ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — A group of Round Rock educators released an open letter to their school district leaders asking for training on how to support LGBTQ+ students, staff and family members.
“We, members of Educators in Solidarity, are concerned about the lack of training and support
for teachers and staff around LGBTQ+ issues in Round Rock ISD. In the current social climate,
LGBTQ+ individuals are under attack, leading to increased mental health needs in the LGBTQ+
community. We believe that Round Rock ISD has a responsibility to take action in this moment
to protect all students,” the letter reads.
The group seeks training for all staff by the end of 2023 on how to affirm and support LGBTQ+ students, staff and family members. They also ask that the district create this training through collaboration with LGBTQ+ staff and local organizations.
Isa Pilgrim, an EIS member and Round Rock ISD (RRISD) deaf educator, said they and a colleague developed such training in 2022 but ran into conflict with RRISD’s legal department.
“Co-workers, teachers, counselors, were coming to us for questions and needs about supporting gender diverse students,” Pilgrim said. “So we just started developing this training to provide for our campus staff here at my school.”
Pilgrim claims the district asked them to provide the training for professional development last summer but canceled the training a week before it could be given.
“My understanding is that right now, someone in the equity department is developing a training, but it’s a straight cisgender woman who’s developing that training. I have advocated for at least getting feedback from LGBTQ staff, but I really like, I think it needs to be developed by people with lived experience, too,” Pilgrim said.
Read the letter from EIS below:
On Friday, Round Rock ISD superintendent Dr. Hafedh Azaiez sent a letter of his own in response.
“Addressing the needs of our LGBTQ+ community and supporting our students and teachers is a priority,” said Azaiez in the letter. “To address our staff training needs, our Equity Department is currently in the process of designing a large-scale, long-term, systematic and sustainable approach to professional development that addresses initial and ongoing training regarding many different communities that experience marginalization including LGBTQ+.”
In the letter, Azaiez states his hope is to launch these trainings as soon as possible. He also invited the group to meet in the spring to discuss the district’s progress.
“Please know that supporting equity and addressing the many different needs of many different communities in our district is an ongoing process, and we are committed to ensuring that we do all that we can,” Azaiez said.
In response, Pilgrim said the response has them “cautiously optimistic.”
“At this point however, there has not been involvement of any LGBTQ+ staff or organizations, which leaves me with major concerns about the content of the professional development,” Pilgrim said. “I notice that when it comes to new curricula or other ‘innovations,’ professional development for staff is rolled out rather quickly. This is something that we have been advocating for years, and there is just now finally any movement at all.”
As a comparison, they cite the district’s new security policies, which were implemented roughly four months after the Robb Elementary shooting in May 2022.
“When the people in charge see the urgency of a situation, they find a way to respond. I maintain that our district-level administration does not see that urgency to protect our LGBTQ+ youth,” Pilgrim said.