FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 14, 2016
Contact: Matthew Wilder
First openly transgender elected officials in Massachusetts call for action on pending legislation
BOSTON – The state’s largest teachers unions today joined with the associations representing Massachusetts superintendents and school committees in announcing support for legislation to protect transgender people in Massachusetts. Legislation currently pending on Beacon Hill would provide explicit protections from discrimination in public places for transgender men, women and children in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS), and the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) joined Freedom Massachusetts, the bi-partisan coalition advocating for the protections, in calling for the passage of the law.
“Having the support of the state’s educators sends a powerful message to our state law makers,” said Carly Burton, Freedom Massachusetts Campaign Manager. “While state law already protects transgender students in public schools, this is a reminder that the implementation of the guidelines from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education have been successful. We must now go one step further and protect transgender students and staff when they leave school and visit a hospital, public park, local mall or restaurant.”
Today’s announcement comes as two local school committee members, the first openly transgender elected officials in Massachusetts, publicly called on the passage of the legislation in a OpEd published in Commonwealth Magazine online.
“We’re not protected from discrimination in the very government buildings we are expected to visit as part of our public service.” wrote Jacquelyn Ryan, Tantasqua Regional School Committee Member and Lizbeth DeSelm, Melrose School Committee member. “Although we are both willing to share our experiences as transgender women, it wasn’t a centerpiece of either of our campaigns and had nothing to do with the reasons we were elected. We were elected because of our strong work ethic, our passion for education, and our ability to make positive change in our communities.”
As the state’s largest teachers union, the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) represents 110,000 members in more than 400 local associations through Massachusetts.
“It is essential that we assert and protect the rights of transgender men and women in Massachusetts,” said MTA President Barbara Madeloni. “We call on the legislature to pass this bill without delay.”
The American Federation of Teachers(AFT) Massachusetts represents educators in nearly 50 local communities in the Commonwealth.
“Inclusion, equality, and acceptance are the hallmarks of any worthwhile endeavor, such as our union, and so we call on state lawmakers to think of these values as they consider this legislation,” said AFT president Tom Gosnell.
The Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS) is the only statewide organization dedicated to the unique professional and advocacy concerns of school superintendents and assistant superintendents.
“Superintendents across Massachusetts have been welcoming transgender students to their schools for years without issue,” said MASS Executive Director, Tom Scott. “It is now time to extend those same protections to transgender students and their teachers beyond the classroom and the schoolyard.”
The Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) is a member-driven association whose mission is to support Massachusetts school committee leaders in their governance role.
“We are proud to stand in support of this important legislation,” said Jake Olivera, President of the MASC Board. “We take pride in leading an agenda that welcomes all people and expect our state to lead in the same way.”
Currently, there is no explicit prohibition on discrimination against transgender people in public places in the Commonwealth. This includes parks, medical offices, restaurants and retail establishments. Equal treatment in employment, housing, K-12 education and credit has been law since 2012. Fourteen Mayors and town leaders from across the Commonwealth – including Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll – have called on the legislation to be passed. The Massachusetts Congress of Parents and Teachers, also known as the Massachusetts State PTA announced its support for the legislation late last year. Additionally, the state’s leading law enforcement officials have endorsed the legislation. In all, nearly 200 businesses and organizations across Massachusetts – including the region’s professional sports teams – now stand in support of the legislation.
State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz along with State Representatives Byron Rushing and Denise Provost are lead sponsors of the bill (House Bill 1577/Senate Bill 735). For more information, visit www.freedommassachusetts.org.
Freedom Massachusetts is the bipartisan campaign working to ensure all people in the Commonwealth are treated fairly and equally under the law.