Tag Archives: educators

‘Regulatory vacuum’ exposes Wisconsin children to lead in drinking water at schools, day care centers

Almost two weeks into the school year, Melissa Corrigan got an email from the principal and superintendent of her daughters’ elementary school. Water from four West Middleton Elementary School faucets taken Sept. 1, the first day of school, had tested high for levels of lead or copper. As a safety precaution, the school would provide bottled water to students until the issue was resolved.

Corrigan — whose daughters Brooklyn and Carly are in first and fourth grades — thought little of the news, partly because the email told parents of the school west of Madison that it was “highly unlikely” that the water was unsafe to drink.

But West Middleton’s results were high — one faucet had more than six times the federal action level of 15 parts per billion of lead and nearly 19 times the federal action level of 1,300 ppb of copper. Samples from nine of the 10 faucets showed a presence of lead.

Any amount of lead can cause permanent brain damage, including reduced intelligence and behavioral problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Infants and children are considered the most vulnerable to lead’s negative effects.

Fresh evidence of the risk of lead poisoning at school surfaced Friday when Milwaukee Public Schools revealed that testing found dangerous levels of lead in 183 drinking water fountains, including at locations hosting early childhood programs. The months-long testing program involved 3,000 water fountains at 191 school district buildings. The district said it had shut down and plans to replace the fountains that tested at or above the federal action level of 15 ppb, even though “federal and state regulations do not require schools to test drinking water.”

The district failed to respond to repeated questions since mid-November from the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism about whether water at the schools was being tested for lead, and calls and an email to district spokespeople Friday were not immediately returned. The testing began in June.

Efforts to protect Wisconsin children in schools and day care centers from lead in their water have fallen short on several fronts, the Center has found. Among the problems uncovered by the Center in documents and interviews:

There is a lack of testing for lead in drinking water consumed by children while away from home. Federal regulations enforced by the state of Wisconsin do not require most schools or day care centers to test at all. A 2016 USA Today investigation found that an estimated 90 percent of schools nationally are not required to test their water.

There has been confusion over proper lead testing procedures at some schools, day care centers and public water systems in Wisconsin, as the Center has reported. This year, the state Department of Natural Resources waited nine months to send an official notice to public water system operators that the EPA had updated its testing recommendations in response to flaws uncovered by Flint, Michigan’s lead-in-water crisis.

Lead service lines, a significant source of lead in drinking water, continue to provide water to hundreds of schools and day care centers around Wisconsin. In other communities, officials are not sure how many schools and day cares have lead pipes.

Because of West Middleton’s rural Dane County location, the school has its own well and is among the minority of schools that must comply with some of the same testing requirements as municipal water systems. Lead generally makes its way into water not at the water plant but as it travels through service lines and indoor plumbing, all of which could contain lead.

Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District Superintendent George Mavroulis said after learning of the testing results, the school immediately shut off drinking water and consulted with a private testing company and a liaison from the DNR.

Two weeks after the initial test, the K-4 school with 400 students had the same faucets — and three water fountains — tested again. The levels of lead and copper returned to below the action level, and students and staff were again allowed to use the water.

“We tried to do everything in our power to make sure everyone was safe,” Mavroulis said.

The school has since replaced two faucets and plans to replace two more over winter break, he said. Perry Hibner, the district’s spokesman, believed two human errors caused the school’s initial water samples to be high in lead and copper: not flushing the system beforehand, as the DNR suggests after long periods of non-use like summer break, and removing the aerators from the faucets, which allowed a higher than normal water flow.

Subsequent samples were taken after one hour of flushing and six hours of non-use.

The EPA issued new nationwide guidance in February clarifying that public water systems should not remove aerators or flush systems before sampling to avoid masking the level of lead in the water. DNR spokesman Jim Dick said West Middleton was in a “unique situation” because of its failure to previously flush the school’s system after the water had been stagnant for an extended period of time.

Going forward, however, the district will need to conduct two rounds of testing in the next year to assure the water is safe — and follow all of the appropriate sampling methods, he said.

After reviewing West Middleton’s test results, Yanna Lambrinidou, a Virginia Tech University researcher who helped train Flint researchers, said telling parents a health risk was highly unlikely was “a stunningly irresponsible statement, especially after Flint.”

Said Lambrinidou: “There is no safe level of lead in drinking water.”

All licensed day care centers in Wisconsin are required to identify and mitigate dangers from lead paint, but only centers that use private wells are required to eliminate lead hazards in drinking water, according to Joe Scialfa, spokesman for the state Department of Children and Families.

The USA Today investigation found that among schools and day care centers that are required to test, Wisconsin recorded the fourth-highest number of lead exceedances, with 24 between 2012 and 2015.

Lead in small doses dangerous

Exposure to even small amounts of lead can cause permanent damage. A 2012 study of nearly 4,000 fourth-graders in Milwaukee showed that those with elevated levels of lead — even below what is considered dangerous — scored significantly lower on reading and math tests than those without elevated blood-lead levels.

The Center reported in February that at least 176,000 homes and businesses in Wisconsin receive water from lead service lines, which can account for 50 to 75 percent of lead contamination in tap water.

Milwaukee says it has removed lead service lines leading to all of its public school buildings. Madison is thought to be the first city in the nation to remove all lead service lines from its water utility service area.

Milwaukee plans to focus $2.6 million from a new $14.5 million DNR program to begin replacing lead service lines leading to 384 licensed day care centers and 12 private schools in the city. In the meantime, the Milwaukee Health Department has advised those centers to reduce lead exposure by flushing water before using it and consider using only filtered or bottled water for preparing formula.

An additional 17 Wisconsin communities ranging from Antigo to Waterloo plan to use money from the program to replace lead service lines leading to their schools and day care centers.

School officials in Detroit, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Massachusetts also have found high lead levels in the drinking water at hundreds of schools.

And day care centers — where infants could be fed baby formula made with tap water or toddlers could eat food cooked in lead-laden water — are of particular concern.

Rep. LaTonya Johnson, a Democrat from Milwaukee, operated a day care business out of her 90-year-old home for several years before running for public office. She recently spent $10,000 to replace corroded pipes throughout her northwest side house, which is served by lead service lines.

Johnson said she used a cooler to provide water to children in her care, but not every day care provider does.

“I’m sure people use sink water,” she said. “It’s right there.”

A ‘regulatory vacuum’

In the Lead Contamination Control Act, the EPA recommends that schools test water at each cold water tap — although no frequency is mentioned — share abnormal results with the public and take action to remediate any problems. But these are not requirements.

News investigations have shown that administrators in Newark, New Jersey, Portland, Oregon and Ithaca, New York knew about lead in water at schools for several months or years before the findings became public. Lambrinidou, the Virginia Tech researcher, and others decried the “regulatory vacuum” surrounding water testing in schools in a 2010 paper titled Failing Our Children.

“If you’re a parent … it’s better to know that they’re not doing much than to have false comfort that the schools are taking care of them,” Lambrinidou said.

School leaders mixed on lead mandate

A Center survey of all 424 Wisconsin school district superintendents revealed a mixture of attitudes toward identifying and mitigating lead hazards. Most chose not to complete the survey at all.

The 47 respondents were split on whether there should be a statewide requirement that all public schools test their water for lead. While some do test — either voluntarily or because they have private wells — others said paying for testing is simply not an option.

A Fox 6 News investigation in May surveyed the 10 largest school districts in southeastern Wisconsin, asking if they had tested their schools for lead. Six answered; all said “No.”

Jon Bales, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, said most of his members support water testing. But if it identifies lead hazards that require costly remediation, he said, “We feel like there ought to be some federal support and state support to do that.”

When officials at Riverside Elementary School east of Wausau discovered that lead from pipes in its foundation was leaching into the water, they opted to remove the school’s drinking fountains entirely. Assistant Superintendent Jack Stoskopf said the school relies on a filtration system for tap water and has spent about $1,000 a month over the past 10 years on bottled drinking water.

“That’s far less expensive than tearing up the foundation of the school and tearing up the pipes,” he said.

Crystal Wozniak, who lives in Green Bay with her 4-year-old son Casheous, said she tried to avoid lead in drinking water when deciding where he would attend preschool. Casheous was lead poisoned when he was 9 months old, possibly from paint.

“The water at a school may be more harmful because they’re ingesting the water, and the food there is made with the water,” she said. “All the kids aren’t necessarily going around licking the walls, but they’re drinking the water.”

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

Wisconsin schools, day care centers slated for lead service line removal under new DNR program

Earlier this year, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources launched a $14.5 million program to help “disadvantaged municipalities” replace lead service lines. Of the 38 recipients, 18 communities, including Milwaukee, planned to use at least some of the money to replace lead lines leading to schools and day care centers.

Below is a list of the communities and the estimated number of schools or day care centers with lead service lines slated for replacement under this program:

Antigo — 4 of 4

Ashland — 5 of 5

Clintonville — 2 of 10

Eagle River — 10 of 10

Town of Florence — 2 of 10

Manitowoc — 15 of 15

Marshfield — 10 of 20

Milwaukee — 400 of 400

Monroe — 5 of 5

Mosinee — 2 of 2

Park Falls — 5 of 5

Platteville — 2 of 2

Princeton — 4 of 4

Randolph — 5 of 5

St. Francis — 2 of 5

Sheboygan — 11 of 11

Stratford — 4 of 4

Waterloo — 3 of 3


Scott Walker’s Packers analogy on teacher pay backfires

Gov. Scott Walker may have thought a Green Bay Packers analogy about teachers would be a political touchdown. Instead, his opponents tried to sack him Tuesday for comparing free agency in the NFL with how teachers are paid in his state.

The Republican governor’s remarks came after a closed-door listening session in Coon Valley, Wisconsin, when reporters asked whether he thought incentive-driven salary programs would make it harder for K-12 schools to retain teachers.

“If the Green Bay Packers pay people to perform and if they perform well on their team, (the Packers) pay them to do that,” Walker said, according to the LaCrosse Tribune. “They don’t pay them for how many years they’ve been on the football team. They pay them whether or not they help (the Packers) win football games.”

That drew a sharp rebuke from Democratic state Rep. Sondy Pope, of Mount Horeb, who said Walker’s analogy comparing teacher salaries — which average $54,766 in Wisconsin based on National Education Association figures — to NFL players who make millions was “simply ridiculous.”

“This callous disregard of professional educators is insulting,” Pope said.

Walker doesn’t understand that NFL players have comprehensive representation from union officials to protect and bargain for their wages and benefits, said Democratic Rep. Katrina Shankland, of Stevens Point, a dig at Walker’s signature legislative initiative that disallowed collective bargaining for teachers and other public workers.

Shankland also pointed out that NFL players get raises for each year they’re in the league regardless of how they play or how many games they win.

“Ask the Chicago Bears about this,” she joked in a statement.

Wisconsin Education Association Council President Betsy Kippers said Walker was wrong to suggest “our children’s futures are a game to be won or lost.”

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said Tuesday that the governor was trying to make a point that good employers reward employees based on performance, “not just seniority.”

“That is what we can now do in Wisconsin after our reforms, to make sure we have the best and brightest teaching in our classrooms,” Evenson said.


Educators have lesson to teach Scott Walker on Election Day

Middle school art teacher Cynthia Bliss laced up her sneakers, grabbed a jacket and spent most of a recent Saturday asking strangers to help her oust Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker from office.

“We’re teachers in the area and this election is very important to us,” Bliss told one voter on the front steps of a house.

“You don’t even have to talk,” the older woman at the door replied. “We’re the choir you’re preaching to.”

Bliss, who teaches in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, wrote down the answer and marched back to the sidewalk, where autumn leaves crunched underfoot. For her — and hundreds of other Wisconsin teachers — booting Walker from the Capitol has been a priority.

“If Scott Walker wins re-election, he will keep his current policies and put them on steroids,” Bliss said as she walked to the next house. “That’s not acceptable to me.”

It’s a scene playing out across the country, as fed-up teachers are working to oust Republican governors.

Walker is the chief target, but Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett face similar, educator-led campaigns against them. Those first-term Republicans all took steps to stabilize state budgets with dramatic shifts in how many tax dollars go to schools and teachers.

Now, the teachers want to stop them in their tracks.

The 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers plans to spend $20 million on this year’s elections – a record for it. The 3 million-member National Education Association has sent almost $8 million to political allies such as the Democratic Governors Association.

Walker defends his moves, saying they saved taxpayers $3 billion and allowed school districts, city and county governments to hire – and fire – employees without worrying about union contracts or benefits. Walker won praise from administrators; Milwaukee’s public schools slashed more than $1 billion off its long-term pension obligations.

“It’s about empowering people to do what they were elected to do,” Walker said. “Instead of worrying about grievances, they can focus on curriculum.”

It isn’t swaying the teachers. Like most residents in this highly polarized state, few lack for an opinion of Walker.

“If Scott Walker wins another term, he will rule with a machete,” said Kelly Sullivan, a high school teacher in Monona Grove.

Sullivan’s frustration with Walker’s policies moved the 39-year-old mother of three from a ho-hum voter to one of the first people to sign up to volunteer.

“He’s not interested in us,” Sullivan said. “We’re just pawns in his plans to get to Washington, D.C.”

Walker’s presidential ambitions drive much of national unions’ interest in Wisconsin. He became a national figure when he rolled back workers’ collective bargaining rights and balanced his state’s budget with deep cuts, including to schools. Other governors took notice and started down a similar path.

“He’s an icon for the right,” said Marty Horning, a 61-year-old retired Milwaukee teacher who led a voter-registration drive during recent parent-teacher conferences. “They’re going to do whatever it takes to help his career.”

Spending on the Wisconsin governor’s race now tops $18 million, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity. Spending on ads slightly favors Walker in his race against Democratic nominee Mary Burke, a former Trek Bicycle executive and a school board member in Madison.

That’s why teachers are mobilizing, hoping to persuade voters to support Burke.

Education is typically one of those issues that voters say they care about, but they seldom cast ballots driven by the subject. But this year, schools have roared to the forefront in a handful of races.

Nowhere is that more evident than Wisconsin.

The left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently reviewed changes in per-student spending since the economic recession in 2008. Wisconsin had the second-biggest cut, adjusted for inflation, with each student receiving $1,000 less than in 2008.

Walker was elected in 2010 and almost immediately started cutting budgets – and unions’ power. He’s been a target since, becoming in 2012 the first governor to survive a recall attempt. That doesn’t mean teachers have given up.

Take Rachel Meyer, a 55-year-old special education teacher in Merton, Wisconsin. On a recent Saturday, she helped Milwaukee teachers go door to door to remind likely supporters of the stakes.

“These kids deserve better. With the governor we have, they’re not going to get it,” said Meyer, who has seen her teaching assistants downgraded to part-time workers without benefits.

It’s a similar complaint from Bliss, the 50-year-old art teacher who dedicated her Saturday to knocking on doors in Madison. In her school, she’s seen class sizes increase from about 20 students to 29 in recent years. She has scrapped some lessons and traded in pricey supplies for cheap paper plates during others.

“I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind at this point,” Bliss said as she flipped through her clipboard looking for the next door to visit. “It’s about getting our allies to vote.”

Boy Scouts of America to allow gay boys as members

The Boy Scouts of America’s national council today (May 23) voted to end the organization’s longstanding ban against gay youth.

The resolution, however, does not lift the ban against gay adults who want to volunteer to serve in leadership posts.

The resolution approved on the last day of the council’s three-day meeting with a vote of about 60 percent reads, in part, “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

Rich Ferraro of GLAAD, an organization that has campaigned hard the past year to strike down the ban, said, “Today’s vote is a significant victory for gay youth across the nation and a clear indication that the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay adult leaders will also inevitably end. The Boy Scouts of America heard from religious leaders, corporate sponsors and so many Scouting families who want an end to discrimination against gay people, and GLAAD will continue this work with those committed to equality in Scouting until gay parents and adults are able to participate.”

At the Family Equality Council, which represents millions of LGBT families, Steve Majors said, “Every Boy Scout, on their honor, first pledges to do their best. This is a step in the right direction, but it’s not the best the Boy Scouts can do. The Boy Scouts of America have sent a hurtful message to Scouts with LGBT parents that their moms and dads are not welcome as leaders alongside other parents. As a father of two girl scouts and the proud partner of an Eagle Scout, I know that Scouting has a long tradition of being a family activity and the Boy Scouts should be open to all our families.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, responded to the vote saying, “Today is a historic day for Boy Scouts across the country who want to be a part of this great American institution. But the new policy doesn’t go far enough. Parents and adults of good moral character, regardless of sexual orientation, should be able to volunteer their time to mentor the next generation of Americans.”

Zach Wahls, the executive director of Scouts for Equality and an Eagle Scout, stated in a news release, “We welcome the news that the ban on gay Scouts is history, but our work isn’t over until we honor the Scout Law by making this American institution open and affirming to all.”

HRC also raised concerns that the new policy, which would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, does not deal with employment discrimination.

The Boy Scouts’ job application explicitly states, “The Boy Scouts of America will not employ atheists, agnostics, known or avowed homosexuals.”

LGBT civil rights supporters, who had urged the Boy Scouts to fully eliminate the gay ban, found support among a number of other civil rights groups, as well as business and political leaders, labor officials and health professionals, educators and parents. The latest poll shows that about 63 percent of Americans support lifting the ban.

But there also has been widespread opposition to a change in policy, especially on the political right and in conservative religious circles.

About 70 percent of local Scouting groups are sponsored or associated with religious organizations or institutions and a number threatened to abandon Scouting if the prohibition against gay adults was lifted.

Some religious groups also have threatened to abandon Scouting over the policy allowing gay youth.

On the Web…


For the record…

The Boy Scouts of America’s statement on the policy:

“For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, with a focus on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.

“Based on growing input from within the Scouting family, the BSA leadership chose to conduct an additional review of the organization’s long-standing membership policy and its impact on Scouting’s mission. This review created an outpouring of feedback from the Scouting family and the American public, from both those who agree with the current policy and those who support a change.

“Today, following this review, the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting’s history the approximate 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting. A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the policy for adults remains in place. The BSA thanks all the national voting members who participated in this process and vote.

“This policy change is effective Jan. 1, 2014, allowing the Boy Scouts of America the transition time needed to communicate and implement this policy to its approximately 116,000 Scouting units.

“The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue. As the National Executive Committee just completed a lengthy review process, there are no plans for further review on this matter.

“While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. Going forward, our Scouting family will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens. America’s youth need Scouting, and by focusing on the goals that unite us, we can continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.”

Mississippi school principal sued for come to Jesus programs

A Mississippi high school forced students to attend on-campus programs where fellow students urged them to turn to Jesus for hope and eternal life, according to an atheist group that has sued.

The district has denied that assemblies were mandatory and says they were legal.

A lawsuit filed by the American Humanist Association asks a federal judge to bar the Rankin County School District from having religious assemblies. The suit also seeks to hold Northwest Rankin High School principal Charles Frazier personally liable. Humanist Association attorney Bill Burgess said Frazier should have known better than to allow the gathering.

The district has yet to respond to the lawsuit filed recently in U.S. District Court in Jackson.

It’s the latest in a series of school prayer struggles in Mississippi. But while many of the cases have occurred in small towns, this one centers on a 1,600-student school in fast-growing suburban area that includes visible religious minorities including a Hindu temple. The Humanist Association, based in Washington, D.C., says some students there have no religious faith.

The suit was brought on behalf of a 16-year-old Northwest Rankin junior named only as M.B. in the complaint.

Rankin County assistant superintendent Richard Morrison, appointed by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant to the state Board of Education last year, told The Associated Press last month that the assembly at Northwest Rankin High School wasn’t explicitly religious.

“It was not based on any church or any religion,” said Morrison, who was principal at Northwest Rankin before being promoted to assistant superintendent.

But a cellphone video taken by a student and provided to AP by the atheist group shows otherwise. A group of students, described by Morrison as senior boys, discuss their history of personal problems. About seven minutes into the program, when talking about how they turned their lives around, one says “We find our hope in Jesus Christ.”

One of program leaders also tells students: “We know it is not cool for us to stand up here and tell you that we follow Jesus. But that’s OK. Because we care about you so much that there is no way that we could graduate from high school and have a hope that we believe is for eternity and not share it with you guys.”

The lawsuit describes the students as representatives of Pinelake Church, the largest Southern Baptist church in Mississippi. The church’s main campus is near the school.

The church’s communications director, Kim Shirley, said last month no Pinelake representatives took part. “It wasn’t something we put on,” she said. Shirley declined to say if the students attend the 9,000-member church.

“Everyone seemed to know they at least attend the church,” Burgess said, but indicated there was no evidence of official church involvement.

In this case, Morrison said students approached Frazier about holding the assemblies. He indicated they were legal in part because they were student-led.

“They’re some courageous guys that want to make a difference in kids’ lives,” Morrison said. “We respect our state and federal guidelines. We know that our limits are. But we also know that students are leaders in our school.”

Morrison said attendance was not mandatory, and students could have stayed in classrooms if they wanted.

The lawsuit claims otherwise, citing an email Frazier sent to teachers before the senior class assembly on April 9. It also says students were prevented by a school security officer from leaving.

Burgess said that after the humanist group sent the district a letter complaining about the assemblies, officials may have allowed sophomores and freshmen to skip programs held later in April. But he said even a voluntary assembly was still an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion, because it took place on school property during school hours.

Morrison said he understood Frazier had prescreened the program, which could undercut claims that administrators didn’t endorse its religious content.

“He’s chose this program,” Burgess said of Frazier’s actions. “That’s fair to say.”

The suit names Frazier personally and seeks punitive damages from him.

It’s educators’ jobs to protect kids from bullying

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the tragedies of the six young men who have committed suicide in the past few weeks after being bullied and harassed for being gay, or for being perceived as gay. And also for the young trans man who was denied the role of Homecoming King because he was a “woman” on official school records. And also the students last spring who were not allowed to go to their school formals with their partners of choice because they were same-sex couples. It saddens, angers and frustrates me that this is still going on in 2010.

While I believe that lots of the blame should be placed on the student tormentors, a significant portion also lies with the institutions where these young people spend the majority of their days – the schools.

Educators: It is your job to see that every student has safe access to education. That’s right, your job. You signed up for it when you accepted the contract for the school year. As teachers, administrators, academic support staff, bus drivers and adults attached to a school/district, you assume in loco parentis, “in the place of a parent,” as part of your duties both in and out of the classroom. As such, it’s your job to protect kids from being bullied and harassed and to see that they are provided with the best possible environment to learn, grow and become productive members of society.

If you can’t do that, get a new job. If you believe that some students deserve this because they’re too effeminate or too butch, or too black or Latino or Asian, or too sexual or whatever – get a new job.

If you feel like you can do your job, then listen when students say they’re being harassed. Do something. Punish the harasser Take it to your supervisor. Why? Because it’s your job.

If possible, work with the victims’ parents and relatives, but if not, then work with other adults in the kids’ lives who will help. These kids are valuable and need to know it.

If you are getting resistance from the institution, fight back. Publicly if you can, but privately too. Call school board members and seek advice. Gather allies among your fellow educators and approach the problem as a group.

Students: If you’re being bullied and harassed for being queer, or for any reason, please tell an adult. A parent if possible, but if not then an adult friend you can trust. If there’s no one individual in your community, try contacting Trevor Helpline for Gay and Lesbian Youth. The helpline at 1-866-4-U-TREVOR or 1-866-488-7386 is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

You can also access the organization online at http://www.thetrevorproject.org. If you go to the website, you can search for local resources at http://www.thetrevorproject.org/youth/local-resources

If your school is doing nothing, contact the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU has a project dedicated to LGBTQ students at http://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/youth-schools

Please, please don’t give up hope. The queer community is large and diverse and there are many, many of us who will take the time to see that you will survive, grow, and thrive.

Milo Miller is a queer activist, artist, writer, and zine maker. Miller co-founded QZAP – The Queer Zine Archive Project, and lives in Riverwest with zis partner-in-crime and their pet rock Nigel.