Milton Schools Update: Face-to-Face Meetings Bring Positive Change

Much has happened since we first posted about
Ginny Gaffey and her daughter in Milton, MA. What started as an
unfortunate incident of schoolyard bullying has developed into a
full-scale review of diversity and harassment intervention policies
within the Milton school district. I know a lot of you have been
following this story in the Greater Boston press and online at the
Family Equality Council blog and others, such as
and the
Huffington Post
. As someone who coordinates the Family Equality
Council’s safe schools work and has been part of the team here
guiding Ms. Gaffey through this process, I wanted to give you all
and update on what’s happened. If you’d like to catch up on the
details of the incident itself, you can do so by
clicking here.

Since Ms. Gaffey contacted us, we’ve worked with her to provide
resources to the Milton School Committee (the local school board)
on LGBTQ family inclusion and to establish a “next steps” plan
with the superintendent. Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of
the Family Equality Council, attended a school committee meeting
with Ms. Gaffey. The committee was scheduled to review their
conflict resolution curriculum, called Second Steps, in light of
what happened to Ms. Gaffey’s daughter.

The meeting was productive. Among other things, a committee member
recognized that Second Steps, while generally a good approach at
preventing conflicts between students, doesn’t do enough to
address underlying causes of conflict, such as bias toward and
ignorance of different kinds of families.

The next morning Jennifer and Ms. Gaffey attended a meeting with
the superintendent. This meeting was also productive, in terms of
creating positive change for LGBTQ-headed families in the Milton
schools. The superintendent has agreed to add the all-important
“association with” clause to their nondiscrimination and
anti-harassment policies. “Association with” is shorthand for
the wording necessary to cover people who are discriminated against
or harassed because they are related to or otherwise associated
with someone who is LGBTQ. Generally speaking, this language is
necessary to protect the children of LGBTQ parents and straight
allies in schools, especially around gay-straight alliances

The superintendent also agreed to conduct a school climate survey,
with input from the Family Equality Council and others. The survey
will assess the attitudes and competencies around family diversity
in the Milton schools, and will include parent respondents.
Additionally, the superintendent offered to check the school
system’s library holdings for books that represent and address
LGBTQ-headed families. Where there are gaps, she said, they would
be filled.

In terms of openness to policy change and positive steps forward,
the Milton schools are now on track. Of course there is always more
work to be done, and the Family Equality Council is glad to have
helped open doors that can lead to further change. I should note
that there is still disagreement between Ms. Gaffey and officials
within the Milton schools over exactly what happened to her
daughter, especially around the issue of homophobic bias. And while
it would make for a much better situation for all parties involved
if we agreed upon the details of the incident, we can be satisfied
that a good, solid working relationship has been established where
one could easily not have materialized.

Ginny Gaffey can be proud that her tireless efforts to secure her
daughter’s safety will result in a more positive climate for
LGBTQ-headed families in her entire district.


Tomorrow morning the Family Equality Council will convene a meeting
of child welfare advocates with interest and expertise in cases
involving LGBTQ-headed families from the Boston area to discuss
further action in the Milton case. As a national organization,
we’re excited to continue this work locally, learning valuable
lessons to help us replicate successful parent/advocacy
organization intervention in schools nationwide. On a personal
note, I want to thank all of you who’ve been following this case
and sending kind words to the Gaffey family via blog comments,
emails, etc. The outpouring of support – both locally and beyond
– has made a world of difference to Ginny and her daughter, who
take heart in your concern.