DNAinfo.com Yorkville Middle Schoolers Help Write Law for New LGBTQ Support in Schools by Shaye Weaver
YORKVILLE — It's never too early to get involved in politics.
East Side Middle Schoolers are behind new legislation that would ensure all city middle and high schools have resources for LGBTQ students, including gender sexuality alliances or gay straight alliances (GSAs). It also calls on the city to release data about whether each school is meeting its requirements.
The students, who are representatives to District 2's Manhattan Student Leadership Council (MSLC), worked with city council members over the past two years to write a resolution that was introduced in City Council on Tuesday.
If adopted, the Department of Education would be required to create and support gender sexuality alliances at every middle and high school.
The DOE would also need to publish information on which schools have a GSA, whether existing clubs have a budget, what support each school is providing to the GSAs, whether parents and teachers are involved, how frequently the GSAs meet, and whether teachers have gotten GSA training.
The East Side Middle School students involved, including Chloe Schamiss and Neil Sarkar, already have a GSA at their school and believe that the new legislation would go far in promoting equality in schools across the city.
"GSA’s are for everyone whether they are in the LGBTQ+ community or [are] allies," Neil said. "Everyone is different in their own unique way and a GSA is a place where everyone can come together."
Chloe said every student deserves to "openly be themselves, without fear or judgment getting in the way.
"We believe that implementing GSAs is the first step in achieving that," she added.
In the fall of 2015, the MSLC decided that equity in resources across schools and acceptance were the most important goals they wanted to work on.
With their school’s support, Neil and his schoolmate Katerina Corr, who are leaders in the MSLC, testified in support of GSAs during the city’s Committee on Education on Oct. 19, 2016.
After that hearing, the MSLC met with Councilmen Danny Dromm, who is the chair of the council’s education committee, and Ben Kallos to work on the new legislation.
“The rise of hate crimes nationally and in the city means it is more important than ever that the City supports our LGBTQ youth through these student-run clubs,” Kallos said. New York City has always been a leader on LGBTQ issues and that includes supporting our students.”
Dromm said GSAs are vital to the physical and mental-well being of LGBTQ students.
"This has long been a priority for me," he said. "GSAs are not only for gay students but for everyone who supports equal rights and safe spaces. By providing this support for LGBTQ students, we are ensuring that they get a quality education."