Mandating Change to Ensure Accountability
Sadly, many state-level changes are often reactive instead of preventative. The increasing rate of adolescent suicide is occurring across the nation. Some places are markedly worse than others, such as Utah which increased 140% over four years! This shocking and quite terrifying rise reflects a HUGE need for efforts to shift this. Change must occur at the state level to ensure accountability and safety for ALL youth.
Two areas of focus for state-level advocacy:
Creates/mandates changes to the law.
State School Board/State Office of Education
Implements the law and mandates/governs the school district processes for following the law and any accountability and oversight.
State School Boards/Office of Education
These are the people designated with the responsibility to ensure that school districts in a given state are following state laws. Each school district in the state is accountable to them. Often they are the group who interprets the law, creates policy and decides specifically how they will/can be implemented in schools.
If any given state does not allocate or prioritize funding for a department which gathers data, analyzes training quality, and ensures that schools are implementing practices which ensure all students are kept safe - this is likely a case of voluntary compliance as is the case in Utah.
Without funding for an oversight department/position - schools will not truly have accountability. Thus as is to often the case, many will continue to sweep issues under the rug, such as bullying, discrimination, suicide, mental health and the risks faced by LGBTQIA youth.
CLICK HERE To find YOUR State Office of Education
CLICK HERE for my interview with Moab’s incredible local radio station KZMU, about my experience with the Utah State Office of Education.
Any State that has a predominant religion often has a higher rate of adolescent suicide and is often less willing to address the issues faced by LGBTQIA youth. This is because the discrimination is rooted in the religion; regardless of words to the contrary. The resultis institutionalized discrimination as is the case in Utah, and which exists in many other states such as Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Florida and others. This does not mean they are evil or their faith is evil, however, it does mean that engaging them in a discussion about protecting all youth may be harder. Keep at it! Don't give up! Something that all religions share is the belief in God's love and God's love is NOT conditional. Help them see in whatever way you can that when they do not protect ALL children, this is NOT love. Remind them to look into their hearts and find the love necessary to protect ALL children - all parents love their children and deserve their protection.
To change the law, you will need a group of parents who have either lost children to suicide, had a child suffer because of bullying/violence and how it was handled, or had a child who suffered discrimination (for anything - including being LGBTQIA). This can and should be a collective voice. Creating coalitions of parents, youth and any community members who care, can have an impact.
Before doing anything, search for and connect with LGBTQIA advocacy groups in your state. Go to the link below to find groups in your state. Connect with them to participate in the larger group effort for change.
Unfortunately, the law is slow to respond and often hindered by the prevailing culture in any given area.
Family Equality Council: https://www.familyequality.org/
Human Rights Campaign: https://www.hrc.org/campaigns/equality-act
STEPS For STATE ADVOCACY:
1 - Know the DATA - educate yourself.
*See Step 1 of School Advocacy*
2 - Connect with local and state groups. Go to the RESOURCES page to find these.
3 - Write letters to your state school board, your governor, legislature and ask them to support policies (as outlined in the Necessary Components that protect LGBTQIA youth in schools and enforce non-discrimination practices. See the School Advocacy information for more info.