Standing NOvation: Culture of confidence hinders change for LGBTQIA+ community

Sophia Weglarz, Assistant Opinion Editor

In his monthly Superintendent’s Spotlight series for June 2018, Dr. Witherspoon highlighted ETHS achievements in equity for the year. ETHS is a well-oiled machine that runs on “collaboration, respect and equity work.” Witherspoon is not alone in this thought; ETHS has a strong sense of school pride when it comes to its progress in equity work, one that may translate to arrogance, especially in regards to the support given to the LGBTQIA+ community at ETHS.

This is not to undercut the equity work done, because a lot has been attempted in order to support the LGBTQIA+ community at ETHS. For one, the creation of an LGBTQIA+ student summit in 2017 was a step in the right direction, along with the introduction of a student advocacy form, which transgender and non-binary students may fill out if they wish to receive support from staff, school psychologists, and peers. Needless to say, the school leaders are aware of the growing calls for more support, and they are doing their best to answer.

But, should we really be rising to our feet with applause when there is so much work to be done? The answer is no. After all, progress cannot only happen every once in a while. The truth is progress can’t afford to take a nap, not even for a second, and it’s time for the ETHS to wake up.

ETHS has a school culture that undeniably considers itself to be inclusive, without actually taking the necessary measures to see if that holds true. I’m not saying that school pride is a bad thing, but more often than not, the school pride is not entirely deserved, particularly when attempts to strengthen equity within the school fall flat.

The most common concern was the absence of bathrooms and locker rooms for trans students, which wasn’t even solved until the 2017-2018 school year. Unfortunately, the solution to this problem left a lot to be desired. Several students have complained that the problem couldn’t be further from “fixed”, citing a host of problems with the bathrooms, from spread out locations to small sizes. Many students feel these problems could have been prevented easily if the GSA was consulted.

This isn’t the only instance of insufficient support from school leaders. Several other problems center around the challenges transgender students face when transitioning, which range from the difficulty of changing their name to being called their correct pronouns by peers and staff. It seems that with a solution comes a unique set of problems, which makes the original solution seem useless by comparison.

The support given to the LGBTQIA+ community at ETHS needs to be improved upon, and consultation just might be the answer. Consultation is an advantageous solution because it allows for students to have a say in decisions that they are directly affected by, as well as allowing their experiences to be understood and considered. Another alternative would involve the inclusion of some sort of official representation of the LGBTQIA+ community when drafting policy, especially if the policy pertains to issues that directly affect the LGBTQIA+ community.

“It would be really helpful if they provided a platform for us to voice our concerns and problems to people who could actually do something,” junior GSA member Kat Boyle said.

With collaboration being one of the three main pillars of what makes ETHS school culture so strong, it’s disappointing that there is a lack of it when decisions are made. Working closely with GSA, and incorporating a student voice would help problems get solved more efficiently.

To be clear, the school leadership at ETHS definitely deserves some acknowledgment of the work they’re trying to do, but if you think that their work here is done, I urge you to stop clapping and start working. There is more work to be done before we can truly have a well-deserved, heartful standing ovation.