Parent Teacher Associations just got a little more helpful with Thursday's announcement that the first PTA chapter for gay, lesbian, and transgender students was approved on Long Island.
On Thursday, the national PTA recognized the Long Island chapter, which will serve the area's 127 school districts. David Kilmnick, CEO of the Long Island GLBT Services Network, praised the recognition of the Long Island chapter as evidence that the entire community is willing to deal seriously with issues affecting gay and lesbian youth. The PTA group aims to propose curriculum changes that would include information about the GLBT civil rights movement and its leaders, as well as stress faculty awareness and sensitivity when dealing with the needs of GLBT students and their families. Kimnick, who started Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth (LIGALY) in 1993 as a means for community members outside the schools to support gay-straight alliances in Long Island's middle and high schools, explained that official recognition of the new PTA chapter will help students cope with the bullying or discrimination that occurs beyond the peer level. "Gay and lesbian youth are bullied at higher levels than most other kids," said Kimnick. "And many times schools are not equipped to deal with this type of bullying, or just turn their head and don't pay attention to it."
It's easy enough to marginalize students who, at an age when the desire to fit-in plagues their pre-adolescent social interactions with painful awkwardness, may feel pressure either from their peers, parents, or teachers to internalize their struggles with sexual identity. Sanctioning an organization composed of parents and teachers to openly address the very real concerns of students that feel ostracized from a heteronormative culture allows for a frank, cross-generational discussion of sexuality, something that should be top priority among parents and teachers because teenagers are like small military dictatorships that have suddenly found nuclear warheads and really, really want to use them.