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CA funds cultural competency training on LGBTQ issues for teachers

Cultural Competency LGBTQ Issues

A person watching the LA Pride Parade on June 10, 2018, waves a California flag with the added Pride colors. Photo: Jon Viscott/City of West Hollywood

A curriculum is in the works to provide California public school teachers and staff with cultural competency training to support LGBTQ students.

That forthcoming instruction will include topics such as school anti-bullying and harassment policies and complaint procedures; how to identify LGBTQ youth who are subjected to, or may be at risk of, bullying and lack of acceptance at home or in their communities; and how to find targeted support services for LGBTQ+ students, including counseling services, among other topics.

Approximately $3 million in funding to develop the future training was included in the final state budget signed last month by Gov. Gavin Newsom — $2,402,000 of the funding request was included in AB 130, while the remaining $598,000 was approved in SB 129. The funding was requested by Equality California and supported by the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus.

The funding will allow the California Department of Education to create online training to help teachers support LGBTQ students. The training will be designed for use by teachers and other certificated employees in schools operated by a district or county office of education as well as charter schools.

A deadline for creating the curriculum has not been set. The ultimate goal is mandated training for teachers and staff, but no timeline has yet been discussed.

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Equality California had pushed for the training for years.

“There’s no doubt that our schools must be a safe, supportive and welcoming for all students,” Rick Chavez Zbur, executive director of Equality California, said in a statement. “At a time when states across the country are attacking transgender kids, we are elated that California has taken this momentous step toward ensuring that public school teachers and staff have the tools and training they need to support LGBTQ+ students.”

In 2018, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond — then a member of the California Assembly — helped pass legislation sponsored by Equality California to require school districts to provide teachers and staff with LGBTQ cultural competency training.

The bill, however, was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The next year, then-Assemblymember Todd Gloria — who now serves as mayor of San Diego authored similar legislation sponsored by Thurmond and Equality California, but the training mandate was ultimately removed from the bill due to a lack of funding.

Advocates say supportive teachers are vital for LGBTQ students, who encounter unique barriers to a safe education, such as higher rates of harassment.

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One national survey published in 2020 by GLSEN, a nonprofit group that advocates for LGBTQ students, found that 69 percent of LGBTQ students reported experiencing verbal harassment at school based on their sexual orientation, 57 percent based on their gender expression or outward appearance and 54 percent based on their gender identity.

About one-tenth of LGBTQ students reported they had been physically assaulted (punched, kicked or injured with a weapon) in the previous year based on their sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity, according to the survey, and 58 percent reported they had been sexually harassed in the previous year.

A hostile school climate can affect students’ mental health and their success in school, the survey said. LGBTQ students who were victimized at school reported higher rates of depression, and, of those who indicated they were considering dropping out of school, 42 percent said it was related to the harassment they faced.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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