PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Back-to-school is just around the corner, and following a difficult year in isolation, many students are counting the days until they can reunite with their fellow classmates.
But for some, re-entering the educational environment may bring about feelings of anxiety, judgment, and a lack of safety, according to experts, and findings from the Oregon Department of Education indicate this is overwhelmingly true for students who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community and are disproportionately the targets of toxic learning environments.
Now, a new bill awaiting Gov. Kate Brown’s signature is slated to help address this issue, expanding the 2019 Student Success Act to protect those who identify as part of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community.
Senate Bill 52 requires ODE to develop and implement a statewide education plan for LGBTQ2SIA+ students. The bill also allows the department to hire their first-ever LGBTQ+ Student Success Coordinator responsible for implementing ideas outlined in the plan, coordinating with the LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee, and managing a $2 million grant program.
State Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego), a long-time advocate for LGBTQ rights and a supporter of the bill, told KOIN 6 she’s excited about what the plan will address.
“We’ll be able to create a bit more equitable access to appropriate educational curriculum, facilities, and activities,” explained Salinas. “We’ll actually give teachers the tools to know what to do when our LGBTQ youth are being harassed and we’ll also be able to gather the necessary data through an annual climate survey to know what kids are experiencing.”
The recent legislation is an expansion of the Student Success Act, which was signed into law in May of 2019 to address historical disparities in serving minority students, Indigenous students, students of color, students with disabilities and those navigating foster care, homelessness and poverty.
The original act recognized all students have the right to high-quality education regardless of their defining characteristics and allow the ODE to implement statewide equity initiatives for historically underserved groups of students, as the department deems necessary.