Wednesday, March 4, 2009

PFLAG to Testify on Safe Schools in New Jersey

This evening, PFLAG National executive director Jody M. Huckaby will testify before New Jersey Governor's Commission on Bullying about the state's efforts to curb anti-LGBT sentiment in public schools. PFLAG was invited to appear before the Commission and talk about the effectiveness of New Jersey's anti-bullying law, and to offer our perspective, as an organization with a dedicated Safe Schools program, on improvements that can be made to the law.

Here is an excerpt from the testimony Jody will deliver later today.

"New Jersey’s anti-bullying law, and the subsequent model policy proposed by the state, is, we believe, the 'gold standard' among such laws and policies in the United States. The Commission should be praised for advocating and successfully passing legislation that is comprehensive in its reach, inclusive in its language and thorough in the breadth of who the law is intended to protect and where that protection exists. Indeed, New Jersey is a shining example other states and municipalities should look to when considering similar measures."

"At PFLAG we know, however, that no matter how noble the intent of our words are, it is the implementation of that intent that either truly provides safety and protection for young people, or ultimately stops short of realizing its well-intentioned goals. Unless we back up policies with practices – and preparation – we risk allowing even the best of laws to collect dust on schoolroom shelves."

"There is no doubt that everyone – elected leaders, parents, educators and community leaders – all have a critically important role to play in advancing the intent of New Jersey’s law and policy."

"It is imperative that state leaders clearly articulate to school administrators the need for placing their proposed policies into play. And it is equally important that, in each school district, administrators find the time and budget to properly train teachers, involve parents and foster community support for their policies. Indeed, it is not only important to do so, but, we believe, should be mandated, too. Our schools, of all places in our communities, should be the first to understand the importance of education. And educating teachers, students and other faculty will be instrumental in realizing the goals of this legislation."

"We cannot, in short, change our classrooms until we change the culture of the school community."

" . . . That is why PFLAG has a long history of working with parents, at the local level, who in turn work with school administrators to not just adopt policies – which this Commission has successfully ensured happens – but also to implement and enforce those policies, too. Through our Cultivating Respect program, we bring together communities and stakeholders in unique training sessions that explain how, on a day-to-day basis, we can make campuses safer and create an environment where every student can succeed. This program, which has been successfully executed in diverse states, regions and districts, makes a clear case for understanding that is in the best interests of students, and builds buy-in from parents, while reducing fear among students."

"PFLAG respectfully urges this Commission to consider mandating such trainings for state school employees, including as part of in-service trainings and other required activities for personnel who interact, on a regular basis, with students and their families. By doing so, you will ensure that your intention is not just well-received, but well-implemented, too."

"In short, the state must make every effort to bring together parents, students, teacher and administrators to better educate them about this important law and better prepare them to hold others – and themselves – accountable for its ultimate success or failure."

"There is no doubt that this Commission, Governor Corzine, the state legislature and others are enormously well-intentioned and committed to protecting LGBT students. For that, PFLAG and our families and allies applaud you. But there is also no doubt that, to ultimately succeed, everyone must take concrete steps to educate, implement and enforce. And it is no exaggeration to suggest that, indeed, our future, and the safety of our children, depend on our commitment to do so."

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