A “Bill of Rights” resolution for LGBTQIA+ students, faculty and staff of the Los Angeles Community College District was unanimously approved Wednesday by the Board of Trustees.
The resolution, which advocates say is the first of its kind, was presented by LACCD board President Andra Hoffman and trustees David Vela and Mike Fong. The rest of the board signed on to the resolution during the meeting.
“The Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees, representing the district and all nine campuses, is committed to affirming the lives of students of diverse identities and amplifying the voices of those who have felt silenced, including our LGBTQIA+ students and employees,” the resolution reads in part.
“LACCD is singularly situated to support LGBTQIA+ students, many of whom have just reached adulthood, to provide a safe and inspiring learning environment, free from discrimination and harassment, and guaranteeing equal access to our educational programs, services, and activities,” it continues.
More than 20,000 students out of the 230,000 full- and part-time students attending the nine colleges in the district are estimated to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning, transgender or gender non-conforming, based on data gathered from a 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey of LAUSD high school students.
The resolution calls for improved data on those numbers, keeping privacy concerns foremost.
In addition, the resolution proposes that the district:
— review and improve anti-discrimination policies and procedures;
— celebrate LGBTQIA+ History Month and other events that bring visibility to this community, including supporting the annual Lavender Graduation;
— include welcome messages to LGBTQIA+ students on all nine colleges’ websites and list relevant on-campus and community services;
— provide online cultural responsiveness training related to LGBTQIA+ issues to faculty, staff and administrators, and consider expanding “safe zone” training to more colleges within the district;
— organize faculty support at all nine colleges to ensure the success of relevant student clubs; and
— consider other initiatives, including LGBTQIA+ courses, programs and degrees and more support, including mental health services, for this community.
Rin Kahla, a sociology professor at East Los Angeles College, praised the trustees for their actions. Kahla said she is an openly gay woman who described herself as a liaison for LGBTQIA+ students.
“As somebody who puts themselves out there for other people to come and feel supported, I’m emotional because I never thought I would live to see this, where … our group is recognized,” Kahla said.
Hoffman said Vela, who authored the resolution with a board committee, worked on the bill of rights after the board realized there are many students within the district who don’t have communication with their parents.
She said if students are younger than 24, they are still considered dependents and must obtain information about their parents in order to receive federal financial assistance for college, which unfairly discriminates against people who left home.
Trustees said the resolution will bridge that gap for LGBTQIA+ students by providing them necessary information to get financial aid.
“Today marks a momentous milestone, I believe, in the history of the L.A. Community College District, where you know we are afforded the ability to provide protections to one of our most disadvantaged communities,” Vela said. “This bill of rights sets the standards for community colleges throughout the nation, and will bring understanding and acceptance.”