IN FOCUS Discussion: Inclusion of LGBTQ+ students in Utah schools

In Focus

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – After the worst year of anti-LGBTQ legislation across the country in the last six years, Utah FAM (Friends, Allies, and Mentors of the LGBTQ+ Community) will host a rally at the Utah State Capitol Tuesday evening to celebrate LGBTQ identities in our schools. It comes a day after the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. Advocates and educators with the organization said that in the face of ongoing political attacks on their rights and identities, trans and non-binary students need to hear now more than ever that they matter and are visible.

The rally will feature a reading and speech by Kyle Lukoff, the nationally acclaimed author of “Call Me Max.” He traveled from Brooklyn, New York to Salt Lake City to be a part of the event. Lukoff‘s book, which is about a young transgender boy, made local headlines after a number of parents in the Murray School District filed complaints to administrators. A teacher read the book in class after a student brought it to class and asked for it to be presented to the class. The pushback eventually led to the district temporarily pausing its Equity Book Bundle Program and Equity Council.

Lukoff joined ABC4’s Glen Mills for an IN FOCUS discussion about what led him to become an author for children’s books, what “Call Me Max” is about, what his initial reaction was to the pushback that the Murray School District received from parents, the responses he received after the incident hit the news, why he decided to make the trip to Utah, and what he would like to see done in Utah next for LGBTQ+ inclusion in schools.

Dr. Allison Martin, Assistant Principal at Horizonte Instruction and Training Center and Co-Founder of Utah FAM talked about her response to parents who felt that their parental rights were violated or there was an agenda being pushed when “Call Me Max” was read in their children’s class, the importance of Gay Straight Alliances in schools, why the representation of LGBTQ+ characters and figures are important in the classroom, and the impact of the 2021 legislative session on the LGBTQ+ community.

Bianca Mittendorf, who is part of the leadership team for Utah FAM discussed the current data and statistics for LGBTQ+ students in the state, how representation and inclusion ties into the organization’s mission statement and the Utah constitution, the impact it has on these students when they see inclusive curriculum embedded into materials taught at school, and additional details about Tuesday’s rally.

The “My Story Belongs” rally will take place Tuesday, May 18th at 5:30 p.m. at the Utah State Capitol. Allies are encouraged to document stories and show support for LGBTQ+ inclusion in schools by using the hashtag, #mystorybelongs. For more information, visit Utah FAM’s website.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Lukoff, Dr. Martin, and Mittendorf, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

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