In what may be a first for the nation, queer and transgender parents may be granted their own official advisory group to the San Francisco Unified School District under a proposal made this week.
The idea for the Queer and Trans Parent Advisory Council was first introduced by Our Family Coalition, an LGBTQ advocacy group. Its development has been in the works for years and it was on its way to a hearing before the pandemic hit.
The resolution introduced on Tuesday by school board member Alison Collins calls for the new council to adopt and develop “affirming practices” that affect LGBTQ parents in San Francisco Unified School District.
School forms asking questions or including language more relevant to cisgender heterosexual mothers and fathers, rather than gender-diverse families, are a running problem for queer and trans caregivers, noted nonbinary SFUSD parent M Villaluna.
“This is something that queer and trans parents in the district have been wanting for a long time and it’s finally coming together,” said Villaluna, who serves on both the Coalition and the general SFUSD Parent Advisory Council. “So many times society tells you you don’t count as a parent. (Affirmation) might seem small but it’s actually really big.”
Current advisory groups officially reporting to the school board include the African American Parent Advisory Council, District English Learners Advisory Committee, Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander PAC and Community Advisory Committee for Special Education.
The main Parent Advisory Council reports regularly to the school board, and provides a platform for others if needed.
The Queer and Trans Parent Advisory Council would be made up of SFUSD parents and caregivers. Cisgender and heterosexual parents of queer children could join but could not hold leadership positions.
The resolution also calls for the creation of a full-time staff position to support the QTPAC, but that could be difficult in the face of SFUSD’s budget crisis. The district must cut $125 million from the upcoming school year budget to avoid a state takeover.
The general Parent Advisory Council has a dedicated staff member, coordinator Michelle Jacques Menegaz, who’s employed through the nonprofit Community Initiatives.
But other advisory councils do not have a single dedicated paid staff member to assist them with administrative work, communications or writing reports. The Student Advisory Council, for example, is under the wing of the Student and Families Support Division.
“In an ideal world, each of these advisory groups would have a full-time person and it would be their only responsibility,” Jacques Menegaz said. “I expect that it’s more realistic it would follow one of those (non-staffed) models. I think it’s exciting, it’s much needed.”
The QTPAC could be housed under the district’s LGBTQ Student Services, Jacques Menegaz added.
Villaluna and Collins said they would seek input from other groups, including the Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club, to find resources needed — whether from district or community groups — to get the QTPAC going by next fall.
“I’m open to any help we can get,” said Collins, an AAPAC member. “It’s just a moral imperative to make sure that students and families feel safe in our schools and to make sure we’re following state law. It’s really challenging when you’re trying to advocate in a system where you don’t have a lot of representation.”
The resolution will be discussed at a later meeting.