Andrew Belonsky

School Boards Essential to Gay Progress

Filed By Andrew Belonsky | July 28, 2010 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Constance McMillen, education policy, Netroots Nation, politics, Religious Right

Netroots Nation wasn't just socialization and Dan Choi's promise ring. schoolsign.jpgThere was also some serious strategizing on how to move our cause forward.

Yes, people suggested lobbying legislators, joining progressive campaigns and reaching out to other groups, like Greenpeace or labor groups. Those are all well, good and necessary suggestions, but one of the most memorable proposals for me was the idea that we need to focus on school boards.

This shouldn't be news, really. If you look around, it's quite obvious the role school boards play in LGBT rights. Earlier this month, for example, a Boston school board received conservative vitriol for preparing a gay-inclusive sex education course; the influential Texas board made it clear where it stands on the queers: they have no place in public education; and of course none of us can forget how a Mississippi school board canceled their prom over lesbian students Constance McMillen's insistence she be allowed to bring a female date.

On a more positive note, the Cumberland Valley school board in Pennsylvania recently reinstated a gay-straight alliance, and the San Francisco school board this year voted to pump millions of dollars into LGBT educational programs. Clearly school boards can cut both ways, so progressives must make sure they take the right path, rather than that trodden by the right wing.

It may sound trite, but it's a lesson we should remember: change starts small. Religious conservatives made it their mission in the 1990s to infiltrate local government, and it worked. And despite the momentous nature of Barack Obama's success, remember that the President built his campaign on a grass roots level that none of the other candidates could have hoped to achieve.

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund has endorsed three openly gay people for school board elections across the country. I wish there were more, for if we can persuade or lead school boards toward a more progressive stance on LGBT rights, they'll pass that inclusion on to their children and, if all goes to plan, the nation as a whole.

Image via Riggzy's Flickr.

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gayjaybird | July 28, 2010 2:03 PM

actually, IIRC this was also the method the Moral Majority/Religious Right groups used to come into power today. They started with School Boards and local elections and worked their way up.

This is EXACTLY why we need to be a better outlook for our straight allies, who are married, have kids, and can affect the vote alongside us. Infiltrate the PTA! Be a Beacon!