I was fortunate to attend the “Mad River and the History of LGBTQ Teachers' Rights” presentation by Dr. Margaret A. Nash from UC Riverside held at CSUB on March 21st. While I admit that I was pretty naïve to this topic, I was eager to learn - especially since my wife is both a teacher and part of the LGBTQ community.
Dr. Nash begins by detailing an unjust case in 1974 about a guidance counsellor, Marj Rowland, from Mad River, Ohio, who fought for her civil rights against discrimination based on her sexual orientation. This story really stood out because it is significant to note that while she won her initial case against discrimination, she was faced with backlash in the form of retaliation by the school district.
The backlash Rowland endured was unwarranted, and it included: no student contact, denial of her employment contract renewal, being blacklisted within different schools in Ohio and even being charged with felonies and misdemeanours. The most gruelling part was that Rowland’s series of legal battles totalled over a decade long, as there was no sense of urgency for her case, since sexual orientation was not yet constitutionally protected.
Even though Rowland’s resilience throughout the fight for her rights is commendable and inspiring, it is hard to ignore how blatant her freedom of speech and civil rights were unacceptably violated. Although there are currently Equality Acts in place to serve and protect LGBTQ individuals in the workforce, it still makes one wonder how far along we truly are today in comparison to Rowland’s case.
While the anti-discrimination laws that presently exist for LGBTQ teachers are vital, there still seems to be a lingering fear for teachers to openly come out in public. So the question remains: how do we continue to help protect teachers and students alike, to avoid the backlash and mental agony of what Rowland had to endure?
Current and future educators who were in attendance suggested that it starts with creating a safe and inclusive environment in schools. Not only do we need to vocalize the intolerance of discriminatory behaviours, but we must also show our support tangibly.
We can show support by putting up rainbow stickers in classrooms, making positive affirmation posters, celebrating LGBTQ milestones like National Coming Out day, and creating school clubs that promote love and support for everyone inclusively - just to name a few examples. These practices should be implemented habitually, in hope that safe environments eventually become a social norm for the well-being of our future generations. If you or someone you know need assistance with creating a safe environment in schools or in other workplaces, there are plenty of resources available.
CSUB and BC have continually improved their school climates by providing visible support for all LGBTQ faculty and students. The Center of Sexuality & Diversity itself has been created as a safe haven for the LGBTQ community and it offers multiple support groups and services. Moreover, the Center actively provides a range of resources to local business allies in order to promote workplace equality.
Specifically, abOUT Kern was formed to strengthen our community by hosting professional networking events for LGBTQ people and their allies. To increase awareness of LGBTQ issues in the workplace, Chevron and The Center have teamed up for an evening of networking and to share best practices around LGBTA (the A here is for "ally") workplace equality and community.
This free event is for Kern County professionals and members of the business community. The next abOUT Kern event will take place on Thursday April 4th at 5pm – 7pm, located at CSUB's Stockdale room. For more information, please contact the Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or refer to the Center’s Calendar.
about the author
R. Velasco is a Canadian writer new to Bakersfield. She is actively seeking ways to raise community consciousness about LGBTQ issues and topics, one blog post at a time. She is also part of The Center’s Women Support Group.
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