AB 1266, the School Success and Opportunity Act, authored by gay Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, finally landed on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk last Thursday, Aug. 1. That started the 12-day period for Brown to sign or veto the bill—which, given the governor’s penchant for signing bills over the weekend, means the LGBT community has until Aug. 13 to persuade Brown to sign it.
Last week, we reported how 16-year-old trans student Ashton Lee presented Brown’s office with a petition with 5,442 signatures of supporters. The petition now has 6,664 signatures. In a letter to Brown accompanying the petition, Ashton wrote:
For me, this bill means I’d be able to fully participate in all of my classes, try out for sports teams, and stay on track to graduate. Because my school won’t accept that I’m a boy, I've been systematically placed in a P.E. class of all girls. Every day going to that class is a reminder that I'm different, and I leave feeling alone and devastated. The worst part is that I don't have any choice. Gym class is required for graduation and I'm not allowed to participate in it as myself. If I don't go, I won't be able to graduate high school. If I do go, forced to lie about who I truly am, I fall behind in my other classes because I feel so alone and stigmatized.
When I came out as transgender, it felt amazing to finally realize, embrace, and live as my true self. For years I hid who I really am from everyone because I just wanted to fit in and it made me miserable. It feels equally devastating for my school to deny my identity and try so hard to make me live as someone I'm not. I've got two years left of high school, so I'll put this simply: I, and the many other transgender youth in California, need the School Success and Opportunity Act.
Gov. Brown is known for supporting local control on education issues. But hopefully he will recall his statement when he signed the FAIR Education Act in July 2011. Then, Brown said, "History should be honest. This bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education..." Indeed. All discrimination, not just in history books.
A recent groundbreaking agreement by the Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Education in settling a case brought against the Arcadia Unified School District by the National Center for Lesbian Rights to protect trans youth should help him decide. A New York Times editorial said the agreement “should be required reading for school officials at all levels nationally.”
But Brown needs to hear from you, too, because you can bet he’s hearing from the Religious Right!