New Year MPU Update!
Anyone else feeling like January flew by? The #AllyChain kicked off at both Bryant Montessori and Geiger Montessori this month. #AlilesInAction is four weeks into their winter session, exploring impact and contribution (with an emphasis on doing so without money). We are also co-sponsoring a hygiene drive for the Metropolitan Development Council (MDC) and a food drive for Geiger families in need, from January 22-February 22nd, with the Geiger ASB. This will be our second annual partnership drive for MDC. Students get to go on a field trip to MDC, learn about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and assembly hygiene care packages for people, in our community, experiencing homelessness.
Legislatively, the Washington State Democratic Senators have sponsored three bills, two passed to the House (so far), expanding protections for LGBTQ residents. One bill, SB5722, bans conversion therapy, finally passing after several attempts previously by senate democrats 32-16. Another bill, SB5700, requires nursing homes and long-term care facilities staff to attend two hours of LGBTQ competency trainings, protecting our aging LGBTQ population. And long over-due! Be sure to contact your legislator in support of SB5700.
The third bill, SB 5766, (passed 30-18), is one I was asked to testify for, that gets to the core of my advocacy. Testifying is nerve wracking, at least for me. The live television piece gets me in my head, every time. I remind myself that I am not my audience. (I digress!)
This bill would require every school district in the state to implement a harassment, intimidation, bullying (HIB) policy for transgender (and non-binary) students. It argues that a general HIB policy doesn’t go far enough to protect transgender students. The bill would create a level playing field for trans students rights to be more equitable no matter where they live in Washington State. As I testified, before the Education Senate Committee, a bill or policy won’t stop harassment, intimidation, or bullying. It does create a framework of expectations and best practices.
I want to thank everyone who sent their love and encouragement! Below is the testimony I delivered. Your support does not go unnoticed.
“I am testifying in support of SB 5766, as a parent first and youth advocate second. I grew into advocacy because of my unwavering love for my daughter, Stella. When I became a parent, advocacy was not on a list of achievements I planned to make. This role stemmed out of an immediate need to protect Stella from harm and maintaining her right to exist. Sending a child to school is an act of trust, every single time. For all parents. We lose all control over what happens to our children the moment they get on a school bus or walk onto a school campus. Trust and safety mean even more when raising a transgender child. We have the luck and privilege of living in a school district that saw the importance of protecting my daughter without the need of this bill.
As a youth advocate, I served on the Tacoma Public Schools Harassment, Intimidation, Bullying Committee from 2012-12013, to update their policy to align with the 2006 Anderson-Murray law, from 2012-2013. I experience the impact of that work daily, as a parent and advocate.
This policy protected our daughter in the second grade when a group a first, second, and third graders cornered her in the bathroom harassing and intimidating her about the clothes she wore, what bathroom she could or couldn’t use. And took turns mocking her for the type of underwear they thought she wore. Stella was seven years old.
When she was targeted on social media by a classmate last month, because she is open and proud of her trans identity, I knew exactly how to advocate for her and what language to use to stop it before it got out of hand. Without question, I know the administration re fully behind me. I know our superintendent and the school board are fully behind me.
It’s important to point out that a law or policies won’t stop students from verbally, emotionally, or physically harming other students. We know that as a fact, as a family. What it will do is provide a tool to stop harassment, intimidation, and bullying (in person or online). It sets a foundation for a mother like me to protect my child. While helping me support families raising trans and non-conforming students protect their children, access resources, create safety plans, and increase awareness and inclusion in their schools.
Additionally, it helps me educate my own students. Inspired by my work on the HIB committee, I created programming that teaches children how to be allies. I facilitate a whole school program, the Ally Chain, and an after-school program, called Allies In Action. These programs empower youth to not be bystanders. I teach students the difference between harassment, intimidation, and bullying. Helping raise their awareness to how their words, body language and actions impact others. I like to think that I am raising Dumbledore’s Army. My students like to think so, too.
So often, parents of transgender children are forced to be the educators, in schools, doctor’s offices, emergency rooms. By default, I was the one to educate the administrators, office staff, teachers, nurses, and school community on what rights my daughter has and best practices. I do not have a background in school administration or a law degree. A bill like this would elevate the added stress and strain on parents.
In October of 2017, the Washington State PTA adopted a resolution on LGBTQ+ inclusion. SB 5766 would support the state PTA meet the intent of this resolution. This law would also assist education outreach, parent/school partnerships, community building for PTA members, like myself.
I have lost track of all the mornings I sat in my car sobbing, terrified that the child I dropped off, at school that day, would not be the same child at pick-up. Through those days of fear, knowing that there was a policy protecting who Stella eased the anxiety. The personal toll the last two years, fighting anti-trans bathroom bills and initiatives, on our family has been grueling. To live month after month not know if critical rights and protections are going to be abruptly removed, for no factual reason, has impacted my own health. A mother’s primary job is to protect her child. We are living in a time when transgender youth are choosing death over life. I am not ignorant to the frightening risks of violence and sexual assault Stella faces. Before the age of thirteen, Stella has already experienced sexual harassment just by waiting for the bus. As a survivor of domestic and sexual violence, I am painfully aware of the long-term damage harassment, intimidation, and bullying has on one’s well-being.
These protections matter. They save lives and strengthen families.