San Dieguito students push for resolution against LGBTQIA+ discrimination

Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) student leaders
Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) student leaders came to the Sept. 15 board meeting to advocate for a new resolution against LGBTQIA+ discrimination.
(Courtesy of Robyne Ruterbusch

San Dieguito Union High School District students are raising their voices for the LGBTQIA+ community, bringing forward a resolution calling for action following transphobic behavior and offensive hate speech in a parent group on Facebook.

Student leaders from San Dieguito Academy and La Costa Canyon High School’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) have proposed a resolution that prohibits discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression and declares the district to be a safe space for students to learn and thrive free from discrimination and bullying.

“The reality is that queer kids feel unsupported, unsafe and uncared for due to commentary from so-called student advocates,” said Mace Viemeister, a San Dieguito Academy student and leader with the school’s GSA.

The resolution calls on the district to create procedures to address anti-LGBTQIA+ bullying and harassment, more staff training, equal access to all programs and facilities and for schools to incorporate LGBTQIA+ people and issues into the curriculum. It asks that the district designate October as LGBTQIA+ history month, June as LGBTQIA+ Pride Month, and recognize March 31 as International Transgender Day of Visibility.

As the resolution was not placed on the Sept. 14 agenda, students read the resolution into the record during public comment, two minutes at a time. Teachers, parents and representatives from the North County LGBTQ Resource Center and PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) San Diego County were in attendance in a show of solidarity for the students.

During nearly two hours of public comment, several students and community members again criticized Vice President Michael Allman’s participation in a Facebook thread on pronoun use on the private SDUHSD Families for Students First Facebook page, many calling for an apology and some for his resignation from the board.

“Show your support by saying all of the things some of the parents were saying were not ok,” said Izzy Enfinger, president of the La Costa Canyon High School GSA. “Sure you did not reply to the suicide comment and you drew the line there but it took hours not minutes to get taken down. And you didn’t draw the line when people were being transphobic either. Not only was it highly inappropriate, it was extremely childish.”

According to SDUHSD President Mo Muir, the students’ resolution was not placed on the agenda that night because supporting documents were not received prior to a Sept. 2 deadline, as required by policy. The resolution will be on the agenda at the October meeting, Muir said, and the students will work with the district’s leadership team in preparation.

In her comments, Trustee Katrina Young said it was “tragic” that the resolution was not on the agenda.

“I’ve learned that transgender students suffer from gut-wrenchingly high levels of anxiety, depression, rejection, self-harm and even death. Knowing this, I believe it’s up to us, the parents and adults and leaders of this community, to figure out ways to support our children, all of our children,” Young said. “Respecting their pronoun choice is a minimal goal. What the trans community, what every human being wants, is for others to truly see, value and above all accept them for who they are.”

Young said the LGBTQIA+ community deserved to hear the board publicly condemn the social media thread with its “dangerous” transphobic content, to the roaring applause of the crowd.

“Calling pronoun uses insulting, annoying, confusing and comical is transphobic,” Young said. “Joking that I/she/it or just ‘it’ are appropriate pronouns for non-binary individuals is transphobic…and so is agreeing with, laughing at and agreeing with those posts.”

In her comments, Trustee Julie Bronstein stated publicly that she is an ally to the LGBTQ community and that she condemned the hateful speech that some have seen on social media.

As referenced by Bronstein and the students’ resolution, according to a 2022 Trevor Project survey, 73% of LGBTQIA+ youth reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety and 45% seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. Fewer than one in three transgender and nonbinary youth found their home to be gender-affirming.

“There are enough challenges for our transgender students to navigate without being subjected to hateful and transphobic speech,” Bronstein said.

During his comments, Allman reiterated his statement made last month: He believes every person is valuable and deserves respect and that everyone has the right to use the pronoun of their choice without question, ridicule or judgment.

Regarding the Facebook thread, he again stated that he reported a “completely inappropriate and offensive” comment about trans youth and suicide and it was removed.

“This comment should have been reported as soon as anyone saw it but instead it was screenshot, printed, made into posters and distributed on social media,” Allman said. “This amplification was incredibly hurtful to our LGBTQIA+ community and to anyone who cares about how transgender children and adults are treated in our society. The amplification itself was highly inappropriate as well as being flat-out wrong.”

Some spoke in support of Allman at the meeting. Parent Seema Burke argued that advocacy against transphobia is important but it could’ve been done without making the hurtful words on the Facebook page public.

At the meeting, Interim Superintendent Tina Douglas commended the students for coming forward that night to advocate for themselves, a sentiment applauded by the board and staff.

“Student voice should really be the pillar of what we do in education, listening and hearing from our students’ lived experiences really is what should drive what happens in this district,” echoed Deputy Superintendent Mark Miller. Miller told the students in the room: “You are why we are here and you are why we do what we do. Thank you for your passion and energy and thank you for helping me to learn and grow as a leader. But, most importantly, I want to thank you for being you.”