Dr. Amie Carter's Remarks Upon Raising the Pride Flag at SCOE
Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Amie R. Carter delivered the following remarks as the Sonoma County Office of Education raised the Intersex-Inclusive Progress Pride Flag in celebration of Pride Month.
Today, we gather here at the Sonoma County Office of Education for a momentous occasion – an event dedicated to supporting and celebrating our LGBTQ+ students. We come together to acknowledge the challenges faced by these young people and to affirm our commitment to creating safe and inclusive educational environments for all.
As we raise the flag of progress and unity, we must confront the stark reality that LGBTQ+ students continue to face disproportionate risks for depression and other mental health issues. The struggle for acceptance and understanding can take a toll on their well-being, hindering their educational experience and personal growth. It is our duty to address these challenges head-on and ensure that no student feels marginalized, isolated, or invisible.
We are fortunate to live in a state that has recognized the importance of fostering diversity, inclusivity, and equality within our schools. Through various laws and regulations, our great state has taken significant steps towards creating safer spaces for our LGBTQ+ students. And this seems an appropriate time to remember that these laws exist and that every public school in California is required to comply with them.
Assembly Bill 9 (Seth's Law): This law requires schools to adopt policies and procedures to address bullying and harassment, including those based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. It requires schools to investigate and respond to bullying complaints promptly.
Assembly Bill 1266 (School Success and Opportunity Act): This law ensures that transgender students have the right to participate in sex-segregated programs and activities based on their gender identity. It allows transgender students to use restrooms and facilities consistent with their gender identity.
Assembly Bill 827 (Safe Place to Learn Act): This law requires the inclusion of comprehensive sexual health education in the school curriculum. It mandates that sexual health education is inclusive, free from bias, and provides medically accurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Assembly Bill 2153 (LGBTQ Cultural Competency in Schools): This law requires the California Department of Education to develop resources and provide training to teachers and administrators on supporting LGBTQ+ students and creating inclusive school environments.
Senate Bill 48 (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education Act): This law requires inclusion of the contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals and people with disabilities in history and social science curriculum. It ensures that instructional materials accurately portray the historical contributions of these groups.
Senate Bill 179 (Gender Recognition Act): This law simplified the process for individuals to change their gender marker on state-issued identification documents, including school records, to better align with their gender identity.
These and many other laws protecting LGBTQ+ students are all on the books. They emphasize that public schools can and must lead the way for broader society in modeling inclusiveness and pluralism.
Section 201 of the California Education Code states:
"All pupils have the right to participate fully in the educational process, free from discrimination and harassment."
And further that, "California's public schools have an affirmative obligation to combat racism, sexism, and other forms of bias, and a responsibility to provide equal educational opportunity."
It goes on to explain that, "It is the intent of the Legislature that each public school undertake educational activities to counter discriminatory incidents on school grounds and, within constitutional bounds, to minimize and eliminate a hostile environment on school grounds that impairs the access of pupils to equal educational opportunity."
For students of color and LGBTQ+ students, who disproportionately experience discrimination in school buildings, symbols such as a Pride flag can help foster a more inclusive and affirming school ... and fall neatly under the state mandate to “undertake educational activities to counter discriminatory incidents.” Visible displays of support for LGBTQ+ students like Pride flags are all critical components of creating a kind of welcoming environment that helps young people be successful in schools.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I look for these symbols to ascertain if I am in an affirming and safe space. This flag can be particularly meaningful for LGBTQ+ youth who may be struggling with their identities and facing challenges in their schools, families, or communities. Seeing positive representations and celebrating Pride can provide hope, inspiration, and role models for young LGBTQ+ individuals, showing them that they are not alone and that they can lead fulfilling and meaningful lives.
California has come a long way from the defeated 1978 state ballot measure in California which sought to require schools to fire lesbian and gay teachers if a school board determined that the person engaged in homosexual activity or homosexual conduct.
However, we must remember that laws alone are not enough. True progress is achieved through active engagement and unwavering support. It is the responsibility of educators, parents, and community members to embrace diversity, challenge stereotypes, and promote understanding. We must create spaces where LGBTQ+ students feel seen, heard, and valued – spaces that nurture their dreams, aspirations, and talents.
By flying this flag at the Sonoma County Office of Education, it is my hope and the hope of the Sonoma County Board of Education, that this will stand as an opportunity for LGBTQ+ individuals in our 174 public schools to be visible and proud of their identities. We hope that it will help to create a sense of acceptance and belonging within our school community and broader society. And by celebrating Pride month as an organization, we acknowledge and honor the progress that has been made while recognizing the work that still needs to be done.
This flag should remind all of us that we have the power to reshape the narrative and make a lasting difference in the lives of our LGBTQ+ students. By embracing diversity, fostering empathy, and creating inclusive educational spaces, we not only transform the lives of individual students but also contribute to a more just and compassionate society.
Let us all recommit to championing the rights and well-being of LGBTQ+ students and other marginalized groups within our schools and communities. Let us work tirelessly to create safe and inclusive environments where ALL students can flourish academically, emotionally, and socially. Let us challenge prejudice and discrimination when we encounter it, to ensure that no student ever feels like they must hide their true selves or face adversity alone.
Together, the Sonoma County Board of Education and I as Superintendent of all Sonoma County Schools hoist this flag of progress, resilience, and love high above our agency, our schools and our communities. Let its vibrant colors serve as a reminder of our commitment to supporting all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Together, we can create a world where every student is celebrated for exactly who they are, and where their potential knows no bounds./p>
Thank you, and let us continue to strive for a brighter and more inclusive future for all.