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Building safer schools for all students

  • Desiree Sansing

Desiree Sansing believes in the power of public school education.

“The life experiences I had growing up – from my mother abandoning the family to my friends allowing me to stay with them to finish high school – have largely impacted my belief in our public school system.”

But she also understands that there is work to be done.

“I lived the achievement gap. I spent most of my middle school and high school years straddled between two school systems: one in a high-performing suburb and one in a low-performing urban school system.”

Today, Desiree is a teacher in Washington, D.C.’s public school system, and is proud of the work she does with her students.

“First and foremost, I am a high school English teacher, where I support 147 students in developing their English language and reading proficiency. Every year, my students outperform district-set benchmarks for growth.”

When she’s not in the classroom, Desiree serves as the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) sponsor in her school, and as a LGBTQ liaison for the district.

“For most of my adolescent life, I was taught or encouraged to hide my sexuality. My schools did not address sexuality or support our LGBTQ identities in any way, and that in turn taught me to feel ashamed of myself and the way I was hardwired to love.

Now, after educating myself about LGBTQ issues in identity and advocacy, I am able to lead students as a GSA sponsor.”

For Desiree, being a LEE member provides her with a network of support that is crucial to her work.

“I feel a part of a bigger community that stands for educational equity and progress. I don’t feel like I’m ‘fighting the good fight’ in isolation. I have a community and network of resources which empowers me to continue to stand up for my students, even in the face of mounting pressure to perform for district evaluations, and the ever-increasing anxiety of being an out and queer educator in a political climate that seems more divisive than ever.”

Desiree feels that partnerships with families, a rigorous curriculum, and strong policies that protect LGBTQ students and teachers are the keys to ending educational inequity. She looks forward to the day when LGBTQ youth are supported and even celebrated in every school, and when our nation’s students and educators have anti-bullying policies that explicitly protect LGBTQ youth, as well as employment discrimination policies that explicitly protect LGTBQ teachers.

“It’s not fair that LGBTQ youth in D.C. are protected from discrimination by district laws and policies, but students in Virginia are not. The same goes for educators. Take me for example: I can teach in D.C. or Maryland, but because I’m married to a woman, I could lose my teaching job if I chose to teach in Virginia, my home state. Only 22 states and the District of Columbia prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity by statutes, so the majority of the nation’s LGBTQ students and their teachers are negatively impacted. ”

Desiree looks forward to public education that serves the entire public, “who are racially, ethnically, culturally, religiously, and sexually diverse.” One day, she hopes to travel the country as an educational consultant to guide school systems on best practices to adopt for LGBTQ students.

“For now, I am choosing to remain in the classroom, educating future generations of leaders and scholars who will undoubtedly change the field of education for the better.”