June 10, 2011
Dear Community of California School for the Deaf, Fremont,
Our school, CSD, originally scheduled Diverse Families week with a special kickoff on Monday, June 6, 2011 to raise awareness among elementary students about LGBT families. Tragically, we received information from the elementary school principal that Dr. Klopping and Laura Peterson cancelled this event. The reason the CSD administration provided for this cancellation was that there was a lack of parental notification about this cultural event. In reality, CSD reacted to the objections of a few parents about the LGBT assembly without first checking whether the school had a legal responsibility to notify parents of the assembly in advance.
Parents, students, alumni, CSD staff, and members of the LGBT community are writing this open letter in strong opposition to the hasty decision not to host the LGBT event as planned. We believe in our hearts CSD students and their family members who identify as LGBT deserve to be recognized, accepted and celebrated as outstanding members of our richly diverse CSD community.
Impact of the cancellation
As a result of the LGBT assembly cancellation, there was no automatic respect shown for people who identify as LGBT or students who come from families with LGBT members. The cancellation spotlighted the fact that oppression of LGBT persons on campus and in the CSD community still exists. Parents of the student presenters who had been practicing for hours reported to us that their children were disappointed and confused as to why the assembly was cancelled. In addition, CSD staff who identify as LGBT reported to us they felt hurt, disheartened, upset and discriminated against. CSD parents are concerned that the cancellation of the LGBT assembly will send a message to students that the LGBT community does not deserve to be recognized as a part of the Diverse Families assembly series. Parents also wonder whether the lack of LGBT cultural sensitivity and cultural awareness would increase the chance of bullying and harassment of CSD students who have family members who are LGBT as well as students who identify as LGBT.
We found out on Wednesday afternoon that the assembly would indeed be rescheduled. As a result of the rescheduling of the assembly, two of the presenters missed the assembly because it was scheduled at the same time as the ECE ceremony, and one of the presenters had to cancel training at work in order to attend the assembly.
Why we oppose the decision to cancel the LGBT assembly
In this letter, we state the following points in direct opposition to the rationale provided behind the decision to cancel the LGBT kickoff event:
1) The LGBT community has experienced a long history of oppression; major decisions are made everyday by heterosexual people in positions of power that affect the visibility of LGBT people in all institutions, including schools; these decisions are often made without the input of LGBT community members.
2) Homophobia and ignorance of LGBT culture still exist today and is prevalent on CSD campus as well as among members of our CSD community.
3) CSD did not have a legal obligation to inform parents about the CSD elementary school assembly on June 6, 2011. Please refer to California Education Code § 51932(b).
4) Like all California schools, CSD has a legal responsibility to provide diversity and tolerance education programs to ensure it is a safe school for all families including LGBT families and students. Please refer to California Education Code Section 201.
Putting into perspective
Even though it should not be so in today’s time, families with LGBT members still experience discrimination and are negatively stereotyped due to ignorance about LGBT culture. We know this is true in California even though same-sex life partners are officially recognized by the state. Because many LGBT people have experienced a lifetime of oppression, we place enormous value on CSD staff, administration, parents and community members to demonstrate LGBT cultural sensitivity.
In the same manner many Deaf people wish that hearing people would focus on their language and culture instead of only on their hearing status, LGBT people wish the love they share with each other and their children would be what truly matter.
We make the following requests to the current CSD Superintendent, the appointed superintendent successor, and the CSD administration for our school to:
1) Provide LGBT cultural diversity training once every school year to all CSD staff and administration
2) Provide LGBT cultural events two times during the school year with the purpose of raising LGBT awareness among CSD students in elementary, middle school and high school; one of these two events would be held in June, the month that was declared on June 1, 2009 as LGBT Pride Month in the United States by President Barack Obama
3) Satisfy legal obligations as stated in the California Education Code by adopting recommended proactive measures based on consultations from California Safe Schools Coalition and GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network); this is done with the purpose of creating together a safe environment at CSD for members of the CSD community who identify as LGBT, as well as CSD and visiting students who identify as LGBT; this also includes any CSD or visiting student who have been bullied (on campus or during activities hosted by CSD) on account of perceived gender identity or perceived gender expression
With sincere respect,
CSD Parents, Family Members, Friends, Alumni, and Caring Community Members
Michele Barber; CSD Parent and LGBT Ally
Brian and Michael Berry-Berlinski; LGBT, CSD Parents
Maureen Yates Burns; CSD Parent and LGBT Ally
Clare Cassidy, CSD Parent and LGBT Ally
Jeanne Dike; CSD Parent and LGBT Ally
Natalee Franck; LGBT, Caring Community Member
Judy Gough and Ella Lentz; LGBT, Caring Community Member/CSD Alumni
Mary Ann Hencker; CSD Parent and LGBT Ally
Leala Holcomb; CSD Alumni and LGBT Ally
Tara Holcomb; CSD Parent and LGBT Ally
Richard Horrell; CSD Parent and LGBT Ally
Dan Langholtz; LGBT, Caring Community Member
Michael MacAulay; CSD Parent and LGBT Ally
Karina Pedersen; CSD Alumni and LGBT Ally
Dragonsani Renteria; LGBT, Caring Community Member
Julie Rems-Smario; Caring Community Member and LGBT Ally
Marilyn Smith and Karen Bosley; LGBT, CSD Family Members
Amy June Rowley; CSD Parent and LGBT Ally
Lisa Marie Wilson; LGBT, CSD Family Member
Amelia Zorzona; CSD Parent and LGBT Ally
Elvis Zorzona; CSD Parent and LGBT Ally