Diana Tiburcio - Racial Justice Policy Fellow (MA in Education Candidate, Columbia University)
Saray Ramos - Director of Policy and Advocacy (MPA Candidate, Rutgers University)
Dr. Jesselly De La Cruz, LCSW, DSW - Executive Director
The Latino Action Network Foundation supports New Jersey Attorney General Platkin’s decision to uphold/protect the rights and protections of transgender and non-binary students by opposing policies that require notifying parents without a student's consent regarding their gender identity. Transgender and non-binary students, like all students, deserve a safe and inclusive educational environment where they can focus on their studies and personal growth. Requiring schools to notify parents without the student’s consent infringes upon their privacy and can potentially expose them to harm if their parents do not support their gender identity.
Policies such as Hanover Township’s Board of Education “Parental Notice of Material Circumstances” (Policy 8463) have revoked measures safeguarding the privacy and support for transgender students. Hanover Township, along with an additional four districts taking initial steps in that direction, are adapting policies that can cause great harm to families who are not yet ready or lacking emotional support to address this stressor. “Outing” LGBTQ students not only puts the youth at risk for harm but the entire family system. Families may not have the tools or resources to successfully navigate the stressors associated with raising a queer child or teenager.
From a Latino/a/x perspective, we have seen time and time again how the effects of homophobia and transphobia disproportionately harms our communities. Latino/a/x parents are often inundated by the stress of educational systems that too often create de facto segregation, fail to ensure bilingual students educational equity, ignore the voices of Latino/a/x parents, lack representation of Latino/a/x educators, and struggle to meet the educational rights of Latino/a/x students. Additionally, attempts to eliminate educational materials addressing gender, sexuality, and incidents like that involving Michael Brown, a Black teenager killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, are rooted in a movement that privileges the worries of a few parents over the collective mental health of Black and Latino`children.
The local movements inherently exclude and explicitly seek to push book bans and culture wars against Black and Latino communities. The problem with “culture wars” in local school districts is that too often it’s fueled by the same hateful dogma that fuels anti-Blackness, anti-immigrant sentiments, and segregation. We are concerned with local policies that seek to restrict discussions about racial, ethnic, cultural, and gender diversity because it would eliminate the visibility of Latino/a/x voices. It is even more alarming how quickly policies that seem to encourage “family preservation” and “parent rights” ultimately lead to discriminatory impact against Black and Brown families. And, it’s true that Latino communities have historically had a complex relationship with White supremacy. But, we believe that combatting and speaking out against educational culture wars that inappropriately “out” LGBTQ students and book bans that aim to erase a narrative that is inclusive of Latino/a/x identity is central to collective well-being Latinx families living in New Jersey.
Being a Trans or Non-binary Youth in Latinx communities
While transphobia and homophobia are prevalent phenomena across all communities, there has been a noticeable increase in visibility and significance in representation for the Latinx community. Latino icons such as Walter Mercado and Bad Bunny have attained notable fame among Latinos globally, transcending heteronormative and binary gender identities and expression. They have captured the hearts of Latino communities worldwide, exemplifying the necessity for inclusive representation within American filmmaking. Latino/a/x communities have made great strides to accept and remain connected to LGBTQ families because of their deep belief in family values and unity. Most Latinx families are overwhelmed by the fear of separation because of harmful immigration policies, death by law enforcement, COVID-19, and the slew of preventable health conditions because of the lack of access to affordable health care. Therefore, when faced with LGBTQ issues and their children, many Latino families have turned the corner toward acceptance and supporting visibility.
However, we have much to do to improve the quality of life for Latinx or Latine LGBTQ youth and their families. There are still many Trans and Non-binary Latinx youth who face discrimination, child abuse, and homeless because their families refuse to accept and support their gender expression or identity. Many LGBTQ Latinx youth live in multigenerational homes and are dependent on their families for love, connection, and their basic needs. According to the Trevor Project, Latinx youth who identify as LGBT are four times more likely to report suicide attempts than their straight, cisgendered Latino/a peers. Embracing the term Latinx can empower youth that are disproportionately and deeply affected by discrimination, racism, and oppression based on their ethnic and sexual identity. A 2018 survey by the Human Rights Coalition, found that just over half of LGBT+ latinx youth are open about their identity to their immediate family, and approximately 6 out of 10 state that their family accepts LGBT individuals. Nonetheless, about one-third report a lack of acceptance within their families.
An Inclusive Educational Equity Approach: A Latino/a/x Perspective
Earlier this year, the Latino Action Network Foundation and the New Jersey Consortium for Immigrant Children (NJCIC) hosted an education roundtable that focused on the Latino/a/x experience within New Jersey schools. Several recommendations were discussed, one of which was the establishment of an Office for Parent Advocate within every school district, funded by the state. The purpose of this office would be to advocate for the interests of parents and guardians, ensuring that all parents, regardless of their available resources, have someone to champion their concerns.
The idea of an Office for Parent Advocates, proposed during our roundtable discussion, is rooted in the belief that parents and guardians should have support in navigating their children's educational experiences. However, this policy is not at the expense of transgender and non-binary students’ well-being or privacy. While parents undoubtedly play a vital role in their child’s upbringing and education, it is equally important to recognize that schools need to be sensitive to the potential harm on Latino/a/x families facing multifaceted stressors and Latinx youth who often play a key role in the overall success and acculturation of the entire family systems.
This aligns with recent polling data released in October 2023, reflecting the sentiments of New Jersey voters regarding education policies. Voters stand with students, rejecting book banning and forced outing. By a significant 56-point margin (74%-18%), voters firmly agree that politicians should not compel teachers to disclose a student’s LGBTQ+ identity or preferred pronouns without their consent. Moreover, by an even larger 59-point margin (77%-18%), voters support a student's right to decide when they're prepared to discuss their sexual orientation or gender identity with their parents.
Ultimately, the pursuit of educational equity must embrace inclusivity and respect the autonomy and privacy of transgender and non-binary students. It is crucial to foster an educational environment that not only champions parental involvement but also safeguards the safety and dignity of all students.
Similar to the six districts mentioned above, the Clifton Board of Education is calling into question a policy meant to protect LGBTQ+ students. Read more here: https://thecliftontimes.com/g/clifton-nj/n/225618/studentemployee-recognitions-special-meeting-policy-5756-be-held-and-more?fbclid=IwAR2BLxXJ177h_K8b2u-RHeVkGf7OKqGXmM6zSc_mz5sco5zu2YCBOpj8v44_aem_Afit589TDnuWfX9RZrWwMabOssrr3tL_wpqe9SRcI7rsCsCuDzok6UR6dY7r6axOu8Q
National LGBT Health Education Center. Glosario de términos LGBT para equipos de atención a la salud. https://www.lgbtqiahealtheducation.org/publication/glosario-de-terminos-lgbt-pa ra-equipos-de-atencion-a-la-salud/download/
Latino Action Network Foundation - The Latinx Experience in Schools: A Policy and Action Agenda: https://www.lanfoundation.org/post/la-experiencia-latinx-en-las-escuelas-una-ag enda-de-pol%C3%ADtica-y-acci%C3%B3n
AG Platkin Announces Filing of Civil Rights Complaint and Application Seeking to Immediately Prohibit Implementation of Hanover Township Board of Education’s LGBTQ+ Parental Notification Policy. New Jersey Office of the Attorney General. (May, 2023). https://www.njoag.gov/ag-platkin-announces-filing-of-civil-rights-complaint-and-application-seeking-to-immediately-prohibit-implementation-of-hanover-township-board-of-educations-lgbtq-parental-notification-policy/
Davis, Clayton, and Andrew Wallenstein. “Congressman Joaquin Castro Nominates 27 Latino Films for National Film Registry: 'Frida,' 'Maria Full of Grace,' 'A Better Life' and More.” Variety, 21 August 2023, https://variety.com/2023/film/news/joaquin-castro-nominates-latino-movies-national-film-registry-1235701294/.
Human Rights Campaign. “Supporting and Caring for Our Latino LGBT Youth.” 2018. https://assets2.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/LatinoYouthReport-FINAL.pdf?_ga=2.101371972.497501341.1697249971-750193203.1697249971.
Kelley, Tina. “Trans student rights at risk as some N.J. districts repeal policies.” NJ.com. October 2023. https://www.nj.com/education/2023/10/a-damaging-free-for-all-predicted -as -districts-reconsider-policies-protecting-trans-students.html
Koruth, Mary A. “NJ Attorney general sues Hanover school district over policy on LGBTQ students.” Northjersey.com, 17 May 2023, https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/education/2023/05/17/hanover-nj-schools-lgbtq-policy-attorney-general/70229523007/.
New Jersey Education Association. “New Poll: Voters Stand with Students, Reject Book Banning and Forced Outing.” (October, 2023). https://www.njea.org/new-poll-voters-stan d-with-students-reject-book-banning-and-forced -outing/.
Sinha, Amol. “Book Bans Foreshadow More Than Empty Shelves: NJ Has an Obligation to Fight Back Against Attempts to Restrict Access to Information.” ACLU of New Jersey. (August 2023). https://www.aclu-nj.org/en/news/book-bans-foreshadow-more-empty- shelves.
The Trevor Project. “The Trevor Project 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health: New Jersey.” 2022. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/The-T revor-Project-2022-National-Survey-on-LGBTQ-Youth-Mental-Health-by-State-New-Jersey.pdf.
The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. “LGBT Demographic Data Interactive.” January 2019, Los Angeles, CA, https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/visualization/lgbt-stats/?topic=LGBT&area=34#d ensity.