Photo courtesy of MCPS
MCPS officials hosted a virtual Pride Town Hall on May 26 to discuss the central office’s actions to make the school district more inclusive for the LGBTQ+ community.
The town hall began with a welcome speech from Director of Student Welfare and Compliance Greg Edmundson and a pre-recorded greeting from Deputy Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight.
“One of the foundational beliefs in MCPS is that all students feel acknowledged, valued and respected,” Edmundson said. “One of the main reasons for this town hall is to ensure that our LGBTQ community feels exactly that way.”
Newly appointed MCPS LGBTQ Community Liaison Dr. Amena Johnson gave a keynote address, “Identity in Action.” Johnson’s speech focused on the differences between social and personal identity. Social identity focuses on membership in certain groups, and personal identity sets people apart from others.
The new official also presented the framework for a plan that she intends to implement to assist MCPS in making LGBTQ+ students feel accepted. She emphasized chronicling the “rich history” of the LGBTQ+ community, providing county residents with resources to help them showcase their identity and building a bridge between local government and LGBTQ+ community members.
Johnson also voiced her excitement about the LGBTQ+ studies curriculum that the school district will implement in several MCPS high schools next school year, including Whitman.
After the opening webinar session, participants joined one of six different workshops that students and staff members led. Each session focused on how to make each school in MCPS more welcoming toward the LGBTQ+ community. Topics ranged from mental health resources to supports at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
Northwood High School junior Izzy Majarowitz, the Advocacy Director of MoCo Pride — a local student-led organization working to support LGBTQ+ students — presented “Gender Identity Norming in Schools,” a workshop that educated students about effective practices for normalizing diverse gender identities in schools.
“I hope the town hall was effective, especially for students to see what support systems and resources are available to them,” Majarowitz said. “It was great to bring all the different groups together to send the message to the community that MCPS supports LGBTQ+ students.”
Still, Majarowitz said that there are efforts that MCPS has to put forth beyond the town hall to create a more tolerant environment in schools.
Johnson said that as she enters her new role, she believes that MCPS is “off to a great start” on mitigating stereotypes about the LGBTQ+ community, and that she plans to support the school district in any way possible.
“I want people to see themselves reflected in the work I do,” Johnson said. “Representation matters.”