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Equality California: Youth to Demand Safety in California Schools

April 29, 2008
5:36 PM

CONTACT: Equality California
Ali Bay, Communications Manager, Equality California Institute
(916) 284-9187
Coral Lopez, Director of Communications, BIENESTAR
(323) 387-1533

Youth to Demand Safety in California Schools
Following Tragic Death of 15-year-old Lawrence King, Youth Leaders Address Urgent Need for Action

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - April 29 - Student advocates from across California will meet at the state Capitol next week to speak with legislators and the California Superintendent of Public Instruction about the harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students in California schools. The youth are participating in Queer Youth Advocacy Day 2008, a three-day youth leadership summit co-sponsored by the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Equality California Institute, Transgender Law Center and BIENESTAR.

LGBT youth leaders and their allies will hold a press conference at the Capitol on May 5, nearly three months after the tragic death of Lawrence “Larry” King, who was shot in the head by a classmate at his Oxnard middle school. Youth will call for the end of violence and discrimination against LGBT students like Larry, whose murder is believed to be motivated by the 15-year-old’s gender expression. The student who is charged with Larry’s murder is accused of committing a hate crime.

"When I walk down the halls at my school, I am often taunted and shoved into lockers because I identify as a gay transgender person," said Nik Castillo, a sophomore from Bakersfield. "Some of my peers call me names and actually say that who am I am is not ‘right.’ Really, what's not right is the hate and ignorance teens like me face every day."

Youth advocates participating in Queer Youth Advocacy Day 2008 will learn new leadership and advocacy skills to encourage change in their local high schools and communities. The student leaders will then meet with lawmakers, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell and staff of the California Department of Education and California School Boards Association, encouraging policy makers to better implement existing laws designed to protect LGBT youth in public schools.

State law protects LGBT youth from harassment and discrimination under the California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act (AB 537, Kuehl). Although AB 537 was enacted in 2000, and later strengthened by the Safe Place to Learn Act (AB 394, Levine) and the California Student Civil Rights Act (SB 777, Kuehl), students still report that they do not know their rights under these laws. Furthermore, hundreds of thousands of California students witness the mistreatment of other young people – and report little or no direct intervention from teachers and administrators.

To advocate for change, LGBT youth and their allies will hold a press conference on the west steps of the Capitol from 11 a.m. to 12 Noon on May 5. At the press conference, youth leaders will share real world experiences about what it is like to identify as LGBT or an LGBT ally in California schools so lawmakers are informed as they consider two bills moving though the Legislature that will impact LGBT youth. Legislators, including Sens. Sheila Kuehl and Christine Kehoe and Assemblymembers John Laird, Mark Leno, Mike Eng and Lloyd Levine, are also scheduled to speak.

“I chose to participate in Queer Youth Advocacy Day this year because I have seen the harassment and I have heard the stories of my peers who aren’t understood or accepted by others just because they’re queer,” said Isaiah Iboko, a senior from Los Angeles. “Every person deserves to be accepted as they are and treated fairly, without any exceptions.”

Equality California Institute’s mission is to inform lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and the public at large about issues impacting the LGBT community and our allies, train activists to respond and work proactively for LGBT equality, and connect communities working for justice and civil rights for all.

GSA Network is a nonprofit organization, governed by youth and adults, that empowers youth activists to fight homophobia and transphobia in schools through Gay-Straight Alliance clubs. There are currently more than 650 GSA clubs in California schools, including nearly 50% of the public high schools.

Transgender Law Center (TLC) is a civil rights organization advocating for transgender communities. TLC provides free legal services to transgender people throughout California and works with community members and partnering organizations on cutting-edge transgender rights policy initiatives.

BIENESTAR is committed to enhancing the health and well-being of the Latino community and other underserved communities. BIENESTAR accomplishes this through community education, prevention, mobilization, advocacy and the provision of direct social services.


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