Odyssey Advocates for Inclusivity
Wednesday night the Executive Director of Odyssey Youth Movement, Ian Sullivan, spoke to the School Board of Spokane Public Schools about the crucial need for inclusivity in all curriculum under review, especially the current work around sexual health curriculum. See his remarks below, followed by additional resources.
Good evening, my name is Ian Sullivan and I am the Executive Director of Odyssey Youth Movement.
Odyssey Youth Movement has been promoting equity for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQ+) youth here in the Inland Northwest for the last twenty-five years through youth driven programs and community education. As part of this work, Odyssey has participated in the Human Growth and Development – Citizens’ Advisory Committee of Spokane Public Schools, representing the voices of LGBTQ+ students. It is through this lens that Odyssey shares its deep disappointment in the lack of inclusivity in terms of the voices, identities, importance, and needs of LGBTQ+ young people in our schools.
Truly inclusive curriculum and classrooms are more than just an updated glossary of terms and vague promises of teacher training. It is a recognition of our heteronormative and cisnormative culture that has created unsafe environments for LGBTQ+ young people to live and learn. Small incremental steps towards affirming learning environments are not enough and never have been. Students are already having far more sophisticated conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity standing next to lockers, than is currently represented in existing or proposed sexual health curriculum. Spokane’s LGBTQ+ students need to hear loud and clear from their school administrators, staff, teachers, and community that they are seen, they are valued, and their lived experiences belong in all aspects of curriculum, including sexual health curriculum.
As a member of the HGD-CAC I have witnessed a variety of community members participating in the curriculum review process refer to the LGBTQ+ community as wrong or disordered, alluding to the idea that their experiences and identities have no place in a classroom. In reality, these students are present in every school, at every level and deserve to be represented fully in their learning. Visibility of LGBTQ+ identities is not a check box to be accomplished, it is a necessary part of ensuring the health and safety of these students. This meeting, that we have all gathered for, should also be a safe space for community members and I encourage the school board to ensure that all behaviors in this space lead toward an inclusive environment for all community members dedicated toward the betterment of our schools and students. If this space can’t be guaranteed as safe for community members, how can we be certain our schools are?
LGBTQ+ students are at a much higher risk of experiencing dating violence, skipping school for fear of safety, and are more likely to have attempted suicide, among many other risk factors. The primary way to combat the disproportionate risks faced by our LGBTQ+ students is to create fully inclusive environments for them to learn and grow. Odyssey Youth Movement looks forward to working with all students, community members, and schools dedicated to creating safe and affirming environments. Together we can make this a reality for our community moving forward.
Again, to all of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning students in our community… we see you, you matter, and we stand with you.
Executive Director – Odyssey Youth Movement
Member – Human Growth and Development, Citizen’s Advisory Committee
School district administrators have put together a Human Growth and Development (HGD) fact sheet answering some of the most common questions about this process. Found HERE
Additional information on the Human Growth and Development - Citizen's Advisory Committee can be found at their website HERE
The Spokesman Review covered the most recent HGD Committee meeting which featured strong youth voice from a Lewis and Clark High School student. The article can be found HERE
If you would like to add your voice to this process please preview a copy of the proposed curriculum, downtown at the school district offices, or contact the School Board - Schoolboard@spokaneschools.org