Good evening Dr. Hite and members of the School Board.
I am Maddie Luebbert, an English teacher at Kensington Health Sciences Academy, a PFT member, and a member of the Caucus of Working Educators. I also identify as queer and nonbinary. My students call me Mx. Luebbert, and I open the school year with a conversation about pronouns and identity in order to introduce myself. I also consider myself an advocate for LGBTQ+ students in our city’s schools.
I’ve submitted longer and more detailed testimony in writing about policy violations in the way student names are imported to our GSuite system and then publicly displayed. But right now I’m going to speak personally, as a teacher in our district who has sought networks of support for the queer community in Philly education.
Per SDP’s actions, it seems like policy 252 was never intended to be enforced. There is no clear process for reporting violations, and the current office that oversees such complaints, Student Rights and Responsibilities, seems stretched too thin to give these issues the attention they deserve. In lieu of an actual complaint process, SDP staff rely on informal professional networks. About once or twice a month I receive an email from a random colleague, or a facebook message from a friend, concerned about what’s going on at X school.
Furthermore, there is no consistent and effective training from SDP on the policy or queer issues in general. I know this because I’ve been called on to fill this gap at my school, New Hire Orientation, PD in the Office of Teaching and Learning, and at Penn GSE.
To recap, a full time teacher who wants to feel safe at work and protect queer kids at school has been called on repeatedly to do this work for our district. I am proud to be an advocate, but school district policy and training must be centralized for consistent and equitable implementation.
Stop waiting for your queer students and staff to sound the alarm. It’s unforgivable that young people have to advocate for themselves when it comes to issues of safety and identity; that staff have to cross their fingers and wish for a principal that will take on queer issues.
Please enforce policy 252. Strengthen your commitment to queer people in our schools and create an equivalent policy for SDP staff.