As the streets of San Francisco filled with the joyful colors of the rainbow this past weekend, hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ+ individuals and allies flooded out to celebrate Pride.
This energy, of course, circulates here in Berkeley as well. Local businesses have windows covered in Pride posters, students can be seen wearing colorful pins in support and there are more celebratory events than one can count.
Berkeley is famous for being a progressive and accepting city, even outside of Pride Month. Within the Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, for example, libraries tout countless books on queerness for schoolchildren of all ages year-round, and there is always open discussion on the topic.
This reality exists in stark contrast to other schools across the country, where states such as Texas, Florida and Ohio have recently enacted laws prohibiting children under the third grade to learn about gender identity and sexual orientation in the classroom.
While BUSD has already made strong efforts towards creating an inclusive and supportive community for queer children, there is still room for improvement.
For example, although inclusive sexual education is mandated in the state of California, schools still often fail to educate students on all of the possible types of sexually-transmitted diseases, contributing to LGBTQ+ sexually transmitted infection rates being significantly higher than that of heterosexual individuals nationwide. Details like this are often overlooked by schools when designing the sexual education curriculum, and BUSD must pay extra care to ensure that it is accounted for.
Additionally, outside of the classroom — whether that be in after-school programs, extracurricular activities, or even on the playground — queer inclusivity is rarely a guarantee.
Sports teams, for example, are notoriously known for being discriminatory against members of the LGBTQ+ community; there are few, if any, required trainings in place to teach staff how to mitigate situations involving queer students. Failure to address these issues and implement regulations now, while it’s not too late, could lead to detrimental and long-term consequences in the future.
As our community mourns the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, we must be on alert for potential rollback of legal protections in other aspects of our lives as well.
Just this year, more than 340 anti-LGBTQ+ bills — many of which specifically target transgender people — have already been introduced in state legislatures across the United States. While this may feel like a depressing and terrifying time of our lives, we cannot stop fighting for our rights.
It is especially in times like these that we must rally support and emphasize education for historically mistreated groups and set them up for the futures they deserve — and that starts with the schoolchildren, right here in BUSD.