Press Coverage of SDNYC - Back To School Meeting!

Thank you to Chalkbeat for covering SDNYC's September meeting on LGBT Policies for students, teachers and families in NYC schools! Read the story below or check it out on the Chalkbeat website.

LGBT students get support from Fariña, but more is needed, advocates say

Originally posted on Chalkbeat by Patrick Wall on September 18, 2014

In the span of just a few months this year, the city’s schools became more welcoming places for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, advocates and lawmakers said Wednesday during a discussion hosted by an LGBT political club.

Since February, the city’s education department has issued guidelines to help schools support transgender students, the schools chancellor encouraged educators to discuss LGBT issues with students, and the state incorporated the gay rights movement into its history standards, speakers noted at the talk, which Chancellor Carmen Fariña and two other school officials attended.

But, they said, the city could still do much more to embrace all students.

Transgender students can still be restricted from using certain restrooms or playing competitive sports under the new guidelines. Bullying is still a major issue, yet many school staffers and students get little training on how to prevent it. And it is unclear if the city’s new social studies curriculum will incorporate gay history, they pointed out.

“We need to have a gay pride celebration in every school. We need to have a gay-straight alliance in every school,” said City Councilman Daniel Dromm, a former Queens elementary school teacher who made headlines years ago when he came out as gay. “I’m tired of waiting.”

Elayna Konstan, head of the education department’s Office of Safety and Youth Development, answered a question during the panel discussion.
PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Elayna Konstan, head of the education department’s Office of Safety and Youth Development, answered a question during the panel discussion.

Dromm, who chairs the council’s education committee, held a hearing on LGBT students in February that Fariña attended. Soon after, she sent principals a memo promoting classroom lessons designed to give students a chance “to gain insight on and sensitivity toward the experience of their LGBT peers.”

On Wednesday, she said she had recently had such a discussion with her eight-year-old grandson, who said he sympathized with a classmate who is “a girl that wishes she was a boy.”

“It’s really, really important that we have these conversations with our kids,” Fariña said. She said that the 200 new school guidance counselors hired this year could help facilitate those discussions.

Rose Christ, vice president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, which hosted the discussion, said the club did not know of any previous chancellor who had addressed “an LGBT organization or spoken at a public LGBT event” focused on schools.

“It’s historic that she was here tonight,” Dromm said about Fariña, who left after making her brief remarks. The officials in charge of school guidance counselors and student safety stayed and participated in the discussion.

The education department released its first-ever transgender student guidelines earlier this year.

They say that schools should allow students to dress in a way that matches their gender identity and should use students’ preferred name and pronoun, except on official records. The guidelines are less clear about which restrooms and locker rooms students may use, or whether they can participate in contact sports, saying that “the safety and comfort of all students” must be considered.

The policies represent a “tremendous step forward,” said panelist Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. But they could still be improved, he added. For instance, a transgender student who identifies as a boy but is not allowed to use the boys’ restroom “no longer feels like just another boy.”

Eunic Ortiz, president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, asks a question during the discussion.
PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Eunic Ortiz, president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, asks a question during the discussion.

While the state’s recently adopted social-studies standards cover gay history for the first time — meaning that high-school students could be tested on it — it is unclear whether the city’s soon-to-be-released history materials will include lessons on those events. Fariña did not resolve that question when asked Wednesday, saying only that she was open to discussing it further.

Since 2008, the city has required every school to designate an anti-bullying liaison and create an anti-bullying plan. Principals must train staff members on the city’s anti-discrimination policies, which prohibits mistreatment based on gender and sexuality, and students must receive at least one lesson on the discipline code, according to a department spokeswoman.

But Dromm and others noted during the discussion that the city does not require teachers to use its “Respect For All” lesson materials, and schools’ anti-bullying liaisons are the only staffers required to attend two-day trainings. Dromm added that when educators do talk about bullying with students, they sometimes leave LGBT issues out of the discussions.

The city does not record students’ gender identity or sexuality when documenting instances of school bullying or bias, making it difficult for advocates to spot trends, the panelists noted. Elayna Konstan, head of the department’s Office of Safety and Youth Development, said her office is still “exploring that with our lawyers.”

One panelist said the city should not ask students for that information, while others said the data is crucial for holding the city accountable for the safety of LGBT students.

“Our invisibility is our biggest enemy,” Dromm said.

Chalkbeat New York is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

Back To School Meeting Photos!

Thank you Chancellor Carmen Farina for speaking with us about LGBT policies in NYC public schools! 

NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina & SDNYC President, Eunic Ortiz

NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina & SDNYC President, Eunic Ortiz

Panel discussion on LGBT policies for students, teachers & families in NYC. 

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Thank you to our esteemed panelists: Council Member Danny Dromm, Chairman, Education Committee; Elayna Konstan, Head of Office of Safety & Youth Development for the DOE; Lois Herrera, Senior Director of Guidance & School Counseling for the DOE; Jared Fox, NYC Chapter Chairman, Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network; and Michael Silverman, Executive Director, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund! And of course many thanks to Paul Schindler, Editor, Gay City News for moderating our panel tonight!

Back to School! A panel on LGBT policies for students, teachers & families in NYC

SDNYC's next meeting will be this Wednesday, September 17th at 8 pm at the LGBT Center (208 W 13 St).

With September marking the start of the 2014-2015 school year, SDNYC's September meeting will be all about LGBT policies for students, families and teachers in NYC.

We are excited to welcome Special Guest Speaker, NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina.

We will also be joined by Council Member Danny Dromm, Chairman, NYC Council Education Committee; Jared Fox, NYC Chapter Chairman, Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network; Michael Silverman, Executive Director, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund and a Senior Official from the NYC Department of Education for a panel discussion of LGBT policies in NYC schools moderated by Paul Schindler, Editor, Gay City News.

This event is free and open to the public.

RSVP on Facebook to get the latest updates and to share information about this panel with your friends. All are welcome!

2014 NYS Primary Elections Re-Cap

Congratulations to the following SDNYC endorsed candidates on winning contested races in yesterday’s NYS Primary Election:

  • Governor of NYS: Andrew M. Cuomo
  • Lieutenant Governor of NYS: Kathy Hochul
  • State Senate District 14 (Queens): Leroy Comrie
  • State Senate District 16 (Queens): Toby Ann Stavisky  
  • State Senate District 28 (Manhattan): Liz Krueger  
  • State Senate District 33 (Bronx): Gustavo Rivera  
  • Assembly District 52 (Brooklyn): Jo Anne Simon
  • Assembly District 71 (Manhattan): Herman "Denny" Farrell Jr
  • Assembly District 72 (Manhattan): Guillermo Linares
  • Assembly District 76 (Manhattan): Rebecca Seawright
  • Assembly District 77 (Bronx): Latoya Joyner  
  • Assembly District 78 (Bronx): Jose Rivera  

While we congratulate these candidates on winning yesterday’s Primary, we have more work to do to help all of the SDNYC endorsed candidates win in the November 4, 2014 General Election and we need you to join our efforts! Volunteer opportunities, fundraisers and other ways to get involved in these races are regularly posted to sdnyc.org/volunteer, including an upcoming opportunity to join NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at his campaign kickoff event this Sunday, September 14.

Vote in the NYS Primary Election TODAY!

Don’t forget to vote TODAY, Tues. September 9th!

Polls will be open from 6:00 AM until 9:00 PM.

Not sure if you’re registered to vote in today’s election?

Click here to confirm your voter registration.

Need to know where to vote or who will be on the ballot?

Click here to find your polling location and to view a sample ballot.

Still deciding who to vote for?

Click here to see the candidates SDNYC has enthusiastically endorsed in the 2014 NYS Primary election.

Don't Forget To Vote Tomorrow, Sept. 9th!

Don’t forget to vote in the NYS Primary Election tomorrow, Tuesday September 9th!

Not sure if you’re registered to vote in tomorrow’s election?

Click here to confirm your voter registration.

Need to know where to vote or who will be on the ballot?

Click here to find your polling location and to view a sample ballot.

Still deciding who to vote for?

Click here to see the candidates SDNYC has enthusiastically endorsed in the 2014 NYS Primary election.

 

SDNYC Condemns Council Member Cabrera's Remarks With NYC Council Members

SDNYC President, Eunic Ortiz condemns Council Member Fernando Cabrera's Anti-LGBT and Anti-Women's Rights comments and political positions with NYC Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Council Member Daniel Dromm, Council Member Rosie Méndez, Council Member Corey Johnson, Planned Parenthood of New York City Action Fund and others. Find out more at www.SDNYC.org Photo Credit: William Alatriste — at New York City Hall.

Help SDNYC stop Cabrera TOMORROW, Sat. 9/6!

Go to sdnyc.org/volunteer for more info & to sign up to join SDNYC and our endorsed candidate Gustavo Rivera for State Senate. Hope to see you there!

See below for statements from the NYC Council LGBT Caucus and individual electeds echoing SDNYC's outrage at Council Member Cabrera's remarks.

An Open Letter to Pro-Choice, Pro-LGBT Elected Officials Supporting Anti-Choice, Anti-LGBT Fernando Cabrera Against Progressive Champion Gustavo Rivera

September 4, 2014

Public Advocate Letitia James
Representative Charles Rangel

Mr. David Dinkins, 106th Mayor of the City of New York
Mr. Adolfo Carrion, Jr., 12th Borough President of the Bronx
Assemblymember Luis Sepulveda
Councilmember Inez Dickens
Councilmember Andy King
Councilmember Maria Del Carmen Arroyo
Councilmember Annabel Palma

To our colleagues endorsing Fernando Cabrera for State Senate:

We recently learned  that you have endorsed Councilmember Fernando Cabrera in the upcoming primary election for  State Senate District 33, and that your names and likenesses are featured in Mr. Cabrera’s campaign literature. We are reaching out to explain why we are supporting Senator Gustavo Rivera in his re-election campaign.

We are proudly standing with Senator Gustavo Rivera because he stands with all of us in demanding reproductive justice and full equality for all New Yorkers, and he has proven time and time again his commitment throughout his tenure in the State Senate.

Senator Gustavo Rivera was a founding member of the Bipartisan Pro-Choice Legislative Caucus, joining his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to protect access to quality reproductive health services, remove barriers to these services, ensure access to education about reproductive choices, and respond to any potential infringement to the legal rights to reproductive healthcare in the State of New York. During the fight for the Women’s Equality Act, Senator Rivera has been a strong voice in support of all 10 points, especially protecting the right to choose for New Yorkers. Senator Rivera is an unequivocal supporter of reproductive rights, and has fought hard for improvements in the law to protect victims of domestic violence and curb sex trafficking.

During the fight for marriage equality in New York, Senator Gustavo Rivera stood by the LGBT community, serving as a key ally in Albany and his commitment to our community continues today. Senator Rivera is an unequivocal supporter of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), pledging to continue to fight for the passage of GENDA. He also supports legislation banning so-called "conversion therapy" for minors, eliminating the use of condoms as evidence in prostitution cases, and ending the prohibition on using Medicaid funds for gender transition-related health care services – all vitally important issues to our community.

Councilmember Cabrera does not.  He actively works against all of our communities, and many of his policy positions are in opposition to the ideals of fairness and equality that we know all of you hold dear.

Councilmember Cabrera voted against 2011 legislation in the City Council that required transparency from deceptive crisis pregnancy centers. During a 2014 visit to Uganda, he praised its government’s flagrant human rights violations against LGBT individuals and openly espoused his support for theocratic government. By working with extremist anti-choice, anti-women and anti-LGBT organizations like the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, Councilmember Cabrera has made it clear that he does not stand with us.

Your endorsements in this race are a deeply surprising deviation from your records of advocating for the women and LGBT New Yorkers and your long record of supporting pro-equality, pro-LGBT, pro-choice, pro-woman candidates for office.

Sincerely,

Senator Liz Krueger

Senator Brad Hoylman

Senator Velmanette Montgomery

Assemblymember Deborah Glick

Assemblymember Daniel O'Donnell

Council Member Corey Johnson

Council Member Carlos Menchaca

Council Member Ritchie Torres

M. Tracey Brooks, Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York Political Committee

Andrea Miller, NARAL Pro-Choice New York

Sonia Ossorio, National Organization for Women – New York City

Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City

Jim Owles Democratic Club

Bronx Rainbow Independent Democratic Association

Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens

Empire State Pride Agenda

 

 

Letter to Congressman Rangel from the LGBT Community

August 28, 2014 - SDNYC joined Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Assemblymember Daniel J. O'Donnell, Council Member Corey Johnson, Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Council Member Hon. Ritchie Torres, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, Empire State Pride Agenda, and the Bronx Rainbow Independent Democratic Association in a letter letting Congressman Rangel know why Council Member Fernando Cabrera is the wrong choice for the NYS Senate District 33 seat.

Join us in supporting SDNYC's endorsed candidate for NYS Senate District 33, Gustavo Rivera by volunteering with us on Sept. 6th. Click Here for more information and to RSVP.


August 28, 2014

Dear Congressman Rangel,

After hearing of your recent endorsement of Council Member Fernando Cabrera in the upcoming Primary election for NYS Senate District 33, we are reaching out to explain why we are supporting NYS Senator Gustavo Rivera in his re-election campaign.

We are proudly standing with NYS Senator Rivera because he stands with all of us in demanding civil rights and full equality for all New Yorkers and he has proven his commitment throughout his tenure in the State Senate.

During the fight for marriage equality in NYS, Senator Rivera stood by the LGBT community, serving as a key ally in Albany and his commitment to our community continues today.

Senator Rivera is an unequivocal supporter of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), pledging to continue to fight to see GENDA approved. He also supports legislation banning so-called "conversion therapy" for minors, eliminating the use of condoms as evidence in prostitution cases and ending the prohibition on using Medicaid funds for gender transition-related health care services - all vitally important issues to our community.

Senator Rivera not only stands up for the LGBT community but serves as an important voice for progressive values including women's equality and reproductive rights.

Council Member Cabrera does not stand with the LGBT community.

In fact, he actively works against all of us and many of his policy positions are in opposition to the long march toward equality seen throughout your career.

Council Member Cabrera advocated against the NYS marriage equality bill as it was pending in Albany and has continued to express discriminatory and regressive views on marriage, protections for the transgender community and women's rights.

By working with the Family Research Council and the American Family Association to undermine the ongoing fight for equality for all New Yorkers, Council Member Cabrera has made it clear that he does not stand with us.

Congressman, your endorsement in this race tarnishes your long history of supporting LGBT rights and illustrious record of supporting progressive candidates for office.

The choice is clear, Congressman. Please join us in supporting the candidate that stands with all of us, NYS Senator Gustavo Rivera.

Sincerely,

Senator Brad Hoylman

Assemblywoman Deborah Glick

Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell

Council Member Corey Johnson

Council Member Carlos Menchaca

Council Member Ritchie Torres

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer

Stonewall Democratic Club of NYC

Empire State Pride Agenda

Lambda Independent Democrats

Bronx Rainbow Independent Democratic Association