This week the 1.6 million member American Federation of Teachers met in Minneapolis. Among the many resolutions the delegates passed was a resolution in support of LGBTQ students and staff. As chair of the AFT’s Pride Caucus and a national board member of Pride at Work the fact that my union and America’s teachers are dedicating themselves to protecting students based on sexual orientation and gender identity means a lot.
This resolution does several important things. First, it states “affiliates will support adoption, implementation and enforcement, at the district, institutional and state levels, of policies that support the safety and educational achievement of LGBTQ students in K-12 as well as postsecondary education, that specifically ensure that transgender students have equal access consistent with their gender identity to sex-segregated facilities and programs.”
This means our union is pledging ourselves to specifically help trans students. The resolutions goes on to state “will support the Office for Civil Rights guidance and demand its implementation at the district, institutional and state levels at pre-K through grade 12 schools as well as institutions of higher learning.”
The truth is that trans students and educators deserve the dignity and respect that every other student and staff member deserve. Schools are meant to be safe a haven. Trans students and staff deserve the safety of having their teachers and school staff recognize them for who they are and to advocate for them.
As a union, the AFT has always been on the forefront of civil rights. In the 1950’s we expelled our segregated locals and as a union we submitted an Amicus brief with the US Supreme Court in support of school desegregation during Brown V. Board of Education. In 1993, we negotiated the first domestic partner benefits for LGBTQ public employees in New York City. And today we’re working to make sure our voice is in this fight and that once again we’re on the right side of history.
What we know is that every students is different and every student deserves to be recognized for who they are. In many cases that means recognizing a student’s gender identity. Children have enough struggles and challenges put upon them. As a caring profession, we’re committed to caring in the way these students need.
I have no doubt that some anti-LGBT groups will be up in arms at the thought of teachers and school staff supporting the needs of trans students. But they’re on the wrong side of history. The hate that is spewed, the bullying that happens, and threats that are made put our students at risk. It’s incumbent upon us to create the safe space that trans students need. It is our job to protect all of our students.
America’s educators are in this fight. And we will continue to fight for the rights of our trans students and colleagues.
Pat Crispino is the co-chair of AFT’s Pride Caucus and a national board member of Pride At Work.