Department of Education adds first LGBT community liaison

By Bill Parry

The Department of Education has hired its first LGBT community liaison, a ground-breaking position that will implement a balanced literacy program that includes gay authors as well as providing an LGBT curriculum for teachers.

Jared Fox has been appointed liaison with funds provided by the City Council.

“The appointment of a liaison to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities is the culmination of a career’s worth of advocacy for me,” City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who came out as an openly gay teacher in 1992, said. “Back in those days, LGBT teachers and students were mostly closeted. With the appointment of Jared Fox as the new LGBT liaison, the department has taken a bold step forward to assure students and teachers alike that anti-gay discrimination will not be tolerated and that, in fact, the department will look for ways to be more inclusive of the LGBT communities.”

Fox, a former teacher who founded the New York City chapter of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, is responsible for creating a strategic plan for the DOE to best serve the many needs of LGBT students, teachers and staff in the public schools system, the largest in the nation. The position was created within the DOE’s Office of Safety and Youth Development.

“It is an honor to take this role serving LGBT students, staff and families across our city,” Fox said. “Creating a positive and supportive school environment for LGBT students is incredibly important to their success in the classroom and beyond and I look forward to working across the other city agencies to ensure the LGBT community has the resources and support they need.”

Over the past few weeks, Fox has met with principals, teachers and students to learn about their hopes and challenges in making schools a more welcoming place for LGBT people. Fox will expand the curriculum by bringing LGBT authors into schools in an association with the Lambda Literary Foundation, an organization that believes literature is fundamental to the preservation of the LGBT culture.

“Literature is where many LGBT youth first find an affirmative self-identity and straight kids experience LGBT lives in a positive light,” Lambda Literary’s Executive Director Tony Valenzuela said. “We’re thrilled to introduce great and diverse LGBT books and authors to young people throughout New York City’s public schools.”

Fox is starting the literary program in conjunction with school leadership and the foundation so that literature and classes are appropriately matched. The program will begin this spring.

“This historic step is a milestone in our city’s education system,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), a member of the Council’s LGBT Caucus, said. “I look forward to working with Jared and the DOE to strengthen local support networks in order to build up educational environments that allow all students to be proud of who they truly are.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.