that the campus has a “zero tolerance bullying policy.”

One of the specific things that Shasta does to help the community and culture, Ms. Giornelli went on to explain, is the use of mentor-led Circles. These Circles act as safe spaces for students to be able to reach out and talk about issues going on in their lives. A group of around 20 students guided by a single teacher all sit in a circle and go around checking in with each other on their feelings, emotions and the general well-being of the students. With these Circles being performed every Friday, the overall structure and community of the students is a lot closer and more supportive than it otherwise would have been without this structure in place.

However, just like every high school, there are times when the community at Shasta isn’t as safe and comfortable for everyone as it could be. According to student sources who requested to remain anonymous, there have been instances of sexual assault on campus, and while the faculty at Shasta is quick to find a resolution that makes both parties feel safe and comfortable, this is not the case at all schools across the country.

The LGBTQ+ community and sexual assault

People who identify with the LGBTQ+ community experience sexual assault more often than people who do not identify as LGBTQ+. According to a survey done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention: 44 percent of lesbian women and 61 percent of bisexual women experienced some sort of sexual assault, while only 35 percent of heterosexual women experienced sexual assault by an intimate partner. It also said that 13 percent of lesbian women, 46 percent of bisexual women and 17 percent of heterosexual women have been raped in their lifetime.

The CDC also found that 26 percent of gay men, 37 percent of bisexual men, and 29 percent of heterosexual men experience some type of sexual assault by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Additionally, 40 percent of gay men, 47 percent of bisexual men, and 21 percent of heterosexual men have experienced some type of sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime.

According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (known as RAINN), college students who identify as transgender, genderqueer, and nonconforming (TGQN) are more likely to be sexually assaulted: 21 percent of TGQN college students have been sexually assaulted, 18 percent of non-TGQN female college students have been sexually assaulted, and 4 percent of non-TGQN male college students.

Sexual assault statistics: high school

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Age groups and sexual assault rates GRAPHIC CREDIT: Al Jazeera America

According to Al Jazeera America, 58 percent of students from 7th grade to 12th grade experience some sort of sexual assault. The article also said that girls were much more likely to experience any and all forms of sexual assault than boys.

The same survey said that girls who were more developed or were seen as more attractive were the most likely to be sexually assaulted. The second most likely group to be sexually assaulted were boys who were not very athletic or masculine.

According to RAINN, people who are ages 12-34 are the most likely to be sexually assaulted. 69 percent of people who are sexually assaulted are ages 12-34, while the remaining 31 percent are ages 35 and up.

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Specific groups of teens who are sexually assaulted GRAPHIC CREDIT: Al Jazeera America

Overall safety at Shasta

Safety at Shasta is a very relevant issue going on today. When it comes to the LGBTQ+ community and the safety of students facing sexual assault, the school is continuing to take measures to combat this problem and to bring awareness.

Sarah Day Dayon, the AP United States History teacher at Shasta, helps to explain the importance of this topic, saying that students are not always “aware of each other’s boundaries” and that, in the past, “boundaries were crossed.” In order to better inform the students and staff at Shasta, Ms. Dayon proposes that we should be “talking about [sexual assault] because it affects people of all ages.” She goes on to explain that, “especially at a young age, we aren’t always aware when we are allowed to say ‘no’ to things, or what a safe environment looks like. People often make assumptions that things are okay when they aren’t.”

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Shasta history teacher Sarah Day Dayon PHOTO CREDIT: Katie Scribner

In order to help the issue of sexual assault and safety in general here at Shasta, Ms. Dayon suggests that instead of talking about matters after they have already happened, that we should be “thinking more preventative.” She also explains that “this is the time where [students] are starting to get into relationships- it’s important to be able to navigate that. College shouldn’t be the first time you hear about sexual assault or gender pronouns.”

Raising awareness of sexual assault and the use of derogatory language at school can be one of the best ways to help solve the problem. Creating more conversations by means of in class or during Circle will help to ease the struggles faced by students and staff regarding sexual assault and the safety of students at Shasta.

As Ms. Dayon said, “There is always more that we can be doing to improve our policies, to improve our education.”

 

Minority students are asking the Denali administration for the support they deserve

By Kyle Kobetsky and Evangeline Si

Staff Writers

The Summit Denali Queer Straight Alliance was started in the fall of 2018, with the intent of creating a safe space for queer kids at Denali. Around the time the QSA was formed, the school held a Club Fair, intending to promote different clubs or social gatherings within the Denali community.

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This poster advertises the QSA Club. PHOTO CREDIT: Kyle Kobetsky

During this time, clubs were encouraged to distribute flyers across campus. For many clubs, this was not a problem. For Denali QSA, they found all of their posters missing from the walls. Even the poster advertising on the specifically designated club wall was missing.

This was not the first or the last time the members of the QSA would experience normalized discrimination, but it resonated with them. Having contacted the administration and received what was essentially radio silence, the QSA members were left feeling ignored.

A founding member of the QSA, who requested to remain anonymous, said, “The administration at Denali has often tried to make things better for people of certain identities who seem to be on the receiving end of harassment. However, nothing they do seems to make a lasting change for those of us affected.” Many Denali minorities feel these microaggressions and instances of discrimination are becoming normalized without administrative action.

Emma Smith, a key member of the Queer Straight Alliance, commented on the normalized discrimination she experiences: “People say the ‘f’ slur a lot […] they also say the ‘r’ slur but that’s not [homophobic]. Both of those words make me uncomfortable and having them said like where I go to school is not great for me at all […] they are just, like ‘Hey don’t swear!’ and then [the administration thinks] that makes them not do that again. That is a lot more harmful than the thing, like bigger instances [of homophobia].” 

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Denali sophomore Emma Smith

This is one of many incidents of the administration at Summit Denali not providing for the different identities within the high school community. Similarly, a former student Zaid Yousef, had concerns about a lack of an adequate praying area. Over his year with Denali, these concerns were not suitably addressed to provide the practicing Muslim community with a regular or comfortable praying area.

“[The] main thing for the Muslim minority was the prayer issue […] when all the rooms were occupied, we had to pray separately within our class times,” Yousef said. As you can see from his feedback, he was not too happy with the administration’s efforts in solving their problem. We asked Laura Zado, the Dean of Instruction and Culture at Summit Denali, for a response toward Yousef’s complaints but she did not get back to us.

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Denali Dean of Instruction and Culture Laura Zado

We also spoke with Ms. Zado about the minority groups at Denali and how the school works to provide for those with different needs or to prevent discrimination.

“Denali has done some in the past, like ‘what is bullying like’, […] ‘what does racism look like in today’s world’, ‘what does sexism look like in today’s world’ and I think that is something people touch on in classes, I would like to see students do more of that and to raise that awareness,” Ms. Zado responded.

Continuing her point, Ms. Zado said access to the curriculum and the projects needs to be improved. “I think we still have a ways to go in terms of making sure that particularly for students with, either learning differences or who English is not their first language. I think we have a long way to go in terms of providing access to that […] I think that is something our teachers are constantly working really hard with, I would say the other place I would really love to see — wanna push myself to, is bringing myself to kind of awareness events and programming to the school so different identity groups can get students together who are part of that identity group having them do some sort of celebration, presentation with the school.” Ms. Zado’s responses go to show that the administration does encourage awareness for the different identities of Summit Denali, but the students want them to take further action.

Denali has affirmed that one of their main focuses is on encouraging diversity in the community, but the response to hatred and bigotry falls short of their mission statement. However, this is not to say the administration of Denali willfully ignores the concerns of their diverse student body; but even with their current efforts, minorities are left feeling like second-class citizens in their community.

The situation at hand in Summit Denali is not purposeful lenience but an oversight due to frequent turnover, a lack of cultural competence and a diminished response to discrimination.

We then asked Ms. Zado how Denali deals with incidents that involve discrimination or harassment toward different identities in the community. “So the work that I do when we do hear about an incident [that] involves [minorities and homophobia/racism] really trying to understand what was at the core of that, and really try to get to what was the motivation and what was the rationale — just to help prevent it again and then we use something called restorative justice in order to bring in some logical consequences,” she replied.

The reaction from the administration of Summit Denali that students have personally experienced might not deliver the appropriate consequences for their targeting actions, but the lack of punitive justice reduces the awareness, respect and safety for the different identities in Denali’s community. 

While the minority student population feels ignored, there is still room for a voice in the Denali community, emphasized by the welcoming student body and the encouragement of the staff.

LGBTQ members of the Tahoma community find inconsistent support

By Erick Godinez, Kaitlyn Kelley and Joshua Rivera 

Staff Writers 

At Summit Tahoma, the Human Sexuality Expeditions course put up posters around the campus saying, “Be Yourself Out Loud And Proud,” “The Heart Wants What It Wants” and more encouraging words.

Rebecca Breuer, the Human Sexuality teacher, talked about the inspiration behind these posters. She explained that the project was based around an interview. The students had to talk to three students, one of which had to identify as LGBTQ. “I wanted to make sure it didn’t just stop in the classroom, that the whole Tahoma community could see the support that we had, so we tacked on just making a poster just to have that extra visual representation of making it very clear that this has to be a safe space for absolutely everyone,” Ms. Breuer explained. 

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Here are some examples of posters made by the Human Sexuality Expeditions class PHOTO CREDIT: Kaitlyn Kelley 

She later added, “The people in the class, a lot of them loved it – especially the ones that are in the community; you could see the visible change in them and how happy they were and also the allies, the supporters in the class, were really loving it, and I even noticed the students that were a little more closed-minded were opening up a bit.”

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Rebecca Breuer, Human Sexuality teacher PHOTO CREDIT: Kaitlyn Kelley

Ms. Breuer added, “We did have some vandalism where people made inappropriate drawings on their drawings, which was upsetting to see, so I made sure that every Expeditions teacher talked to their classes about that and how that’s not OK and other people, I did notice, liked it, and other people were making jokes about it – so it’s a big mix here.”

The Bay Area is ranked as one of the highest LGBTQ populations, according to a 2015 Gallup Poll. However, San Jose, more specifically, has one of the lowest populations, alongside Houston, Cincinnati, Raleigh and Birmingham.

It is no secret that LGBTQ students are subjected to more bullying and harassment; in fact, a 2015 report by GLSEN found that 85 percent of LGBTQ students have faced verbal harassment, 58 percent of LGBTQ youth felt unsafe because of their sexuality and 43 percent felt unsafe because of their gender identity.

We conducted a survey of our own to find how supportive the Summit faculty and Summit students are regarding the LGBTQ community. The results showed that the faculty was rated as being more supportive than the students. 

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Tahoma students shared mixed results on the support from the student body. GRAPHIC CREDIT: Joshua Rivera

Sydney Martinez is a senior at Tahoma who identifies as a non-binary LGBTQ youth. When asked about the results of our survey, they said, “The fact that it is significantly lower than the faculty does make a lot of sense because the faculty make efforts to respect students and to make sure everyone is comfortable and safe. Students don’t necessarily need to. It’s OK, people can be who they are, voice their opinions. But there are people that really need to be, I don’t want to say protected or sheltered or anything, but there are some things you can’t say.”

When asked if the results were surprising, they said, “I expected it; it doesn’t seem very shocking to me. While I don’t see much bullying or people being rude to each other, it does happen. I may not be in the middle of it, but it does happen. So I’m not very surprised it was lower.”

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Tahoma students share feeling more support from the Tahoma staff. GRAPHIC CREDIT: Joshua Rivera

Earlier in the interview, Martinez said, “I think a lot of teachers are really into making sure we all feel safe and that we’re all comfortable around other students and other teachers. Most of the students are really cool here.”

Tahoma sophomore Lilith Flowers identifies as a homoromantic asexual youth. When asked her opinion on equality at school, she said, “I would say no one’s really treated equally. Everyone has their own sense of humor that sort of uses other people as the punchline. So I think the main problem here in this school is that people not knowing that their jokes and their actions can be seen as offensive towards the LGBTQ community. I think that’s the main problem. We are treated equally, but there’s still areas where people don’t understand this isn’t OK to make a joke about.”

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Lilith Flowers, Tahoma sophomore PHOTO CREDIT: Kaitlyn Kelley

She later said, “I think a lot of the students here are pretty OK with it. It’s 2018; everyone’s pretty OK with it. There is, as always, people who, as I’ve been saying, who just don’t know what they’re doing isn’t OK, and when they are confronted with this they respond with ‘what do you mean, it’s a joke.’ They’re teenagers, they’re trying to do funny stuff, and what they don’t realize is while to some people it may be fun, to the vast majority of people, it’s not really funny, and not OK. It’s OK in a way; they’re teenagers, they’re making mistakes. They’re gonna grow up and realize what they did was a teenager thing.”

Tahoma sophomore Lela Caliz, when asked about her feelings toward the LGBTQ community, said, “I was always supportive of it because growing up I was around gay people like my mom was around it all the time, and she would bring me around these people, and I would experience their life with them, and I would see who they are as a person, and that’s really cool, and since then I’ve always accepted people for who they are.”

She further added, “You are who you are, and no one can ever change that.”

Jonathan Stewart, the executive director at Summit Tahoma, was asked what he feels about different gender identities and sexualities. “I will say, personally, I find it interesting how our society’s understanding of it is evolving and it is at the center of the struggle for equity and equality. I’m always curious to hear different people’s perspective and experiences.”

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Jonathan Stewart, the executive director at Summit Tahoma PHOTO CREDIT: Summit News

Mr. Stewart talked about his experiences in high school at Edison High School in Fresno, CA. “I can recall the experience of two high school friends of mine who were both gay and because homosexuality and queerness weren’t as accepted back then and where I was. People basically had to make a decision, ‘I’m either gonna be really thick-skinned and tough about this or I’m gonna stay in the closet.’ ”

He went on, “My two friends each made a different decision along those lines. One of them waited until college to come out, and the other one was bold about it. People would call him gay and he would just say, ‘Yeah I’m gay. So what?’ But he had to be thick-skinned and bold about it. He drew a lot of attention for it, but he also relished the attention. It worked OK for him from what I can see. That’s definitely not how everyone’s personality is, and people shouldn’t have to be forced to deal with it in a way like that.”

Mr. Stewart talked about what faculty and administrators do to ensure the safety and equal treatment of LGBTQ students at Tahoma: “We have not done a lot of work specifically for that sub-group of students. We do a lot of work around respecting and compassion in the community, which extends to everyone. We have not taken those specific steps for that group of students, specifically.”

He added, “A few things that we can all recognize is the club on campus. From time to time, there’s a student campaign around the use of language and that is something that we address this fall to the faculty. And, of course, we have the visual symbol, the picnic table right outside the office project, which I supported and provided some guidance on.”

When asked about the results of our survey, Mr. Stewart said, “It concerns me and it doesn’t surprise me. Like I said earlier, I think that the staff who works here are all big-hearted and pretty well-educated on these issues, but I would expect that there would be some divergent opinions among our students.”

He ended the interview with, “The last question asked certainly sets up the question my mind of ‘What more can be done?’ There could be more done around education. Some of that can come from this school, but some of it can also come from student efforts, and I think even reporting on it like this is a really strong example of a student effort that can make a little bit of a difference. It is a long road by the time you’re in high school, some of your opinions are deeply held and informed by how you brought up in your family, but it is a challenge with pursuing.”

Student and teachers offer opinions on the LGBTQ community at Tahoma

By Kaitlyn Kelley

Staff Writer

Words are a very powerful tool, especially in a school setting where derogatory words can hurt the most. As kids struggle with self-confidence issues already, we really should reconsider our choice of language toward others. Words and phrases like “that’s gay” shouldn’t be allowed at any school, as they are derogatory and don’t make people in the LGBTQ community feel safe and respected. No matter what their background is, everyone should feel safe at school.

When asked, teachers and students at Summit Public School: Tahoma had strong opinions about the treatment of LGBTQ students at school. A snapshot of their thoughts and answers are included below.  

  1. What are your thoughts on how society treats the LGBTQ community?

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Tahoma junior Oniris Ramos

Tahoma junior Oniris Ramos and co-leader of the LGBTQ Club said, “The LGBTQ community is very sexualized in society; a lot of media portrays us as very sexually hyperactive people – very like fashionable or butch; lesbians don’t like to wear skirts or gay men can help women fashion problems.”

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Tahoma history teacher Eileen Kim

 

Tahoma history teacher Eileen Kim responded, “Well, I think there are two different societies: I think the societies on the coasts, the East Coast and the West Coast, are a lot more liberal, understanding and accepting. To be LGBTQ is viewed as more normal, not weird or wrong. But I definitely think there are parts of the country in those societies where it’s a lot different.”

 

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Tahoma science teacher Alexis Lorenz

Tahoma science teacher Alexis Lorenz had this to say: “I think it’s moving forward, but it’s most definitely not as inclusive as it should be. Currently, [gay] marriage is still frowned upon, and that’s ridiculous; it’s not like current marriage systems are working anyway, with an over 50 percent divorce rate in heterosexual couples. Society is also starting to realize the fluidity of gender; it’s not as binary as we believed it to be. I believe that that’s something that’s going to be difficult moving forward for people who struggle to understand that and be tolerant to that.”

2. Do you feel this school is accepting to the LGBTQ community? Why or why not?

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Tahoma Teacher Resident Kevin Franey

Tahoma Teacher Resident Kevin Franey replied, “I do – I think Tahoma, compared to our larger society, is a very accepting place of people of all backgrounds. We’ve definitely found a pretty good space here for the LGBTQ community. But again, that’s still not to say it’s perfect.”

Ms. Lorenz said, “As teachers, we do our very best to be as inclusive and understand[ing] as possible, but when you work with human beings people make mistakes. I know as a faculty we discuss it often to make sure we are being as understanding and helpful as we can be while keeping all our students thoughts, concerns and feelings in mind.”

3. Have you ever heard someone use discriminatory words to another student? If so what did they say and how did you feel?

Mr. Franey said, “I definitely have heard students use slurs in reference to other students; I’ve heard students call other students ‘gay’ – I’ve heard the word ‘fag’ before. I don’t think I’ve ever heard, like the student involved in this identify as LGBTQ, so I’ve never seen an instance where it was specifically targeted to a student for that reason – but it doesn’t make it any more OK. I know it definitely has hurt students that it was targeted at, and I was not pleased to hear it. I’ll pull aside the student and have a conversation about why it’s an inappropriate word to use at least in that context in that way and make a plan for how we can move forward without using slurs like that.”

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Tahoma freshman Vainey Gonzaga

Tahoma freshman Vainey Gonzaga answered, “At my old school the guys would usually tell each other ‘you’re hella gay dude’ or ‘that’s hecka gay’ to each other; I didn’t like it, but I wouldn’t say anything because they were both kidding around, so they both didn’t care – but, I mean, if I was a part of that community I wouldn’t like it if they said it that much because it’s like shaming them, even though the term ‘gay’ shouldn’t be used with a negative connotation.”

Ramos said, “No, not really – I haven’t heard anything; I’ve heard things you would normally hear at a normal high school like ‘that’s so gay’ and things like that, but nothing hateful, not at this school – a lot of students have friends that are LGBTQ; they wouldn’t say that because they are friends with those people.”

4. In your opinion is calling something “gay” disrespectful or should it not be taken seriously?

Ramos said, “I mean the way people use it, to me, it’s distrustful because it’s used as an insult; if you don’t like something you say ‘that’s gay’ with a bad connotation and it’s not; it should not be used with a bad connotation because being gay is not a bad thing.”

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Tahoma English teacher Merica McNeil

Tahoma English teacher Merica McNeil said, “I think it’s definitely disrespectful, and people often do it thinking they’re joking, but it’s just perpetuating a negative stereotype by using ‘gay’ as a way to insult someone. I think it’s not appropriate and needs to be dealt with, and I try my best to deal with it.”

5. Do you think there should be action taken against these students who use derogatory terms? If so, what do you think should be done? If no, why?

Dr. McNeil said, “I think that the main thing is creating a respectful, safe and supportive environment, and I want everyone to feel that way in school and outside, but I can only control in my classroom. I don’t think it’s acceptable; and, if I hear that, I say something about it. I think it’s important to have students reflect on it; I might pull a student aside and talk to them to ask them questions to reflect on it because that can help the learn and ask questions like ‘How do you think that makes them feel?’ and ‘Is that respectful?’ so they can learn that that’s not okay.”

Ganzaga said, “I definitely do agree that there should be consequences to those who are saying those words or phrases; they should get a warning first time, but if they’re really offending someone it should be taken to the office. The first time should be a warning because maybe they didn’t mean it in that way, but if it becomes a problem it should lead to parent and principal meeting or suspension. If a student is feeling very emotionally offended by the terms that the other student is saying, then maybe other matters should be taken if they’re intentionally trying to hurt someone.”  

6. Why do you think students use “gay” as an insult or negative descriptive term?  Do you think it’s out of ignorance or homophobia?

Ms. Kim said, “Again that depends – as an adult we would have to be a little bit of digging, and that begins with having that conversation. In my existence, it’s important to approach the person in question not from a place of judgement because then they’ll get really defensive and their walls will come up and they won’t be able to listen.”

Ms. Lorenz said, “For most students it’s a little bit of both. I would say they don’t understand the power of their language. Just like you see with the language directed toward women, the language directed towards the LGBTQ community has a very similar effect as it affects how they feel about themselves, and the people who do use it towards women and LGBT community have a bit of a phobia or fear involved in using that language and the best thing is to have a conversation with them.”    

7. If it’s out of ignorance, how should these students be informed that it’s offensive? If you think it’s homophobia, how can we educate them that it’s not acceptable?

Dr. McNeil said, “Addressing it and talking about it helps; however, it affects everyone in the class, and so I think we could bring it up in class. That’s a really good question – it’s something I’ve been thinking about actually; like, for example, using gender pronouns and how to deal with that. I attended at class when I was in Arizona about how to have some of these discussions, and it’s really complicated; you can talk to the student or the class, and it’s something as a teacher I want to talk with other teachers about so we can address every class about it so everyone feels safe, supported and respected.”

Ramos said, “If it’s ignorance, they should just be sat down and talked to. If it’s homophobia, same thing – but with homophobia it stems from things like religion, so there’s not much we can really change with homophobia; we just gotta help them understand.”  

8. Do you think this school is more accepting of the LGBTQ community than others in the area? Why or why not?

Ramos said, “Yes, I do feel like they’re more accepting. When I decided to come to Tahoma (because it was my choice I could either go to Oak Grove or here I chose to go here) because there was no P.E. but I didn’t know there was such a large LGBT community when I got here, I felt very welcomed. I felt like I was able to come out to people a lot easier than I was before at a nonpublic school or non-charter or even non-Summit school. Some schools they say they accept it, but you can tell there’s a lot of negative connotation around it, so yeah.”  

Ms. Kim said, “I don’t know if I can answer that question; I don’t really know what other schools might be like. I have a couple of friends that work at other schools, but those schools are so big I think it’s hard to attribute a judgement to what it’s like at such a big school. So I don’t feel comfortable being able to answer that question.”

9. Have you ever used “gay” negatively in the past, and when did you learn the impact that it has?

Gonzaga said, “I always heard those kids, like I said before, say ‘that’s so gay’ – but we had a teacher that heard them and got really mad and said ‘stop it; be quiet; don’t use that term,’ and they were so confused; and she said that she had said that when she was younger in high school; and everyone went silent; and she explained that she had a good friend that was gay and committed suicide; and this one time they made comments saying ‘that’s so gay,’ and he told them to stop and came out to them; and then a month later he committed suicide.”

Ms. Kim said, “Yeah, I think I did when I was in high school, which was a long time ago -from 1999- 2003 – so early 2000s being gay started being more of an issue, more visible, but people we’re still unsure. I had a friend that I played basketball with and was really good friends with – she came out as gay and immediately people in the school were either on her side and other people in the school were either really hateful or would say ‘you need to come to my church for this conversion therapy.’ Honestly, knowing these people, they were coming from a good place but very misinformed, and I think I said something was gay out of habit in her presence, and I immediately said “I’m so sorry” and ever since then I haven’t said it.”

10. Has society impacted the way we think of these terms?

Ms. Kim said, “I can still remember when Ellen had her show and came out on her show and that was a big deal, and I can still remember it started popping up a lot in T.V. and movies, and it was super controversial back then. Think that was when society started to thaw a little bit on the idea and people’s minds started to be more open.”  

Ramos said, “Society had impacted the way we think of those terms; some people think gay is very negative; some people don’t even want to classify themselves as gay because they’re afraid they get hurt because a lot of people who identify as get hurt or murdered or things like that, and we have to educate people that it’s not a horrible thing to be gay.”

With that final quote from Ramos, if you are wondering, the LGBTQ Club meets every Tuesday at lunch in PF10. The club is open to any and everyone! You don’t have to identify as gay, you just have to be supportive. If talking about these issues is something you’re interested in, don’t hesitate to show up!

 

Students explore identity at Everest

By Meredith Espinosa

Staff Writer

For Round Two of Expeditions, Everest Public High School added a new class: Identity. This afternoon-only class explores the concept of identity and how it applies to students.

However, since the class is brand new, there are only seven students actually in it. This seems bad at first, but having a small class size gives the teacher, Jewell Bachelor, much more time to talk with each student individually.

In the class, students discuss what identity means, what their identities are, and how that affects them as a whole. One of the students told me, “I know who I am … to a certain extent but I don’t know everything about myself yet, so I’ve learned a lot about myself.”

The class has also spent some time discussing identity in society. It’s had a strong focus on how people are treated because of their identities, especially people of color and queer folk.

The first day I shadowed, the class discussed the concept of community and what it means, and in the afternoon explored gender and what it meant to be genderfluid. Students asked questions and gave opinions and had good, strong discussions about their identities and the identities of others.

The class isn’t afraid to shy away from rough topics, either. On my second shadowing day, the class watched a documentary investigating the murder of Marsha P. Johnson, a case that was ignored by the New York City police because the victim was a trans woman.

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Students from other classes visit Ms. Jewell’s class to watch a documentary on Marsha P. Johnson.

The community at Everest is a big focus for the class, especially focusing on how accepting the community is. A student told me they “felt like the community at Everest is very accepting of who we are, like if someone is bisexual or anything like that I feel like people would be very accepting.”

However, that isn’t the same everywhere. The same student told me, “I live in a very white community, so I feel like some people in my community wouldn’t be that accepting of a bisexual person, but some people would be, it depends.”

The class has only begun, so there is still more its students want. One said, “I want to talk more about how we figure out who we are as a person, and what we can do to help.” There are still four weeks of Expeditions class time left, so maybe those topics will be brought up later.

Ultimately, the class is providing a brand-new opportunity at Everest: a chance to really let people explore their identities and find out who they are.

Here is footage of the class and interviews:

 

Prejudice against the LGBTQ community affects today’s youth

By Eliza Insley and Kai Lock

Staff Writers

The LGBTQ community faces discrimination and lack of representation in America’s generally hetero-normative society. There have been some leaps of progress in the past decade with legalization of same-sex marriage, for example, but the new legal ability to be able to marry just scratches the surface of LGBTQ issues.

Mistreatment of the members of the LGBTQ community matters to us because we have friends and family who are members of the LGBTQ community, and we are at a time in our lives where we are figuring out who we are.

Knowing that our friends and family could be at risk and could face discrimination for who they are is devastating. They are people who we care about, and they are being threatened for how they identify or who they love. That there are people out there who think it is OK to treat people so horribly and who try and justify that mistreatment as “their opinion” or their religion is scary, especially when it’s not called out, as it should be. 

Gay conversion therapy is one of the biggest threats to the LGBTQ community. It is only banned in seven states, plus D.C. According to the Human Rights Campaign, gay conversion therapy statistically shows that LGBTQ community members are more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide. It is absolutely disgusting that only seven states in the U.S. have banned this type of practice.

We believe that everyone should have the right to love anyone they want. Being a homosexual was removed from the mental disorders list in 1973, we don’t see why people think that this can be “cured” and that there is still a method to “pray the gay away.”

We are at a time in our lives where we are expected to discover who we are as people. That is hard to do when there is so much controversy and hate surrounding certain parts of someone’s identity. Growing up in such a toxic environment could lead to horrible things such as depression and other mental issues resulting from hiding or trying to get rid of a large part of your personality out of fear of not being accepted.

Coming out is a big step for some people because they are terrified of how they will be perceived by friends, family and peers. Some families aren’t as accepting as others, and teens are thrown out of their homes for their sexual identity. 40 percent of youth who are homeless are in the LGBTQ community. Homeless LGBTQ youth are at a heightened risk of violence, abuse and exploitation, and they can experience both physical and mental strains because of discrimination and the stigma against identifying as LGBTQ.

People who identify as LGBTQ don’t only face discrimination in the streets and in their own homes, but they also face discrimination in their own schools. Summit Prep junior Bella Weiss said “no one talked to me” after she came out in middle school.

Seeing the injustice that members of the LGBTQ community face, it has become harder for more people to accept who they are and to come to terms with their identity and sexuality. Our new generation has witnessed hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, and many don’t feel safe and sound in our nation through the lack of protection and recognition of the LGBTQ community in the United States of America.

We hope to see more respect shown toward members of the LGBTQ community in the future. It would help to have a more accurate representation in the media of what it means to be a part of this community. 

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