LA passes up funding for affordable housing + LA mandates earthquake retrofitting

LA will require buildings to undergo earthquake retrofitting starting in 2016.

LA will require buildings to undergo earthquake retrofitting starting in 2016.

LA Passing Up Tens of Millions For Infrastructure and Affordable Housing: Los Angeles is missing out on important revenue by not charging developer impact fees. These fees can fund a variety of things, including LAPD, libraries, parks and affordable housing construction. (LA Curbed)

Los Angeles Will Start Requiring Earthquake Retrofits For Apartment Buildings in February: Los Angeles will require buildings to undergo earthquake retrofitting starting in 2016, but the mandate leaves concrete structures a 25 year window to complete the project. (LA Curbed)

Storm disrupts power in South LA + Clippers donate $3 million to City Year

Los Angeles neighborhoods suffered power loss after a record storm. (Caitlyn Hynes / Intersections South LA)

Los Angeles neighborhoods suffered power loss after a record storm. (Caitlyn Hynes / Intersections South LA)

Storm Knocks Out Power To 8,200 LADWP Customers: Rain and wind caused power outages across Los Angeles. South LA was especially hard hit with 1,636 customers in the dark, according to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. (CBS Los Angeles)

Donors raise nearly $40k for brothers stabbed to death in South LA: Donations poured in to a family grieving the loss of three brothers after police say they were killed by their father last week. A relative’s GoFundMe campaign successfully raised enough money for the funerals and to move the boys’ mother’s grave to be near theirs. (Daily News)

Clippers’ $3 million gift helping City Year’s work in 26 LAUSD schools: South Los Angeles schools that host AmeriCorps City Year teams will benefit from a generous gift from the Los Angeles Clippers. The $3 million gift to the nonprofit will allow the Los Angeles chapter to hire more staff to serve students in under-performing schools. (LA School Report)

OPINION: American terror and the dehumanization of gay youth

imageSikivu Hutchinson is the editor of and a senior fellow with the Institute for Humanist Studies. Become a fan of Blackfemlens on Facebook.

“God hates fags,” says the face of terror. It is the now repugnantly familiar slogan of the Westboro Church, a clan of white Christian fundamentalists recently in the public spotlight for a Supreme Court free speech case on anti-gay protests at military funerals. This particular brand of free speech is pure stars and stripes terror, easily repudiated by the enlightened, easily placed in that special category of sweaty troglodyte extremism.

Over the past several weeks the impact of anti-gay vitriol has grabbed headlines, from the bullying-related suicides of several young gay men to the snowballing sexual abuse allegations by teenage male parishioners against professional homophobe Bishop Eddie Long. These tragedies have renewed national conversation about the pervasiveness of bullying in schools. Bullying is vicious, unconscionable and life-threatening. Yet reactive public condemnations of bullying often foreclose real analysis of the systemic mechanisms that institutionalize violence and terror against gay, lesbian and gender non-conforming children.

As a straight middle class girl in a homophobic heterosexist school community I was trained to dehumanize gay kids. After all, God, as we were fond of jeering to the suspected “fags” at my elementary school, created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve. Historical leaders were straight, public figures were straight, normal families were straight, laws sanctified straight families, law enforcement protected male dominance over women and children in the home, and the exotic world of romantic love pulsed to the tune of boy conquers girl. This was our creed, our lifeblood, our moral universe, our cultural license for terror.

This was the moral universe that claimed the life of Carl Walker-Hoover, an 11-year-old African American Massachusetts boy who committed suicide in April 2009 after the adult leaders at his school failed him. Like scores of youth who are targeted for being gender non-conforming, Hoover-Walker’s pleas for help from school administration went unanswered. Coverage of his death barely made a dent in the mainstream media. Coverage of the bullying-related suicide of a white Massachusetts high school girl during the same period made national headlines. In 2008, the murder of gender non-conforming middle school student Lawrence King by a fellow classmate in Oxnard California put anti-gay bullying in the public spotlight. Prior to Lawrence King’s murder, homophobic violence in schools elicited little media attention or national outcry.

Like most children growing up in the U.S. I was systematically taught to view lesbian and gay people as deviant, unnatural and immoral. Because heterosexuality was the “norm,” the absence of LGBT figures of color in textbooks and media reinforced the righteousness of my straight identity. It conferred me with an automatic self-esteem and self-image advantage LGBT youth did not have. Because I looked, talked and generally played the part of a boy-obsessed straight girl I was not ostracized for my attraction to the opposite sex. And because I lived in a community where the presumption of heterosexuality and hetero-normativity always trumped other gender identities I was not targeted for social “extermination.”

At my elementary school a boy named “Luke,” who was obsessed with Mrs. Beasley, a doll featured in the 1960s sitcom Family Affair, was mercilessly harassed for being effeminate and mentally “off.” Luke became a cautionary tale for little black boys bold enough to be themselves. For in this state of identity warfare, we were constantly reminded to enforce clear lines of demarcation between male and female, to inflict terror. Children who blurred gender lines like Luke were deemed less valuable, less normal, and, by extension, less human. Girls who didn’t express a preference for and show some interest in deferring to boys (vis-à-vis appearance, flirtation and giving the impression of being receptive to male advances) had questionable gender identities. Boys who didn’t exhibit an overt interest in girls — who didn’t flirt with them, compete for them or harass them — were nerds/outcasts from the fraternity of male hardness. Gender variant or gender non-conforming boys were social suicides.

Why isn’t it considered immoral when gender non-conforming children have no space in our culture? Are reviled for the toys they play with and the clothes they wear, while their straight peers reap the social benefits of being silent, of being normalized? And why isn’t it a moral issue when LGBT youth don’t see themselves represented in school textbooks and media?

Power is “moral” when it is arrogated by authority figures that uphold these gender norms and boundaries as an unimpeachable truth claim. A secular morality should be based on the premise that homosexuality has value as part of the range of human sexual orientation. Gay identities have moral value both as part of the range of sexual identity and in their difference from the compulsory heterosexual norm. This is decidedly different from the Kumbaya bromide of “tolerance” and respect for “difference.” On the right, family values charlatans decry the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools and preach a vanilla brand of “tolerance.” On the left, liberal educators advocate inclusion and recognition of “diversity.” Mere tolerance for difference essentially neutralizes difference by reinforcing culturally prescribed norms. Respect for difference without the foundation of value says that I can acknowledge your right to exist without understanding why your identity has been culturally defined as oppositional to mine. Respect and tolerance without critical consciousness means that I won’t understand why my identity (as normal and naturalized) can’t exist as normal and naturalized without this oppositionality.

Although some school districts have adopted their own anti-bullying policies there is little systemic district-mandated LGBT youth oriented training or resources for adults and parents in K-12 schools. The Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has been a national advocate for the Safe Schools Improvement Act, a federal bill that would require comprehensive anti-bullying protections in schools. Both GLSEN and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) have developed educational professional development guides that address such themes as family diversity, anti-bullying and gender non-conformity. The HRC’s Welcoming Schools guide has been successfully adopted in school districts in Minnesota, California and Massachusetts.

Bullying is not merely an issue of “intolerance” but a symptom of dehumanization and othering. And it is only when activist school districts, parents and communities move beyond a reactive focus on bullying to the root causes of terror that the lives of our most vulnerable children will be protected.

Mayor to launch door-knocking campaign at Markham and award $5 million to L.A. schools

The mayor seems focused on education in Los Angeles this week, with a door-knocking campaign for the families of Markham Middle School and a total of $5 million in grants to be handed out to L.A. schools.

Mayor Villaraigosa plans to spend his Saturday knocking on doors in a campaign spanning 2,000 homes to reach out to parents, students and teachers of Markham Middle School. As a new member of the mayor’s Partnership for Los Angeles City Schools, Markham’s doors are soon to open for the 2010-2011 school year and Villaraigosa hopes to encourage the community to get involved with local schools and “support student achievement.” Three new schools are due to open this fall under the Partnership for Los Angeles City Schools program.

The event will launch in Markham Middle School’s Multipurpose Room (1650 E. 104th Street) on Aug. 7 at 9am.

The mayor also announced a total of $5 million in grants being awarded to schools in Los Angeles through the L.A. Compact program. LA Compact is one of 49 programs to win a federal investing in innovation grant. The non-profit organization is an alliance of 18 institutions pledging to change education in Los Angeles through the commitment to goals such as a 100 percent graduation rate. Money will be spent on enhancing the Public School Choise Program and funding new pilot programs, according to the mayor’s office.

“The LA Compact is an innovative partnership that unites all stakeholders under a common goal: to put our children first and make their education our top priority,” Mayor Villaraigosa said, as quoted in a press release from his office. “Today, the LA Compact is being recognized for its success in education reform with a $5 million grant through the federal Investing in Innovation (i3) program. The i3 grant program rewards creative, outside-the-box thinking. That is what earned the LA Compact this grant, and that is exactly what the grant will help us continue to do: fund new pilot programs and continue to offer more and better choices to LA students and their families through the Public School Choice Program.”

According to a statement from the mayor’s office, the $5 million grant will help support 60,000 students in LAUSD’s lowest-achieving schools through new programs and “teacher collaboratives.”

The Public School Choice Program began in 2009 and pits teacher groups, charter operators and non-profits against one another for the chance to run schools within the LAUSD. Candidates must apply and go through an evaluation process before a decision over school leadership is determined.

The deadline for letters on intent for the second round of PSC were due June 30. According to United Teachers Los Angeles, more than 80 groups submitted letters of intent for the campuses, which together serve about 35,000 students. Green Dot, Aspire, ICEF, and Alliance for College-Ready Schools are among the charter operators participating in this round of the PSC process.

“Unlike the last cycle, when the major charter operators bid only on the new sites, in this round charters have put in letters of intent for nearly all the nine new and eight existing schools on the PSC Round 2 list,” explained the UTLA in their United Teacher newspaper. “Los Angeles High is the only site that does not have a charter operation bidding for it.”

Groups intending to compete will now how to develop a comprehensive education plan for their schools. Full applications for the second round of PSC are due in December.

According to a statement released by the mayor’s office, the LA Compact program “was signed this past February and has already proved itself successful by yielding these grant monies.”

FROM THE WORKSHOP: Taking responsibility for low performing schools

Listen to South LA resident Anita Thomas, and Compton residents Maurice Harrington and Ron Dowell: Are South LA schools failing our children, and if so, why?


Teachers gather at candlelight vigil

By Jose Lara, a teacher at Santee Education Complex

On Tuesday, teachers gathered just before dawn to hold a candlelight vigil in front of LAUSD. Teachers are out in force to show support for teacher reform plans that were overwhelmingly voted for by parents and community members. Teachers now want the school board to respect the community vote and give community control of the schools!

Governor Schwarzenegger congratulates Dorsey High School

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Civil Rights Leader Reverend Jesse Jackson held a pep rally of sorts at Dorsey High School in South Los Angeles on Thursday, September 17.  Lauren Whaley of Annenberg Radio News was there.  Listen to her report.