December 20, 2018
President of the Board of Education
Germantown Hills School District #69
103 Warriors Way, Germantown Hills, IL 61548
Dear Superintendent Mair, President Nauman, and Principal Williams:
On behalf of Equality Illinois, the statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization, I write to express my dismay in Principal William’s letter to parents last week. By claiming that an LGBTQ youth’s expression of their sexual orientation or gender identity is disruptive, without any mention that she believes a straight or cisgender youth’s expression of their sexual orientation or gender identity might do the same, sets a harmful double standard. This double standard is inconsistent with best practices for supporting youth, with Illinois laws such as the Illinois Human Rights Act, and our values as Illinoisans. An LGBTQ youth’s identity is never disruptive.
Educators have a sacred duty to protect and affirm children and young people. To that end, the laws of the State of Illinois strive to create an affirming and respectful environment for all students, including those from historically marginalized communities. Laws like the LGBTQ-inclusive Human Rights Act and anti-bullying protections, which have all been adopted with bipartisan support, reflect the values of the Land of Lincoln that all students should be treated with dignity, should be affirmed, and should have the freedom to learn and grow without burden or hostility.
Yet, even in a pro-equality state like Illinois, school life for LGBTQ youth is challenging. According to Illinois data from the U.S. Trans Survey (2015), 80% of individuals who were out or perceived as transgender at some point in their K–12 education experienced some form of mistreatment, such as being verbally harassed, prohibited from dressing according to their gender identity, disciplined more harshly, or physically or sexually assaulted because people thought they were transgender. Furthermore, based on GLSEN’s 2015 School Climate Survey, we know only 27% of LGBTQ youth in Illinois report hearing anything positive about LGBTQ people – people just like them – in the classroom. We must all do better to support LGBTQ youth.
The school district’s proposition – that expression of only LGBTQ youth’s sexual orientation or identity is disruptive – is harmful. LGBTQ youth who experience rejection and social stigmatization are more likely to have high levels of depression, more likely to engage in substance abuse, and more likely to attempt suicide.
And the presence of a rule doesn’t inherently make it fair or even reasonable. The lack of inclusivity and compassion by school administrators is telling and alarming in its implications for what other biases may come into play while educating students. School boards should create environments that affirm each and every student and facilitate the educational process with excellence and dignity.
We urge the Germantown Hills District #69 Board of Education and school administrators to re-evaluate your position and affirm the dignity of each young person in a way that does not further marginalize LGBTQ young people. If we can be of any further assistance, including in setting up trainings regarding LGBTQ cultural competency or as a sounding board for your questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at (773) 477-7173 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brian C. Johnson
Chief Executive Officer