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The news media is on fire these days regarding legislation in Mississippi and North Carolina--legislation that makes provisions for discrimination based on one's sexual orientation or gender identity. The governors of both states have signed off on this legislation (HB1523 in Mississippi; HB 2 in North Carolina), and the nation has responded, both within and outside these states—from boycotts to college campus protests.

Prior to North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signing HB 2 into law, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts sent him the following text directly: 

Please do not sign this awful bill...Poorly conceived and written. There is no provision for any enforcement for race, religion, etc. It will be legal for restaurants to hang a sign saying 'no gays allowed' out front. Is this the N.C. we want?

McCrory ignored this text.

His decision to convene the North Carolina legislature and sign HB 2 into law this March came as a response to a local ordinance in Charlotte that banned discrimination against the LGBT community, increasing nondiscrimination policies that already existed. In other words, whereas Charlotte's mayor was aiming to be inclusive--to acknowledge the LGBT community for their totality and humanity--Governor McCrory wanted to define a human being's identity on his terms.

McCrory, it seems, has transitional issues.

Typically, when we think of the end of the school year, we don't think about the firestorm of backlash against a state's discriminatory legislation. We think of graduations, celebrations, endings--joyous moments to take stock of growth and new beginnings--and we mark these significant moments through rituals and ceremonies, through transitions that allow us to embrace inevitable change.

And yet, there is a way that the response to legislation in North Carolina and Mississippi is a marker of change as well.

While there is nothing celebratory about discrimination, the response to these laws is significant. (Even President Obama has weighed in.) As a nation, we are expanding our definitions of gender identity and striving (sometimes clumsily) to add more of our population into the country's narrative. We are aiming to accept the inevitable changes that come with civil and human rights.

My hope is that the process of our work in schools--both public and independent--can foster this sort of expansive thinking: to raise good human beings, and to send these good human beings--our graduates--into the world to make positive, inclusive change.

While our nation is in transition, our schools are engaging in the same conversations that are happening on a mass scale: gender-neutral bathroom spaces; anti-racist affinity groups; equity and inclusion efforts in our hiring practices; maker spaces, design thinking; project-based learning; STEM and STEAM--policies and practices that acknowledge the whole child/human of today rather than the outmoded (and often limiting) approaches used in the schools of our upbringing. In this present-day work, as we prepare our students for the next phase of their academic careers, I hope we can say to them, "We acknowledge the totality of who you are, and we value you for all you bring to our communities."

In these coming weeks, school years will be ending, classrooms will be closing down, teachers will be getting some much-needed rest, people will be coming and going at our school sites. Transitions--inevitable change--will be occurring.

And while there is much work to be done in our nation and our schools, there is much to celebrate as well: our ongoing commitment to redefine what it means to be educated--and ultimately, what it means to be human. May that re-definition be inclusive and just for all. (I hope you're reading this, Governor McCrory.)

And may you have smooth transitions as your school years come to a close.


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