Happy Pride Month from Schott!

by Andrea Garvey

Schott is proud to support organizations working toward a more fair and just school climate for all students, including addressing the challenges faced by LGBTQ students and students of color.

In May, a report coauthored by Boston Indicators and the Fenway Institute was released by the Boston Foundation, "Equality and Equity: Advancing the LGBT Community in Massachusetts." Almost 16 percent of people in Massachusetts aged 18 to 24 identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or something else. Almost half of LGBT youth have considered attempting suicide, compared to 11 percent of their straight peers. LGBT youth of color face unemployment, unstable housing, and food insecurity.

Grantee partner BAGLY was integral in the research and dissemination of the report, and Executive Director Grace Sterling Stowell spoke on a panel responding the the report’s findings about LGBT youth. Grace stressed the importance of a holistic approach to best support young people and their current needs: “In schools, in healthcare settings, in communities, our whole institutional systems are being called upon to respond to the needs of young people who are LGBT or Q or somewhere along that spectrum. In many ways, we’re unequipped for that. Here in MA we have made great strides and in many ways have been in the forefront of the country around LGBT youth issues, though we still have a long way to go—and that includes policy [and] advocacy.” Young people are an ever-changing population, and ongoing training and awareness is needed so we can identify and address new needs as they emerge.

The Schott Foundation supports a number of organizations working for a more fair and just school climate. This includes discipline policies around suspensions and expulsions, which research shows disproportionately affect LGBTQ students and students of color and perpetuates the school-to-prison pipeline. Grantee partner BreakOUT!, based in New Orleans, has a mission of ending criminalization of LGBTQ youth in their city.

In schools, LGBTQ students can face discrimination from their fellow students, teachers, administrators, and from the institutions themselves through school and district policy. Girls of color and particularly gender non-conforming girls are far more likely to face harsh discipline at school, as we’ve seen documented all across the country in the policing of girls’ bodies in the name of school dress codes. Grantee partner Girls for Gender Equity’s Schools Girls Deserve Campaign works to document how girls and gender nonconforming youth of color are pushed out of schools and into the school-to-prison pipeline in New York City, and how to stop that cycle. GGE’s research found that 50% of young people reported institutional pressure to conform to white feminine beauty standards, stating that they felt “uncomfortable or unsafe for dressing or appearing in their traditional religious clothing, dressing or appearing ‘too masculine’; dressing or appearing ‘too ghetto’; and dressing or appearing ‘too sexy.’”

Grantee partner GSA Network organizes and mobilizes GSA clubs in local schools. They also work to counter the negative messaging and perception of transgender and gender nonconforming students that is being created and disseminated through discriminatory legislation in states and nationally. In the last year, the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice rescinded a federal guidance on how to create safe and welcoming environments for TGNC students, and is no longer investigating complaints filed by TGNC students related to access to bathrooms in schools. At the state and local levels, we’ve seen passage of bathroom bills, religious freedom acts, and laws that seek to deny federal anti-discrimination protections specifically to TGNC students. The struggle for equity and justice for all continues, and Schott is proud to stand with our partners in that fight.

For more information about our grantmaking, please see our website.

Andrea Garvey is the Operations Manager at the Schott Foundation for Public Education. She also serves as co-chair of the Boston chapter of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy.

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