Around 140 teachers and administrators from across North Carolina attended the inaugural LGBTQ Education Conference for Teachers and Support Staff in Chapel Hill on Saturday, Nov. 21, hosted by SAFE Schools NC, reports The News & Observer.
According to the SAFE Schools NC website, “The purpose of the conference is to grow school faculty and district leaders the knowledge and skills to create safe learning environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students and employees and the children of same-gender parents.”
Over a dozen facilitators were on hand, offering their expertise and experience as teachers and administrators who have been trained in handling LGBT student issues.
“When we look at our culture, the dominant norms prevail, and it’s reinforced every day in our (communities) and that includes schools,” SAFE Schools NC President Meg Goodhand, an assistant principal at E.K. Powe Elementary School in Durham, told The News & Observer. “If we don’t begin to be visible and speak up, nothing is going to change for our students who are gender diverse or who are LGBT or are perceived to be.”
Goodhand was at the center of controversy after she gave Efland-Cheeks Elementary School teacher Omar Currie a gay themed fable “King and King” to read to his class after one his students was bullied for being perceived as acting too feminine by another student. While a committee upheld use of the book twice, the principal instituted rules requiring teachers to submit a list to parents of all the books they will read to their students.
Currie, who was also on hand at Saturday’s conference, ended up resigning. He now teaches fourth grade in Alexandria, Virginia.
Goodhand, who was the vice principal at the school, also resigned over the issue.
A student panel was also part of the LGBTQ Education conference. They offered first hand accounts of what it is like to be a gay, transgender, queer or questioning student.
Session topics included: “How to Start a GSA (and be a Great GSA Advisor),” “LGBTQ Law,” “How to be an Ally” and “Disrupting Heteronormative School Cultures.”
SAFE Schools NC hopes to make the conference an annual event.