Equality California Institute (EQCAI) officially launched its Safe and Supportive Schools Index by distributing a survey to each of California’s 330 unified school districts. The survey is a collaborative effort led by EQCAI to measure, assess, and make public the efforts of unified school districts to implement laws that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students; to develop programs to protect LGBTQ students from bullying and violence; and to serve at-risk LGBTQ students.
In 2015, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that 17% of LGBTQ students in California regularly heard staff at their schools make homophobic remarks and 34% regularly heard negative staff comments regarding someone’s gender expression. GLSEN also found that 31.8% of LGBTQ students nationally missed school in the preceding month due to safety concerns, and 60.5% of LGBTQ students who were considering dropping out of high school cited hostile school climate as a factor.
“Equality California has sponsored a number of laws in California designed to protect LGBTQ students, but some school districts are not in compliance,” said Rick Zbur, Executive Director at Equality California. “This survey will provide the information we need to evaluate the progress that school districts have made in California. The index and report will convey best practices to teachers and administrators on how to increase acceptance, prevent bullying and suicide, and give LGBTQ students the tools to succeed.”
Over the past year and a half, EQCAI, with the pro bono assistance of Latham & Watkins LLP, consulted with the California State Superintendent of Public Instruction and an advisory committee comprised of teachers’ organizations, school districts, school board members, and LGBTQ and allied organizations to develop the survey.
Responses are due by January 15, 2018. EQCAI will consolidate results in a public index and report in mid-2018. Patterned after the Human Rights Campaign’s equality indices, this public index will assess progress and incentivize respondents to comply with existing laws and adopt best practices to prevent bullying and support LGBTQ students. The index also will be a resource to parents, students, and community members engaged with their local school districts to advocate for inclusive programs and policies that benefit all students.
EQCAI plans to build on the results of the index by developing LGBTQ cultural competency and anti-bullying trainings tailored to youth-facing professionals. These trainings will give school districts the information and tools they need to better support their LGBTQ students and staff.