RICHMOND – JUNE 12, 2014 - Richmond lost a local hero when John Leppo, Chair of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s Richmond chapter, passed away. John had been battling health problems for much of the past year and succumbed to his ailments on June 9 at 3:15pm.
John Leppo joined the GLSEN Richmond board in 2001 as Membership Chair and quickly assumed a leadership role in 2002 when he was voted Co-Chair. Over his 12+ years of leadership, John was involved in local safe schools policy issues and state-wide legislative efforts and instrumental in the expansion of Gay-Straight Alliances clubs across Richmond.“He worked tirelessly … to raise money for us. He continued to set up booths at every community event he could find. He was unstoppable in his efforts to keep GLSEN Richmond’s important work for our LGBT youth going,” said Trish Boland, Co-Founder, GLSEN Richmond.
In 2001, John helped coordinate the first Richmond-area Safe Schools Coalition Summit. The event was held to build relationships with ally organizations in the community and to increase awareness of LGBT youth issues in education. His involvement in the coalition shaped a GLSEN Richmond program that monitored legislative bills filed in the Virginia House and Senate that could have a negative impact on GSA clubs and their activities.
The Safe Schools Coalition (less formal as the years went on) continued its work throughout the years and this past legislative session defeated a pair of bills -- House Bill 493 and Senate Bill 236 – that would have been detrimental to Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) programs in Virginia schools. The broad coalition of supporters included GLSEN Northern Virginia, GLSEN National, The LGBT Caucus of the VA Democratic Party, VA ACLU, Equality Virginia, The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, University of Richmond Law School faculty, and others. This year’s success mirrors similar legislative efforts during the 2005, 2006, and 2007 Legislative Sessions when the coalition previously defeated anti-GSA legislative bills.
In addition to his policy advocacy, John helped to start the first Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club in the Richmond area which formed at Maggie L. Walker High School. Over the course of his 12 years of safe schools advocacy, John assisted in the formation, sustainability and networking of 32 GSA clubs in high schools across Central Virginia. Most recently, GLSEN Richmond held the 12th Annual GSA Summit. The event had the second largest turnout in chapter history
GLSEN Richmond is proud to have worked with a pioneer in the LGBT rights movement. All of us – GSA advisors, current and former GSA students, community partners and constituents – owe John our gratitude. We have benefited from his tenacity and commitment to creating safe spaces for LGBT youth in schools regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. With heavy hearts, we mourn the loss of our friend, colleague and leader. A memorial will be held by John's family at Virginia Commonwealth University, Student Commons - Salon 1& 2 on Friday June 20th at 3PM. All are welcome to attend.In lieu of flowers John's family would request donations go to GLSEN Richmond.
ABOUT GLSEN Richmond
Each year, GLSEN Richmond monitors legislative bills filed in the VA House and Senate to identify bills that are potentially detrimental to GSA clubs and their activities. GLSEN Richmond worked with coalitions during the 2005, 2006, and 2007 Legislative Sessions to defeat previous anti-GSA legislative bills.