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LGBT youth lobby California lawmakers, demand opportunity to succeed in school

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Dozens of high school students are in the state Capitol today advocating for two bills to help ensure all youth — including LGBT youth — have the opportunity to stay in school and succeed.

The youth are gathered for the eighth annual Queer Youth Advocacy Day, which unites LGBT and straight ally youth activists from Gay-Straight Alliance clubs across state.

"All students should have the opportunity to succeed in school no matter who they are, but that’s not the reality in California,” said Carolyn Laub, executive director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network. “These brave youth leaders came to Sacramento to demand an end to unreasonable discipline policies and exclusionary school practices that punish LGBT students and push them out of school.”

Students will rally at the state Capitol's north steps at 10:45 am for a press conference where they will be joined by a number of Senators and Assemblymembers, including Assembly Speaker John Pérez, Sen. Mark Leno and Assemblymembers Tom Ammiano, Roger Dickinson, Rich Gordon and Susan Eggman.

After the rally, students will visit their representatives' offices to advocate for the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266) and Disruption and Defiance: Reducing Grounds for Harsh Discipline (AB 420). Currently, many LGBT students are excluded from school activities and lose valuable learning time just because of their identity.

“Equality California is proud to sponsor Queer Youth Advocacy Day, an extraordinary program that engages young people in our democratic process,” said John O’Connor, executive director of Equality California. “Teaching LGBT youth that they do have a voice and the power to shape policy is so important.”

AB 1266, authored by Assemblymember Ammiano, would ensure that schools understand their responsibility to allow transgender students to fully participate in school activities, programs, and facilities in a way that is consistent with their gender identity.

Assemblymember Dickinson’s AB 420 would limit the use of suspension and expulsion for “willful defiance,” a category used in 40% of California suspensions that can mean anything from a lesbian student holding her girlfriend’s hand to a gender nonconforming student breaking the school’s dress code.

The youth leaders arrived in Sacramento on Friday, April 26, to participate in a three-day educational training, the GSA Advocacy & Youth Leadership Academy. The educational training covered the legislative process, policy advocacy, media activism and other important leadership skills for students working to change cultural perceptions and treatment of LGBT students in school.

The event is sponsored by Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Transgender Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California, Equality California, the Trevor Project and California NOW.

About Gay-Straight Alliance Network

GSA Network is a national youth leadership organization that empowers youth activists to fight homophobia and transphobia in schools by training student leaders and supporting student-led Gay-Straight Alliance clubs throughout the country. In California alone, GSA Network has brought GSA clubs to 61% of public high schools, impacting more than 1.2 million students at 940 schools. GSA Network's youth advocates have played a key role in changing laws and policies that impact youth at the local and state level. GSA Network operates the National Association of GSA Networks, which unites 37 statewide networks of GSA clubs throughout the country.

About Equality California

EQCA is the largest statewide LGBT advocacy organization in California. For more than a decade, Equality California has strategically moved California from a state with extremely limited legal protections for LGBT individuals to a state with some of the most comprehensive protections in the nation. Equality California has partnered with legislators to successfully pass over 90 pieces of pro-equality legislation and continues to advance equality through legislative advocacy, electoral work, public education and community empowerment.