SAN DIEGO–The San Diego Unified School District’s Office of Youth Advocacy Tuesday outlined an innovative long-term strategic plan for closing the achievement gap with improved student supports and awareness, including specific steps to provide greater supports and training to address needs of an increasingly diverse student body and to assure equitable outcomes for all students.
The Office of Youth Advocacy was created in spring 2015 to ensure that student voice, advocacy, and equity are interwoven into all aspects of the district’s work. Major focal point of the work includes cultural proficiency; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) training and supports; restorative practices; ethnic studies; civic collaboration, and substance use prevention.
“Public education has, for decades, tackled some tough issues around equity and around ensuring pathways of success for all students – LGTBQ students, students of color, and those with socio-economic challenges, language barriers or disabilities,” said Superintendent Cindy Marten. “We’re making a promise to students to deliver on equity and it’s not just our words but our actions that will deliver on this promise.
“Right now, we are expanding the reach of the Office of Youth Advocacy to address these tough issues, and to lead a complex, coordinated and essential effort with extensive stakeholder engagement along the way,” Marten noted. “We have been working long and hard with our Safe Schools Task Force and with a number of community partners to outline needs and solutions. We are now ready to expand our implementation of these important and agreed-upon solutions in a systemic, coherent, systematic, focused effort. We will continue to work with our community agencies and partners in supporting our long-term plans.”
Highlights of the strategic plan include significant changes in 2015-16 for addressing issues that matter most for our LGTBQ youth:
– Revisions to the district’s anti-bullying awareness policy to include a training protocol for all employees, and development of an electronic tool to allow for anonymous reporting of bullying
– Launch of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education (GLSEN) School Climate Survey at all secondary schools to provide benchmark data for current students, and to be implemented annually thereafter
– Training for all district employees around LGTBQ issues to build understanding around and compliance with Seth’s Law, the FAIR Education Act, the School Success and Opportunity Act, and to assist with providing resources to students, along with ongoing training coordinated with campus Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) student clubs and the National Equity Project (NEP) as part of the district’s instructional learning cycles
– Participation in an “OUT for Safe Schools” initiative to address needs of students to easily identify district and school staff who are committed to providing a supportive resource for LGTBQ students
“We are absolutely committed to providing safe, supportive, and inclusive school environments for all students,” said Board President Marne Foster.
Board Trustee Kevin Beiser added “I am thrilled and look forward to action plans being implemented for mandatory LGTBQ training for all staff and some of these dramatic things we are doing to support LGTBQ students, including our commitment to having a dedicated staff member focusing on LGTBQ students and improved bullying reporting procedures.”
The Office of Youth Advocacy provides representation in Instructional Cabinet, the San Diego UNIFIED Through Diversity Committee, the Blueprint Task Force, the Latino Advisory Committee, the Safe Schools Advisory Committee, Restorative Justice collaborative meetings, Pathways Re-Engagement team meetings, the Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee, and the San Diego High School Substance Use Intervention Task Force.