As students and teachers begin to settle into their routines in the new school year, a new type of educational opportunity is on deck for local students—and it’s one that Doug Heumann feels is more important than ever.
“Parents need to know what their kids’ rights are; students need to know what their rights are,” Heumann said. “It is important to understand what LGBTQ-plus students can and cannot do.”
Heumann is the director of the Central Coast Coalition for Inclusive Schools (CCC4IS), an organization collaborating with the Gala Pride and Diversity Center in San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo County Office of Education, and Diversity Coalition to co-sponsor ACLU-led informational sessions on the rights of LGBTQ-plus students.
“The election is coming up in 2024 and there are outside voices from the current [school] boards … that will want to run on a platform that is counter to students’ rights,” Heumann said. “We are holding these info sessions because it is clear that it is time to educate people on these matters as the tides shift in the culture and political climate of California and the country. … We must do this because of all the vitriol these students are experiencing.”
Nipomo High School and Paso Robles High School will host the free sessions from 6 to 8 p.m.—with Nipomo’s on Sept. 12 and Paso’s on Sept. 13.
According to CCC4IS, the sessions will include information on bullying and harassment protections, names and pronouns, student privacy and expression, accessing restrooms and facilities, dress code policies, student clubs, inclusive curricula, complaint processes, and more.
“Any adult on a school campus needs to be informed and ready to step up to stop acts of LGBTQ-plus discrimination from happening,” Heumann said. “Because when it does happen, seeing people stand by and do nothing is just disheartening.”
Heumann said that while CCC4IS stressed that the ACLU attorneys present will not be disseminating legal advice, the information they will provide is important regardless.
“We have people in the middle of this who might not be affected by this stuff personally but should still know what is there and why it is important,” Heumann said. “Even students and parents who are familiar with student rights might have differing levels of how much they know that we can help reinforce with these sessions.”
As the county, state, and country push into the future, Heumann said he’s hopeful that people will continue to educate themselves on the issue of LGBTQ-plus students’ rights and continue to foster a safer, inclusive environment for all.
“The big question a lot of these students are asking themselves is, ‘Does anyone give a crap about what is happening to us?’” he said. “LGBTQ-plus support is important in schools because if you don’t have an adult you know is aware of the rights you have and the issues you face, how will you be willing to report things that happen to you that violate those rights?”