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Political Notebook: EQCA to grade CA public schools on LGBTpolicies

by Matthew S. Bajko

Equality California is working on a project to grade the<br>state's unified school districts.
Equality California is working on a project to grade the
state's unified school districts.   

A statewide LGBT advocacy group will grade all of California's 343 unified school districts on their LGBT policies.

The statewide schools scorecard by Equality California would be the first of its kind in the country. It will examine everything from if the districts are teaching LGBT curriculum and have LGBT supportive student groups to if they have gender-neutral bathrooms for transgender students and allow same-sex couples to attend proms and other school functions.

"We will be hitting districts across the state, both urban, rural, and suburban districts," said EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur.

Officially known as the Safe and Supportive Schools Index, it is modeled after the Municipal Equality Index created by the Human Rights Campaign, the national LGBT rights group, that annually scores cities across the country on how they are protecting their LGBT citizens.

Over the years California lawmakers have enacted a whole host of pro-LGBT schools legislation. EQCA sees its scorecard as a way to ensure the school districts have implemented the laws.

"It is both a way to understand what is occurring in various school districts and a way of giving the community transparency so individual parents and students can go to their school principal to advocate for changes in their schools as well as to the school board and district superintendent," said Zbur.

EQCA decided to start with just scoring public schools and only those districts that are unified, meaning they teach kindergarten through high school. It could add private schools in the future as well as smaller public school districts that only have elementary or high schools.

The unified districts should receive the more than 12-page scorecard this fall. They will be asked to fill it out and return it to EQCA, which plans to release the scores in early 2018.

EQCA has been working to develop the scorecard criteria over the last year and will conduct a trial run with a couple of school districts this summer in order to test it out.

"It is a pretty detailed metric," said Zbur.

The law firm Latham and Watkins LLP, which has offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, has assigned six of its employees to work on the schools scorecard. According to EQCA, the firm has provided more than $250,000 in pro bono help to date.

EQCA has reached out to HRC leaders for advice and has been coordinating with Equality Florida on the schools index. The LGBT rights group is looking to score school districts in the Sunshine State but is not as far along as EQCA is, Zbur said.

Two advisory committees, one in the Bay Area and one in Los Angeles, have provided input to EQCA on the scorecard's development, as have school district leaders in both regions. EQCA has also consulted with teachers union officials and the office of California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson on the creation of the index.

It has asked Torlakson to pen a letter encouraging the school districts to fill out the scorecard. Torlakson's office did not respond to the Bay Area Reporter's request for comment by deadline Wednesday.

Eric Heins, a gay man who is president of the California Teachers Association, could not be reached for comment.

Noelani Pearl Hunt, a straight ally on the Santa Clara Unified School District board, told the B.A.R. she plans to make sure her district fills out the scorecard.

"I hope Santa Clara scores an A-plus," said Pearl Hunt. "I have been diligent, and we as a district have been diligent, to make sure every LGBT student feels safe."

Two years ago Pearl Hunt pushed through a policy change to ensure LGBT slurs were covered under the district's sexual harassment policy. At the school board's meeting Thursday (April 20), Pearl Hunt expects the board to approve her resolution reaffirming the district's commitment to providing a safe learning environment for LGBT students.

It also commits the district, which last year created a director of wellness position, to ensuring that all of its child welfare personnel, including counselors, case managers, and crisis support team members, have the training they need to support LGBTQ students and their parents/guardians.

The resolution is a response to the Trump administration's recent rollback of federal protections for transgender students, in particular on their right to access bathrooms and other school facilities that correspond with their preferred gender, explained Pearl Hunt.

"I decided that, as a board, we needed to make a statement that we don't believe anything Trump is saying," said Pearl Hunt. "I wanted our LGBT students to know that we support you and we support your choices 100 percent."

Milk SFO terminal takes off

Thursday morning the Airport Facilities Naming Advisory Committee will host its first meeting to select which terminal at San Francisco International Airport should be named after gay icon Harvey Milk, as the B.A.R. first reported on its blog Monday.

The panel has sat dormant since it was approved in 2013 because of Mayor Ed Lee's snail's pace in naming his five appointees to the nine-person body. Now that he has selected the quintet, and the Board of Supervisors replaced one of its four representatives earlier this month, the committee can get to work.

It arose out of a compromise that Lee and gay former Supervisor David Campos struck after Campos' initial idea to rename all of SFO after Milk, the city's first out elected official who was assassinated in 1978 a year after winning a supervisor seat, failed to take off. The naming committee is tasked with recommending to the board and mayor which of SFO's four terminals should bear Milk's name.

It could also decide to forward names for the other three terminals, the most prominent being the international terminal at the entrance of the airport.

Due to the reports of gay men being rounded up in the Russian republic of Chechnya, Campos told the B.A.R. this week that the international terminal should bear Milk's name.

"Given what is happening with Chechnya and in other countries, the international terminal becomes more significant and more appropriate," he said. "It is the first thing people who travel from all over the world see when they come into San Francisco."

Depending on how fast the committee works, there is a chance the naming of the Milk terminal could be approved in time for this year's Harvey Milk Day, which will take place on Monday, May 22, which is Milk's birthday.


Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on a lesbian Alameda judge's admonishment and a gay GOPer's record FPPC fine.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail



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