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School board pays emotional tribute to Orlando victims and LGBTQ students

Mike Szymanski | June 14, 2016

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Ref Rodriguez (right) gets emotional while reading Orlando victims names.

All seven of the LA Unified school board members, along with Superintendent Michelle King and Executive Officer Jefferson Crain, read the names of the 49 victims of the Orlando shooting massacre at the opening of the school board meeting Tuesday afternoon before each board member then read part of a resolution re-emphasizing their commitment to LGBTQ pride and anti-bullying.

The moment was particularly difficult for school board member Ref Rodriguez, who choked up while reading his section of the victim’s names. At the roll-call vote he said, “Yes, I am gay. Yes, I am out. Yes on this resolution.”

Most of the school board members were wearing a rainbow colored sticker reading “Orlando” that was handed out at the entrance of the meeting, and board president Steve Zimmer also had a “Stonewall” sticker.

“Love wins,” Zimmer said, when casting his vote.

The resolution called “Celebrating and Affirming Our Students and Families with Pride Month” specifically mentioned lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning members of the community and school safety for them all. The resolution said, “No one should ever be the target of bullying, harassment or violence.”

The resolution also reminded them that a 2012 act called for the inclusion of the contributions of LGBTQ Americans in the school district’s social studies curriculum. The resolution ultimately declared June 2016 Pride Month, but the school year is all but over for the district.


Steve Zimmer wears symbols showing sympathy with Orlando.

And so, speaker Ari Gutierrez, of the Latino Equality Alliance, a network of LGBT Latino community leaders in Boyle Heights, suggested that the pride month be moved earlier into the school year.

“We need to do a little more on mental health outreach for students and families and need to be open and proud within our schools,” Gutierrez said. “Next year we can maybe move this up and do true celebrations in our schools.”

Superintendent Michelle King issued a statement about the Orlando massacre assuring LGBTQ students and staff that they are “part of the LA Unified family.” She stated, “I want to repeat that no violence of any type is acceptable in this district, nor is discrimination of any kind. This is a sad time for our country. It is also a sad time for L.A. Unified as we learned of the deaths of two students in a domestic, murder-suicide that occurred over the weekend.”

She pointed out that crisis counselors are available to provide support where needed, although most of our schools are on summer vacation.

“Again, I offer my condolences to everyone affected in Orlando, and my assurances to our L.A. Unified family that safety remains our number one priority,” King noted.

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