By Brendan Connelly, Staff Writer
// Throughout 2020, the Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD) worked to create a more inclusive environment for members of the LGBTQ+ community. On a recent panel, student leaders from around the District helped spread this message across California.
Leaders from the Acalanes High School Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) and the Miramonte Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) participated in a California Teachers Association (CTA) virtual student panel about LGBTQ+ issues on Friday, Dec. 4, allowing hundreds of teachers to learn about student perspectives.
SAGA is the Miramonte equivalent of QSA. The club started two years ago with very similar goals as QSA.
“We want to promote a sense of community among the LGBTQ community at school because that’s not something we really had before we had the club, and we also want to pursue advocacy,” SAGA Vice President and junior Abby Wallach said.
The student panel was a part of the larger, annual, multi-day CTA event about LGBTQ+ issues. Charles Shannon, the moderator and the CTA’s LGBTQ+ coordinator for Contra Costa and Alameda County, reached out to Wallach to speak on the panel. She invited SAGA President and senior Ryan Gottschalk and QSA Co-Presidents and juniors Autumn Long and Emerson Brown to join her.
“We did a similar panel to this one last year but on a much smaller scale. And then when [Shannon] found this opportunity, [Shannon] reached out to me and asked me if I could coordinate a group of students to do the panel,” Wallach said.
The four students spoke for around one hour, sharing personal experiences and advice on being inclusive, supportive, and thoughtful of students in the LGBTQ+ community.
“I’d say the most important point was just getting across general ideas of how to support LGBTQ+ students. Each of the topics had answers that all ultimately lead to getting teachers aware of how they can do better for LGBTQ+ youth,” Long said.
The panel’s goal was to give teachers the opportunity to learn what students experience to help school staff better empathize and support their students.
“I tried to relay some of the best practices my own teachers had employed to support LGBTQ+ students. I wanted to be sure that teachers would step away from the panel having gained useful knowledge they could implement in their own classrooms,” Gottschalk said.
Compared to many QSA and SAGA events, this panel consisted of a relatively large group. Over 300 teachers participated in the discussion. At its peak, there were over 350 participants.
“The teachers were engaging in the Q&A and seemed to have a true desire to lean into the conversation and support their students. Additionally, my co-panelists, Emerson, Abby, and Ryan, gave fantastic answers to the talking points and in the Q&A,” Long said.
Overall, the student panel allowed both the student leaders and teachers to engage in a conversation about personal experiences and how to support one another.
“I think the main thing that we wanted to do is to create a dialogue between students and teachers because I think often these issues aren’t really discussed,” Wallach said.
All four students were pleased with the outcome of the panel discussion with the CTA. They appreciated the opportunity and dialogue that this panel gave.
“It’s awesome that the CTA created a space to get actual student voices. I really appreciate that, and I hope they take the entire educational conference to make their teaching and their schools more LGBTQ+ inclusive,” Long said.