Response to shooting at Pulse Nightclub: Orlando, FL
As members of the Movement of Rank and File Educators caucus of the United Federation of Teachers; as teachers, community members, LGBTQI identifying, and allies, we are deeply saddened by the horrendous attack on human life and dignity early yesterday morning at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL. We also stand strongly against Islamophobia and any attempt to divide marginalized people for political gain.
The Right has introduced more than 200 anti-LGBT bills in the last month. The hateful homophobic rhetoric made most infamous by North Carolina’s obscene discriminatory law builds a society where this kind of attack is a reality. Florida has a too-long history of horrific acts of violence committed with legal guns. We remember Trayvon Martin today, and recognize the impact a culture of violence and hate in which our government turns a blind eye towards police brutality has had on our most vulnerable community members. This builds a society where racist and bigoted violence in the form of armed attacks against oppressed groups, LGBTQI, immigrants, women, people of color, and Muslims become possible. It builds a society where mosques and black churches are set afire and burned to the ground. It is this violence that leads to the premature deaths and murder of trans women, and to the events in Orlando on Saturday night.
We want to build a world where this kind of attack is an impossibility. A world where love and acceptance are part of the school day and the club scene. To that end, we highlight a few policies New York City public schools already have to promote safe spaces for all of its students and we provide some suggestions for steps forward:
New York state has strong anti-bullying legislation.he Dignity for All Students Act, mandates each school have an anti-bullying liaison, mandates anti-bullying training for all teachers, mandates anti-bullying training for all school staff, and provides steps for students and parents to take action when bullying does occur.
We know that to truly counter bullying we must educate ourselves and our students about the history of the LGBTQI fight. Therefore, we demand that the NYCDOE mandate that LGBTQI history be taught in every school through the creation and implementation of a comprehensive LGBTQI history curriculum.
Therefore we also demand that all stakeholders including the UFT, NYSUT, NYSED, NYCDOE, AFT, and NEA support this initiative by adopting the American School Counselors Association(ASCA) Ethical standards which states that,”Each person has the right to be respected, be treated with dignity and have access to a comprehensive school counseling program (hire more counselors to make this possible) that advocates for and affirms all students from diverse populations including: ethnic/racial identity, age, economic status, abilities/disabilities, language, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, family type, religious/spiritual identity and appearance.
We know the law itself does not create classrooms and hallways free from bullying. Individual teachers standing up in their classrooms, supporting students’ right to be themselves, encouraging students and staff to support each other, teaching language of love rather than hate, building safe spaces like GSA*s, coming out and being proud of who they are – these are the actions that build schools free from bullying. We support teachers supporting their own and their students’ right to be out and proud about who they are – be it gender identity, sexuality, religious identity – their right to be.
New York City has been promoting transfriendly bathroom policies “Look Past Pink and Blue: In NYC, you can use the restroom consistent with who you are” but all of us in schools know that this is easier signed into law than enacted in practice. Our members have had to fight at their schools to have transfriendly bathroom policies put into place. We support teachers in their schools asking what their school’s policies are and supporting students and staff using the bathroom consistent with who they are.
Making New York City public schools safe for all of its students will be increasingly important in the coming weeks as right-wing politicians and a climate of fear will attempt to divide the LGBT and the Muslim community. Trump and the right have already created a climate of fear, xenophobia, and Islamophobia that has reverberated throughout this country. We stand against any Islamophobia at this time, and support any policies that would help create safer spaces for our most vulnerable populations. New York City just became the first city in the United States to give the day off for Eid. However, New York State has unmovable Regents exams dates that often, and this year do, fall during Ramadan. This means the thousands of Muslim students in our schools are expected to take exams that affect their graduation while fasting. We support teachers asking what their school’s policies are for these students, and asking what spaces their school has for Muslim students to be in during lunch period. In addition to supporting those already doing this work, we demand that every school provide a space for Muslim youth to fast in during lunch. We demand that our Muslim students be offered alternative Regents, or other high-stakes testing dates when exams fall during Ramadan.
Orlando’s event particularly impacted queer people of color, and will be experienced differently by every one of our students and staff. As you return to the classroom today, think about ways to be loving and thoughtful, supportive and proud. Visible or not, queer students and staff may be particularly triggered tomorrow. Be kind, recognize and understand this is a moment of pain. Notice young people, notice your colleagues. Build school structures that support students who are naming and experiencing pain rather than pushing those feelings out of the classroom or redirecting them in harmful ways.
During these saddening times, we come together in love and solidarity, and will be present at the vigils tonight. Join us tonight, Monday June 13th, at Stonewall Inn for a vigil at 6pm.