Being LGBT+ at the iSchool


Pride Flags within Christopher Park, across the street from the Stonewall Inn. June,2019

As the iSchool is in its 11th year, several things have changed in our outside world. A Republican is the president again, Apple is the first billion dollar company, 2 major viruses have occurred, and LGBT Rights have been established in several nations worldwide.

Back in the early 2000s, being LGBT was much more different than in 2020. We are now more tolerant and more respectful of one’s choice. However as a child, this isn’t as much as the truth. According to research done by the Williams Institute,

  • 85% of LGBT students have experienced verbal harassment
  • 58% of LGBT youth have felt unsafe at school due to their sexual orientation; 43% have felt unsafe because of their gender identity
  • 27% of LGBT students have been physically harassed at school because of their sexual orientation; 13% have been physically harassed because of their gender identity

Now, this was done back in a 2015 report, and times have changed a little bit; however, according to a NYT article from July of last year, “The (Trump) administration has reshaped policy to exclude civil rights protections for transgender people in most areas of government and has scaled back legal protections for gay people.”

Now what this would mean for any student is that if they were to file a discrimination claim, public officals aren’t as inclined to investigate them. The Trump administration has not only meddled with this exact policy. During 2017, it removed an Obama era policy that allows students to use the bathroom that correlates with their gender identity.

These moves have set off a red flag that the current administration is trying to undue the reform that was meant to protect these students.

Tom Jones, 9th grade English teacher, said, “The action that I feel that our country is taking, isn’t the direction we were going 5 or 6 years ago. Limiting how and where students feel comfortable, impacts their ability to be focused in a school setting.”

However, from the guidance perspective, counselor Lizzette Colon agrees that our country as a whole isn’t doing its best at helping its students, stating, “I have this vision of Middle America, and I apologize, but in my limited opinion I don’t think that parts of the US are friendly to the LGBT Community, I think alot of people have to be closeted for their saftey, Ligit for thier safety. . . In a place where people know each other, and if that community is hompohibic, you can’t really come out, and where else can you really go.” She believes that the iSchool is attempting to do as much as they can to help the community.

Sophomore Leor Prusakagreed with the first statement, however, they disputed the second claim of iSchool doing what they can. Instead, Pursakargues, “You can tell that in this school specifically, that there are a lot of teachers that ask for pronouns, make an effort to use the right pronouns, and then there are some teachers, I’m not going to list names. But there are people who make the effort, and there are people who just assume Boy or Girl.”

Prusak holds a valid point. According to the Human Rights Campaign, “The experience of being misgendered can be hurtful, angering, and even distracting. The experience of accidentally misgendering someone can be embarrassing for both parties.” While they didn’t say that specifically, Prusakr mentioned that it’s a better Learning environment for them, and their peers.

Ms. Colon mentioned the work that iSchool had accomplished in such an old building, . specifically the Gender Neutral Bathroom. Ms. Colon Mentioned that “iSchool had a challenge in terms of finding somewhere to place the bathroom.” However, due to time constraints and parental pressure, they opted for the Nurse Quarter.

Mr Jones also mentioned, “It wasn’t much the teachers who pushed for it, but it was the students that were getting involved for a positive change.”

Both teachers mentioned the work that the iSchool has done to try and meet the needs of the student body. In regards to the GSA Club, Mr. Jones had put in a lot of time into forming his GSA: “Based on the work that my partner was doing with his GSA at Eleanor Roosevelt” He went on to mention that this wasn’t the iSchool’s first attempt at a GSA, however, that it had appeared that the iSchool still had the demand for it. Forming his own GSA a few years after the original was ended, Mr Jones had worked to provide a club and a space where iSchoolers can be comfortable in. However in the end, he had given the GSA Club to Dr. Snyder, with a few thing on his mind.

“It was a lot of things, I was having trouble understanding what the club needed, I felt that I was falling short of their expectations and what they had needed.”

When all three were asked on the city level, both teachers and students had unified opinions on what the city should address in regards to “the community” in schools.

Ms. Colon and Mr. Jones both mentioned that there are areas that aren’t as welcoming to young adults in the community, however, “There should always be some sort of education taken to help faculty understand their students.”

Pruasak stated, “There are still cases in which one might hear something derogative or insensitive, however I feel like that too should be addressed in a more understanding method.”

Freshman Lucy McGee also added on, stating, “As someone who hasn’t come from a welcoming middle school environment, I feel too as well, that there should be open conversations in things such as Sex Ed, or in open disccusion. Help kids understand from a mature but young age that it’s okay to be who you are, and that it isn’t an excuse to treat others differently.”

iSchool champions the idea that we are as mixed and diverse as their school motto can be, and that is true. However, there should be open discussion, as all four interviewees had mentioned regarding sex ed. As McGee, “There should be open talks, because i would want to learn everything that impacts me, not just the half of it”

Ms. Colon and Mr. Jones  have both stated that these discussions are actually being addressed in Ms. Browns Sex Ed courses. However, they had mentioned that its important that these conversations aren’t limited to just Ms Brown’s Classes, but are addressed in iSchools Sex Ed Curriculum.

Regardless, the iSchool will champion itself on being a role model for how to integrate the LGBT Community into iSchools Vision for 21st Century learning.