By Kathleen Fay, Director of Legislation
National PTA and its constituent associations have long believed that every child deserves to go to school excited to learn, in a safe and nurturing environment, without the fear of bullying, violence, or discrimination. In 2016, during its Annual Convention and Expo, National PTA adopted a resolution, based on a California State PTA resolution, to advocate for and support federal legislation that specifically protects LGBTQ youth and encourages states and school districts to incorporate inclusive policies and practices that create and maintain safe learning environments for all students.
LGBTQ+ students are more likely than their peers to be bullied, to be physically assaulted and to feel unsafe in school because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQ students in schools with an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum feel more connected to their school community. More information about the National PTA position is available here.
In the 2023 California legislative session, several bills designed to strengthen protections for LGBTQ+ students were supported by California State PTA and passed by the California State Legislature. On September 23, Governor Gavin Newsom signed several of them at once to highlight his approval for measures that support vulnerable youth.
“California is proud to have some of the most robust laws in the nation when it comes to protecting and supporting our LGBTQ+ community, and we’re committed to the ongoing work to create safer, more inclusive spaces for all Californians,” said Governor Newsom. “These measures will help protect vulnerable youth, promote acceptance, and create more supportive environments in our schools and communities. I thank Senator Eggman and the LGBTQ Caucus for their dedicated leadership and partnership in advancing our state’s values of equality, freedom and acceptance.”
Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, said “This year the LGBTQ Caucus took up the important work of protecting our communities in the face of vile anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, discriminatory laws across the country, and hatred. I appreciate the Governor’s partnership in signing some of our priority and endorsed legislation today, and hope we can continue to educate about the harm LGBTQ+ people will continue to face if we fail to act.”
The bills which California State PTA supported, which were passed by the California State Legislature, and which Newsom ultimately signed included the following:
- AB 5 by Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur (D-Los Angeles), sets implementation timelines for required LGBTQ+ cultural competency training by public school teachers and staff.
- SB 857 by Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), establishes an advisory task force to identify LGBTQ+ pupil needs statewide and assist in implementing supportive initiatives.
- AB 223 by Assemblymember Christopher Ward (D-San Diego), requires any petition for a change of gender and sex identifier by a minor to be kept confidential by the court.
- SB 407 by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) requires foster care resource families to demonstrate that they are able and willing to meet the needs of a child regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
- SB 760 by Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), requires California public schools to provide and maintain at least one all-gender restroom at each school site and requires these restrooms to be easily accessible by any pupil.
A related bill signed by the Governor and supported by PTA pertains to broader diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. AB 1078, by Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley), is intended to counteract book banning in California schools, ensure that students are provided with accurate and inclusive instruction in social sciences, and prohibits discrimination against individuals because of their gender or ethnicity or any other protected characteristics. Another bill signed into law, but which only affects college students, is AB 760 by Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-Fairfield). This new law makes it easier for graduating students with a changed legal name or gender to have their chosen name listed on their diploma.
California State PTA is proud to support legislation that offers a welcoming and affirming school environment for all of California’s children and youth.