|Martha Fugate answers questions from Equity directors.|
The Southeastern Equity Center (SEC) and the Florida Office of Equal Educational Opportunity held a training for Equity Directors from all over Florida’s school districts. Equity Directors assist schools in matters of legal compliance that create equal opportunities for all students. For years, racial conflicts dominated the issues that they faced. Today, more and more schools are facing challenges around the topics of gender and orientation.
SEC invited YES Institute to begin a conversation on these topics. Martha Fugate, the co-founder of YES Institute, and Joseph Zolobczuk, the Director of Education and Research, led the dialogue for over 55 Equity Coordinators in Orlando, Florida.
Martha began the dialogue with a question, “How many of you received phone calls five years ago from principals or trust counselors regarding transgender youth?” No one in the room raised their hand. She followed with “How many of you receive phone calls regarding that now?” About ten hands went up. Martha added, “I predict in five more years everyone in this room will be raising their hand.”
Brandon, a youth speaker with YES Institute, shared about his gender transition. A participant asked, “Why do you share your story, which is so personal, with us?” Brandon said, “Every time I hear about a kid who gets bullied in school or attempts suicide, it breaks my heart. I was lucky to have had a principal and counselor who reached out and got education on gender. I felt like my school cared about me, and it made all the difference. I can’t imagine what kids like me go through in other schools in Florida that don’t have education on gender.”
Some Equity Directors shared:
“I’m of the strong belief that hearing and seeing individuals share their stories educates in an extremely powerful manner. Thank you Brandon for your courage. Thank you for educating me, I am a better person for having been in your presence.”
“This was very informative! I was confused coming into this but have a better understanding of why students feel like a stranger in their own bodies.”
“Although I was trained to treat and respect everyone’s values and preferences, it has been invaluable to learn about the root and depth of gender and orientation.”