As the legal status of gay families is debated nationally, I assure you that here in the San Francisco Unified School District, we continue to see all families as equally important and celebrate that our families come in all forms.
Last week, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy talked about the fact that as many as 40,000 children in California live with same-sex parents, and he posed that children may be adversely affected by their parents not being allowed to marry.
Even in San Francisco, our children and their families are not immune to the harmful effects of assumptions or discrimination, even when it comes in the form of a well-intended question from a school staff member who might ask a child with two dads about contacting her mother.
With little exception, children’s books still portray parents as a mommy and daddy. What is the subtle message this sends to children being raised by a grandparent, a single parent or perhaps two mommies?
The list goes on. These examples are why we have been on the forefront of working to make our schools welcoming to all of our families, including our gay and lesbian families.
As educators, we know how important family involvement is to a child’s education, so we want to remove any and all possible barriers that prevent families from feeling safe and connected to their children’s schools.
In the district’s Student, Family, and Community Support Department, we have staff members who focus on the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth as well as LGBT parents. We’ve been doing so for more than 20 years in collaboration with community-based organizations including the Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere as well as the Our Family Coalition.
Lessons addressing diverse families have been part of the elementary curriculum since 1992, and we will be introducing even more resources as part of our upcoming Gay Pride Month, celebrated in schools throughout April.
The SFUSD is the only school district in the nation that asks children about lesbian and gay parents. On the most recent survey conducted in 2011, 3 percent of middle school students and 4 percent of high school students reported having gay or lesbian parents.
Recently, the district hosted our second annual LGBT families dinner, where nearly 200 people of all ages spent an evening together at one of our elementary schools. I joined families at the LGBT dinner and sat at a table with gay and lesbian parents who love their children and are invested in their education.
I will continue to watch the headlines in hopes that someday the rest of our nation will extend the same respect for all kinds of loving and supportive families. For now, you can rest assured that the SFUSD will continue to welcome our LGBT students as well as LGBT parents and guardians.
Richard A. Carranza is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.