I just spent the weekend filled with the wonderful energy from Austin Pride’s 2018 Pride Weekend. My daughter and I marched along with hundreds of other AISD students, parents and faculty behind an AISD marching band, all of us waving AISD Pride Flags and celebrating AISD’s commitment to make Austin schools a safe, #NoPlaceForHate environment for LGBTQ students, families and staff. Read more
I’m a big believer in using information to help transform fear into understanding.
And when it comes down to it, every person who is fighting against inclusion policies for LGBTQ students in Austin schools is basing their arguments on fear.
Fear based in their own ignorance about what it means to be LGBTQ.
Fear from the misconception that LGBTQ rights and equality will somehow negatively impact their own children.
Fear that they can’t explain LGBTQ topics to their kids without getting into nitty-gritty sex details. (FYI – My children have been to many hetero-weddings where we never had to have a discussion about the sex lives of the couple getting married.)
We have the opportunity to raise a generation of kids who will never even think twice about whether their LGBTQ friends are “normal” or “different” simply because they’ve never been taught to see them differently.
That’s why it’s more important than ever that schools embrace LGBTQ inclusion policies and that we help inform the parents who are fighting these policies so they can get past their fears and begin to understand.
One of the best ways to help people understand is through personal stories, and I’m hopeful that you will be willing to share your story, including why having LGBTQ inclusive polices in schools is important, so we can begin to build that bridge from fear to understanding.
I was disappointed to receive a letter from Dr. Goodnow stating that despite an overwhelmingly favorable vote on the SHAC Health Subcommittee’s recommendation to move forward with the proposed revised human sexuality and responsibility curriculum, there will be a one-year delay in implementing this curriculum.
I was at the June 6th SHAC meeting where the proposal was presented and have been at almost every SHAC meeting during the 2017-18 school year. During the public comment period of each of these meetings, I have used my two minutes to share my support, as well as the support of the almost 1,000 members of the Informed Parents of Austin Group, for comprehensive sex education that is inclusive of the needs of LGBTQ students. Read more
Austin Independent School District (AISD) Parents:
AISD is considering a comprehensive sexual health education curriculum for K-8th grade students. To show your support, please sign this petition which will be delivered on behalf of The Informed Parents of Austin to the Austin ISD School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) and the Board of Trustees.
There are many reasons to support age-appropriate, science-based, comprehensive sexuality education in your child’s school – here are just a couple:
One of the most powerful actions you can take to support LGBTQ kids and families in your school district is to attend your district’s SHAC meetings.
SHAC stands for School Health Advisory Council. In addition to doing important things like making sure our kids have healthy lunches and excellent physical education programs, SHAC boards also guide school districts’ policies on LGBTQ inclusion and preparedness/sensitivity training for teachers as well as age-appropriate sex-ed programs for students.
We focus a lot on the Austin Independent School District in this group, but the fact is that ALL school districts have SHACs, and no matter where you live, if you care about defending your kids against vocal anti-LGBTQ groups and groups demanding abstinence only “sex ed” then you need to start getting involved in these meetings, or even sign up to be a SHAC board member.
I’m listing the contact information for the SHACs in the Austin area here, but please take a moment to google “__________ SHAC” (with the _______ being your school district) to find their meeting dates or even sign up to be considered for the board.
If you’re a little introvert and nervous about attending (like I was,) I’ve put together a little “How to Attend a SHAC Meeting” about how our meetings in AISD work. I’m guessing they are similar in other districts, but this at least will help give you the assurance that they are not scary. You do not need to talk. You just need to be there, and be informed.
I am not sure about your district’s SHAC meetings, but ours are regularly visited by vocal members of groups specifically designed to shame and block the rights of the LGBTQ community. Our general rule is to not engage with these people and to focus your efforts on the SHAC board members who have the power to influence change.
If your district is like ours, and already has programs that support the rights for ALL students, then simply show them your appreciation and offer your support for future programs. If your district does not have programs in place that support equal rights for LGBTQ students and families, join our group, and we’ll get you the resources to help.
One of the most effective ways to let key decision makers at AISD know that you support initiatives that support the LGBTQ+ community is to attend the monthly SHAC meetings and sign in as representing “Informed Parents of Austin.”
It can be a bit confusing and intimidating the first time you attend any new gathering, so here is a quick overview of what to expect when you attend a SHAC meeting.
Know where & when to go: The meetings are the first Wednesday of every month from 6:30pm – 8:00pm in a meeting room at the new AISD Headquarters located at 4000 S. IH-35 Frontage Road, 78704 unless specified otherwise. (See map below)
Someone will be at the main door to provide access and directions to the meeting room on the 2nd floor The full schedule, agenda for the upcoming meeting and minutes from past meeting are all available here. Always check for the latest information here before attending.
When You Arrive: There will be a table with a sign up sheet, agendas as well as the Speaker & Comment cards. At the beginning of each regular meeting of a district advisory body, time will be provided for public comments.
At the time of this post, the SHAC public comment period is typically 10-15 minutes, and speakers are usually allowed 2 minutes each. Speakers may be asked to sit in a designated area until called upon by the presiding officer to speak.
You can read all the Communication Rules here, but here’s the most important part: “Persons wishing to provide public comments will be asked to fill out a speaker card. Persons wishing to speak must acknowledge on the speaker card that they have read these requirements. Persons will be called upon to speak usually in the order speaker cards were received. However, in cases of large numbers of persons wishing to speak, cards may be drawn randomly, at the discretion of the committee coordinator. If persons who have signed up to speak do not have an opportunity to do so because time runs out, they may provide written comments on the card provided. In addition, any person may provide written comments without signing up to speak.”
Where to Sit: The SHAC board members sit at the tables and there is typically a separate seating section for guests.
The Meeting: Here’s a sample agenda to give you an idea of the flow of the meetings and topics discussed. The public comment period is at the the beginning of the meeting and is limited so definitely bring hand outs in case due to time constraints, you only have the opportunity to provide written comments.
Do I HAVE to DO Anything?! As a SHAC meeting guest, you are under no obligation to speak at any time – You can truly just act as a “fly on the wall” while taking in the information discussed.
If you do have something you want to say, but are hesitant to speak in front of the group, you can submit a written statement on one of the comment cards which are located on the table as you enter the room.
Since these written comments are kept with the records of the meeting, (and the “anti” groups are definitely submitting their comments,) even if I don’t have a specific, urgent topic, I encourage you to submit a general statement of support, such as:
My name is _________ and I am one of the 1,500+ members of The Informed Parents of Austin. I would like to thank the SHAC board for continuing to support programs that encourage equality and inclusiveness for LGBTQ+ students and families. I also support your efforts to include age appropriate sex education in the AISD curriculum. I, and the Informed Parents of Austin, are here to support you in any way to ensure these programs are made available to all students in AISD.
Note: The SHAC board is there to attend to a wide variety of subjects pertaining to the health of our students and AISD staff, from Physical Education programs and Lunch Menus to staff insurance plans and school nurse coverage. During any given meeting, there is very little chance that any LGBTQ+ or sex ed topics will be raised, and even if they are, as observing guests we are not allowed to comment on them during the discussion when guests are each allowed two minutes to give a brief statement. We are there to get information, be a counter-presence to the anti-groups and let the SHAC board know that we support their inclusion initiatives.
There are typically several anti-group representatives present at these meetings. I have learned to follow the HRC’s recommendation to not engage with people who are fighting against our goals, but to support the decision makers who support equality for LGBTQ+ students and families.