Monday, May 7, 2012

New schools chief touts LGBT safety

by Seth Hemmelgarn

The man recently selected by the San Francisco Board of Education as the next schools chief pledged officials will "continue to work very aggressively" to protect LGBT and other students.

The school board voted unanimously last week for Richard Carranza to serve as the next superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

Carranza, 45, currently serves as the district's deputy superintendent of instruction, innovation, and social justice and is set to replace Carlos Garcia after Garcia retires in July. The board's vote was Tuesday, April 24.

In a recent interview, Carranza, who joined the district about two and a half years ago, said that among his goals are ensuring safety for LGBT and other students.

"I'm very, very sensitive and supportive of the LGBT community," Carranza, who has a gay brother, said.
"Under my administration, we would absolutely continue to work very aggressively" to protect students, he said.

The district appears to be far ahead of most other school agencies in the country when it comes to addressing LGBT issues. Among other things, the district was likely the first of its kind to offer a website specifically addressing the needs of LGBTQ students and their families.

Still, San Francisco school students aren't immune to anti-gay attitudes. Recent survey data that includes the district's middle and high school students indicate that it's fairly common for them to hear comments like "faggot" and "that's so gay," while staff often don't address the remarks. Many LGBT students have been subjected to violence, according to the data.

Carranza said the district's work to address such problems would continue.

"Students in our schools have every right to come to school and not feel bullied or harassed," he said. "... It's unacceptable for any student not to feel comfortable and successful in school."

Carranza said Kevin Gogin, who works in support services for LGBTQ youth for the district's school health programs department, "has done a lot of really good work" on developing intervention programs, training staff, and other areas.

In response to emailed questions, Gogin said the district's leaders have been "incredibly supportive of LGBTQ programming, curriculum, and professional development. Leadership has engaged in an ongoing conversation regarding what LGBTQ students need and how Support Services for LGBTQ Youth, and the district as a whole, can respond. [Carranza] has been a part of this discussion since he has worked as deputy superintendent."