DISD Emails Suggest Teacher Disinterest in LGBTQ Program

Rainbow Pride Flag | Image by Sophon Nawit/Shutterstock
Rainbow Pride Flag | Image by Sophon Nawit/Shutterstock

Internal communications at Dallas ISD show the district struggled for years to convince teachers to sign up for an LGBTQ training program, according to documents obtained through an open records request submitted by The Dallas Express.

Dallas ISD launched the Out for Safe Schools program in 2018 to train teachers on how to work with LGBTQ students. The program was developed in partnership with the Resource Center, which is an LGBTQ clinic in Dallas that facilitates transgender hormone usage and provides referrals for sex-alteration surgeries. Teachers who participated in the program were given rainbow badges to show they were “allies.”

DX reported in February that the emails showed the district had to reschedule program sessions due to a lack of teacher sign-ups. Mahoganie Gaston, Dallas ISD’s support services coordinator for LGBTQ youth, described the lack of interest as “extremely frustrating.”

Additional emails DX obtained suggest that teacher disinterest was even more prevalent than initially reported.

“So far we have no one signed up,” Gaston emailed Rafael McDonnell, senior advocacy, policy, and communications manager at the Resource Center, in September 2022. “People have emailed and I sent the link but doesn’t seem like anyone has followed through. I will post on social media again in hopes we get some people to sign up.”

“Sorry for the delay. I was out of the office yesterday but we only have 1 person signed up for today,” Gaston emailed McDonnell in December 2021.

“We have one person signed up for tomorrow,” Gaston emailed McDonnell in April 2021. “I definitely need help with promoting or we may have to look at alternative times.”

The emails revealed one instance of enthusiasm for the district’s program, with organizers roping in dozens of educators and staff for an Out for Safe Schools training with the Districtwide Services Department.

“We have an Out for Safe Schools Training request for the morning of March 12th,” Gaston emailed McDonnell and Leslie McMurray, the transgender education and advocacy associate for the Resource Center, in February 2021. “It is for the Districtwide Services Department and will be about 100 people(YAY!!).”

Still, emails showed that teachers generally neglected to enroll in the optional program. Gaston complained that only one teacher signed up for training in February 2021 and October 2020.

Dallas ISD appeared to bypass the certification process for the Out for Safe Schools program, according to documents previously obtained by DX.

The district and the Resource Center removed mentions of the program on their websites after a series of reports by DX. Neither responded to a request for comment.

Additional documents obtained in public records requests showed Dallas ISD advised the Resource Center on how teachers should handle “youth transitioning,” as previously reported by DX. The district and clinic also coordinated LGBTQ training sessions for staff at elementary schools and expressed concerns about potential backlash from parents.

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