This afternoon, a remarkable GLSEN delegation will attend an LGBT Pride Month reception at the White House to press for the federal action most critically needed on LGBT issues in K-12 education in this country. The five student advocates and their guests will call for President Obama’s support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act, as well as for continued progress on a range of initiatives currently underway in federal agencies, including the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and Justice. Dominique and Sirdeaner Walker will have the opportunity to make our case to the President himself, in a short meeting before the President’s remarks.
I am so proud of the fact that GLSEN has built such a strong partnership with such effective leaders. Because of the work that we do at the national and Chapter level, GLSEN will be ably represented at the highest level of federal advocacy by a diverse group of people who are at the front lines of this effort every day. This delegation is uniquely positioned to carry the message to the President, members of the Administration, and elected officials attending this afternoon’s event.
Over the past 18 months, many Executive Branch agencies have engaged with GLSEN in crucial new initiatives, but we still need clear and unequivocal support from the President himself, particularly in the legislative arena, where the provisions of the Safe Schools Improvement Act must become law as part of this Administration’s version of No Child Left Behind. I look forward to reporting back on the experience of our group at the White House today. Here’s a little more information about them:
Austin Laufersweiler, who just graduated from Lassiter High School in Marietta, GA, was GLSEN’s 2009 Student Advocate of the Year, and will attend the reception with his mentor and ally, Maru Gonzalez. After experiencing severe anti-LGBT bullying in school, Austin went on to found his school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), provide training for his former middle school on LGBT issues, and advocate for the implementation of comprehensive anti-bullying policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity/expression at his own school and throughout Georgia.
Danielle Smith, a recent graduate of Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, ME, and GLSEN’s 2010 Student Advocate of the Year, will be accompanied by her parents, Richard and Victoria Smith. Danielle led the Jump- Start Student Leadership Team coordinated by GLSEN Southern Maine, was the president of her school’s GSA, and was the valedictorian of her class.
Dominique Walker, a rising senior at the MacDuffie School in Springfield, MA, will attend the reception with her mother, Sirdeaner Walker, a member of GLSEN’s National Board of Directors, and her aunt, Tonda Walker. Since the suicide of her younger brother, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, one year ago, Dominique has become a leader in the effort to end anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools, a member of GLSEN’s National Ambassadors Team, and the co-president of MacDuffie’s GSA.
Loan Tran, a rising junior at the Phillip O Berry Academy of Technology in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a member of GLSEN’s National Ambassadors Team. Loan has been a leading advocate for federal legislative action on LGBT issues in K-12 education as well as for positive change in her own school and local community.
Mary Susman, a recent graduate of Westside High School in Omaha, NE, will attend with her mother, Kathleen Susman. Mary is on the board of GLSEN Omaha and leads the chapter’s Jump-Start Student Leadership Team. She is a leading advocate for LGBT equality and LGBT issues in schools in her community and nationally, who has persevered in her work despite the bullying she has experienced in school and on-line.
Happy Pride, and thank you for all that you do to advance our mission!
Eliza Byard, PhD