June marks LGBTQ+ Pride Month, a time for us all to reaffirm that LGBTQ+ people deserve dignity, respect, and the freedom to live authentically in our society, free from discrimination or violence. Here at the Pennsylvania Department of Education, we want everyone in the school community — including LGBTQ+ students, teachers, and staff — to know that you have a home in Pennsylvania.
Our Commonwealth is committed to ensuring real freedom for all individuals — no matter what you look like, where you come from, who you love, or who you pray to. In his first six months in office, Governor Shapiro has called for the passage of the Fairness Act to ensure equal protection under the law and became the first Pennsylvania governor to march in the Pittsburgh Pride Parade.
It's especially important for our schools to be welcoming places for all students. Creating safe and supportive learning environments is crucial for putting our youth on a path to success — in the classroom and beyond. For LGBTQ+ youth in particular, school can be a tricky place to understand who they are and how they identify.
I remember, as a public school student in suburban Philadelphia, how hard it was to juggle the pressure to fit in with my peers with the realization that I was unique — not to mention trying to pass an algebra test! Unfortunately, like many other LGBTQ+ youth, I experienced bullying simply because of who I was.
But as I write this blog post while sitting at my desk as the Department of Education's press secretary, I am so thankful for the friends and teachers who supported me and treated me with dignity and respect. Their message to me is the one I share with you now: You are seen, you are valued, and you are not alone!
If you are an educator or other professional serving students, check out these resources and materials available to help create LGBTQ-inclusive schools where all students can thrive.
If you are a LGBTQ+ youth who is dealing with mental health challenges, you can explore important resources online, such as the Trevor Project.
This Pride Month and beyond, we celebrate the triumphs of LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians who have bravely fought — and continue to fight — for full equality. In doing so, you have laid the foundation for a better, stronger Commonwealth where everyone has real freedom. Happy Pride, Pennsylvania!