Long Island Gay PTA holds first-ever meeting
David Kilmnick, CEO of Long Island’s GLBT Services Network, said this was the first Gay PTA meeting in the entire country.
As of now, the Gay PTA has not been acknowledged as an official branch of the National PTA. Kilmnick said officials in Albany thought the Gay PTA was a “fantastic idea,” but there has been no follow-up.
Kilmnick said that the goal is for the Gay PTA “to become chartered as a PTA and be part of the New York State PTA and the National PTA.”
Maria Fletcher, president of the New York State PTA, is scheduled to meet with Kilmnick Nov. 7 to discuss matters further.
“The PTA says ‘Every Child. One Voice,’” said Christine Kryjak, Suffolk County chair of the GLBT Community Center. “Our children’s voices aren’t necessarily being heard, so we want to include all the voices.”
Becoming part of the National PTA will allow the Gay PTA to attend state meetings and conferences to ensure gay students are afforded a safe and comfortable learning environment. It would also help teachers to address issues they might be faced with during school hours.
One measure the Gay PTA has taken was forming an Outreach and Education Committee, which provides sensitivity and cultural competency training to faculty groups.
Students attending the meeting suggested that “guidance” would be the necessary first step for teachers who seem uncomfortable or helpless when bearing witness to gay slurs and bullying.
“As a student and as a classmate, what I want and what I need in the school is for teachers to be given the opportunity to do the right thing because they want to help,” said Cat Kryjak, Christine’s daughter and a senior at West Babylon High School who proposed that workshops be offered to educators. “They want to help you; they just don’t know how.”
One of the main components of the Outreach and Education Committee is to ensure teachers are given the proper materials to handle such incidents.
“This goes beyond the Dignity for All Students Act that we already know about,” said Kilmnick. “It also is something that could be part of the implementation of the [Dignity Act].”
The Dignity Act—effective July 1, 2012—seeks to provide all public schools with an “educational environment free from discrimination and harassment.” Schools will be required to translate the language of the legislation into an age-appropriate version that will appear in student codes of conduct.
The act also includes guidelines for educational training programs for school personnel to raise awareness and enable employees to prevent and respond to instances of bullying.
The Gay PTA, in association with the Dignity Act, will attempt to actively promote a safer, more accepting environment for all students.
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