The Board of Education’s narrow definition of diversity is an embarrassment

By Catie Arbona and Gary McCoy

By Catie Arbona and Gary McCoy

While the San Francisco Board of Education tells us that representation matters, last Tuesday’s decision to reject Seth Brenzel for a vacancy on the Parent Advisory Committee demonstrated their hypocrisy loud and clear. Their misguided fumbling toward a goal of diversity deeply overshadowed the merits of a qualified LGBTQ candidate put forward unanimously by the very advisory committee he would serve.

For decades, the LGBTQ community has been vilified and told through hundreds of legal challenges and legal briefs that we are not fit to be parents. We’ve fought for our right to be able to adopt the biological child of our partner or spouse. We’ve fought for our right to be adoptive parents with no biological relationship to our children, including those from the foster system.

As recently as last year, the Trump Administration submitted a brief to the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, arguing that taxpayer-funded adoption and foster organizations are entitled to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and reject the placement of adoptive and foster children in same-sex households. When LGBTQ parents are seven times more likely than non-LGBTQ parents to foster or adopt children and 1 in 5 youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ, this discrimination against LGBTQ parents continues to have dire effects.

The Board of Education did not take this history and these issues into consideration last week. They did not acknowledge the valuable perspective Mr. Brenzel would have brought to a committee with eight current vacancies, despite his role as a gay father, as the parent of a multiracial child, as a man seeking to join a volunteer committee comprised wholly of women, and as a dedicated SFUSD parent. Instead, the Board spent two hours discussing Mr. Brenzel’s race and identity as if he were not sitting on the Zoom call with them, without once even asking why he might like to serve his community. The message the Board has sent is not only detrimental to our LGBTQ community, but to multiracial children, adopted children, surrogate families and children with same-sex parents. The Board has acted as if these communities’ voices and perspectives don’t matter simply because a broader ideal of “diversity,” a word that does not appear to include them, could somehow be achieved.

Commissioner Jenny Lam has already released a statement pledging to return to and approve Mr. Brenzel’s appointment to the PAC in acknowledgment of this astounding error. We call on the rest of the San Francisco Board of Education to do the same, and to further issue an apology to Mr. Brenzel for his treatment before the Board. The Board must start representing the whole of the district — children, families, and community — they seek to serve.

Catie Arbona and Gary McCoy are co-chairs of the Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club, the oldest registered LGBTQ Democratic club in the country.

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