New York City’s public school system will make history Tuesday with its first-ever LGBTQ Pride celebration. Organizers hope it will inspire other school districts throughout the country to do the same.
Over 200 students, parents, and faculty from across all five boroughs are expected to attend the event.
“We’re excited. It’s the first of many opportunities for us to celebrate,” said Jared Fox, the New York City Department of Education’s first LGBTQ community liaison.
Fox says he was hired in January to create initiative programs that will help make all 1,800 public schools more LGBTQ-inclusive.
LGBTQ students are more likely to be bullied, according to a 2013 report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The report found in 2011, 29 percent of NYC students who were bullied identified as LGBTQ while 17 percent identified as heterosexual.
Fox said Tuesday’s celebration is not in repose to bullying, but rather, is a way to celebrate how far city schools have come to be more LGBTQ-friendly.
“[Tonight’s celebration] is an opportunity for us to highlight some of the proactive initiatives that we’re doing and to create a supportive and inclusive environment in every school building,” he added.
The DOE held several LGBTQ training workshops already this year. Fox has trained nearly 1,200 parent coordinators who serve as points of contact for families. He’s also trained nearly 100 principals in transgender and gender-inclusive programs, and has taught faculty how to include LGBTQ content in their curriculums.
Fox said city schools will continue to add LGBTQ inclusivity to school curriculums, including a continuation of an LGBTQ writer’s program and faculty training programs. He also said it’s important to continue to engage families.
“What kids are learning in schools needs to be wrapped around what the kids are hearing in their home,” he explained.
It's also important, according to Fox, that city schools are focusing their efforts on being more LGBTQ friendly since schools around the country often look to New York City — the country’s largest school system — as an example.
“[It’s] an opportunity to not only change the lives of kids across the five boroughs, but to create safe, supportive inclusive environments across the country.”