Berkeley school district students react to district’s Pride Month resolution

Illustration of a pride flag in a classroom of students
Rioka Hayama/Staff

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Pride flags embellished Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, campuses throughout the month of June following the passage of BUSD’s Resolution 21-041 at a board meeting June 2.

While the resolution was created to honor Pride Month and the district’s LGBTQ+ community, some LGBTQ+ identifying students noted that it was “only the first step” in resolving long-standing issues.

“This resolution that acknowledges the issues the community faces and displays Pride flags is a kind gesture,” said David Goldstein, a Berkeley High School junior. “But I do think we need to see more action and conversations happening if the district actually wants to solve these issues.”

BUSD was one of several school districts in the state to pass a resolution in honor of Pride Month, according to school board director Ana Vasudeo. Vasudeo noted that she led the development of BUSD’s Resolution 21-041 with the help of organizers at Castro Valley Pride, who was the first to create the idea for Pride Month resolutions.

Aside from establishing an annual display of Pride flags on BUSD campuses every June, Vasudeo said the resolution outlines the district’s efforts to support LGBTQ+ students, staff and families.

“We want to be an ally and make sure that we’re pushing ourselves to be better on how we address gender identity in our classrooms, LGBTQ rights and discussing issues that are important to the LGBTQ community in our schools,” Vasudeo said.

One section of the resolution acknowledges the harassment and physical violence that threatens the LGBTQ+ community, according to the resolution.

Vasudeo said BUSD’s Office of Civil Rights and Compliance addresses all harassment reports and ensures that the district complies with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Title IX is a state policy that ensures equity in public schools with respect to sex and guarantees that all students be allowed to participate in activities and programs that receive federal funding, according to the U.S. Department of Education website.

Vasudeo added that BUSD is pursuing prevention efforts by investing in more consent and sexual harassment education, as outlined in its Local Control Accountability Plan for school years 2021 to 2024.

“We want to be really intentional about working more closely with our LGBTQ youth to make sure that they feel supported and safe on our campuses,” Vasudeo said.

The resolution also included references to BUSD adopting a curriculum that “fairly and accurately” represents the LGBTQ+ community.

Vasudeo said BUSD regularly updates its curriculum according to Welcoming Schools, a program developed by the Human Rights Campaign that provides LGBTQ+ and gender-inclusive book lists, lesson plans, resources and professional development training.

For Goldstein, portions of Berkeley High’s curriculum have attempted to represent queer people’s experiences, as the resolution states. In particular, Goldstein said the “Ethnic Studies/Social Living” class required for ninth graders discusses queer history.

He noted, however, that the curriculum for students at the elementary and middle school level still lacks conversations about queerness.

“We need to recreate the culture that exists at Berkeley High School on a lower level, whether that be through introducing specific history units or classes on queerness,” Goldstein said.

In discussions of the resolution at large, Skye Baesen, an LGBTQ+ identifying Berkeley High junior, said it is progress but lacks “direct action.”

Baesen added that she hopes the support expressed in the resolution will manifest in more efforts to normalize queerness at BUSD schools.

“In order for the resolution to be more impactful, words need to be followed up by actions,” Baesen said.

Contact Annika Kim Constantino at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaKimC.