LGBTQ+ students in Santa Cruz face more mental health issues than their peers

For the second year in a row, schools in Santa Cruz County raised the rainbow pride flag to celebrate Harvey Milk. Milk was an openly gay elected official when he served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the 1970s. He was an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, education, and inclusion before his assassination in 1978. Big Steps have been taken to support LGBTQ students on school campuses with the passage of the FAIR (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful) Act enacted in 2011, but there is still some way to go. Although it is a day of celebration, there is growing concern about the mental well-being of LGBTQ students. said Santa Cruz County Office of Education Superintendent Faris Sabbah. A California Healthy Kids survey showed that 36% of LGBTQ students in Santa Cruz County schools had suicidal thoughts, compared to 10% of their peers in 2021. I love not seeing any child under any type of mental stress, Sabbah said and he recognizes the difficult time they are going through in terms of who they are, how they are treated and it really pushes us to create these safer spaces…” The Office of Education has partnered with the Santa Cruz Diversity Center and its Safe Schools project continues to encourage schools to be more inclusive and support LGBTQ students . “We can’t ignore these statistics, what we need to do is teachers need to be more inclusive in their classrooms with signs and symbols. They need to understand LGBTQ culture better. These are the types workshops; different instructional guides we make for teachers,” said Rob Darrow, LGBTQ support consultant with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. Programs like the Pride Flag Raising Event , as well as lessons on Harvey Milk are examples of progress in high school a few years ago and the students are much more open and receptive and supportive of queer, gay and LGBTQ students and I’m really happy to see that things have progressed and changed,” said Vanessa Quiroz-Carter, Second District Watsonville City Council member. The changes are part of the school curriculum, and current students are happy that it’s happening. “It’s second time we’re going to do this at school and I think it’s great to have this organized and to have such a cohesive school district and community that we can sustain,” said student Tashi Liem. from Santa Cruz High School. The rainbow flag will remain at the county education office through June.

For the second year in a row, schools in Santa Cruz County raised the rainbow pride flag to celebrate Harvey Milk.

Milk was an openly gay elected official when he served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the 1970s. He was an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, education and inclusion before his assassination in 1978.

There have been great steps to support LGBTQ students on school campuses with the passing of the FAIR (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful) Act enacted in 2011, but there is still a long way to go.

Although it is a day of celebration, there is growing concern about the mental well-being of LGBTQ students.

“We recognized that there was a significant increase in the number of students with anxiety, depression, suicidal idealization,” said Santa Cruz County Office of Education Superintendent Faris Sabbah.

A California Healthy Kids survey showed that 36% of LGBTQ students in Santa Cruz County schools had suicidal thoughts, compared to 10% of their peers in 2021.

The county education office would like no child to experience mental stress, Sabbah said.

“But the fact that LGBTQ students have such a consideration, the ideation of suicide is something that really concerns us and it’s the recognition of the difficult time they are going through in terms of their identity, the way they are treated and that really pushes us to create these safer spaces…”

The Office of Education has partnered with the Santa Cruz Diversity Center and its Safe Schools Project continues to encourage schools to be more inclusive and supportive of LGBTQ students.

“We can’t ignore these statistics, what we need to do is teachers need to be more inclusive in their classrooms with signs and symbols. They need to understand LGBTQ culture better. ‘workshops; various teaching guides we make for teachers.’ said Rob Darrow, consultant for LGBTQ support at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education.

Programs like the Pride Flag Raising Event, as well as lessons on Harvey Milk are examples of progress.

“I taught high school a few years ago and the students are much more open, receptive and supportive of gay, queer and LGBTQ students and I’m really happy to see things have progressed and changed,” Vanessa said. Quiroz-Carter, Member of the Watsonville Second District City Council.

The changes are part of the school curriculum and current students are happy that it is happening.

“This is the second time we’ve been doing this at school and I think it’s great to have this organized and to have such a supportive school district and community that we can keep going throughout,” said Tashi Liem, a high school student from Santa Cruz.

The rainbow flag will remain at the county office of education through June.

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