This PTA Raises More Than Bake Sale Money: It Raises Consciousness for GLBT Students

Written by: Wesley Davidson

Photo credit: David Pokress | Laurie Scheinman, who has been nominated as co-chairwoman of the Long Island Gay Parent Teacher Student Association, with her daughter Rachael. (April 4, 2012)

The Parent Teacher’s Association has always prided itself for not only reaching out to families in their district, but also with mainstream parents in mind. Recently, with stronger anti-bullying measures needed in schools, as well as the contribution of gays incorporated into the curriculum, the nation’s first official gay PTA called Long Island Gay- Parent -Teacher Student- Association formed the week of April 23, 2012 in New York. source

They Saw A Need and Fulfilled It

The brainchild student, Rachel Scheinman, a senior at Portledge School in Locust Valley, New York and her mother, Laura Scheinman, 49, chartered a PTA that focuses on the interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and their families. Rachel, who identifies herself as lesbian, says “ there have been many instances where negative comments are said, and ignored for lack of a better strategy.” Comments her mother of Sands Point, New York, “while many of our schools are tolerant, they don’t have a system set up for any issues if they are to arise. The PTSA will kind of remove those barriers between parents and schools.” Gay-Straight Alliances of students will work at school districts with parents, teachers and anyone interested in equality advocacy for LGBT students or those raised by same-sex couples.

The More The Merrier

“The more people who are involved in the education of children, the better” stated Maria Fletcher, president of the New York State PTA, based in Albany. You don’t have to live in Garden City or even Long Island to join. Nor do you have to parent a gay child to be included. All you have to do is believe in the movement.

Although a similar parent-teacher-student group formed in 1999 in Seattle and later disbanded in 2004, the time is rife for a more inclusive effort such as Scheinman’s to combat GLBT harassment in schools. I suspect that this model program will catch on this country and endure.

*Wesley Davidson is co-authoring, with a psychiatrist, an advice book for straight parents of gay teens. Her blog on this topic can be found at

Click here to read a previous post Wesley Davidson wrote for MKC on the topic of raising a gay teen.



Good morning! Today, my guest blogger today is Wesley Davidson, a health and parenting writer whose blog: gives advice on raising GLB teens. Wesley is currently writing a book with a Manhattan psychiatrist on the issues that straight parents face while parenting gay teens and how to solve these concerns. Check out her post below, leave some feedback, and be sure to visit her blog!

Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones,” but Names are What You Remember”

It all started in middle school which my son Alex called “dark and depressing.” It was a forbidding stone school, with a cafeteria in the basement. But the building itself wasn’t the only depressing drawback, it was the atmosphere created by a small group of boys who called my son a “faggot.”

Although I suspected at times that my son was “gay,” as he hung out with girls and didn’t like contact sports, I dismissed it and attributed his popularity with the opposite sex due to his sensitivity, kindness, and good looks. Perhaps the so-called macho boys were jealous of these attributes in 1996 in a suburb outside of New York City in the so-called “liberal Northeast.”

The school never told me of the tauntings although my son, I later learned, had spoken to the guidance counselor about the bullying. This is not unusual. A 2005 Harris Interactive GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) found that 69% of junior and middle GLBT high school students report being assaulted or harassed in the previous year and nearly 1/3 said that the school staff did nothing to intervene. Alex’s teachers were more concerned with his homework, and managed to find the time to write notes to me about the tardiness of Alex’s assignments. Our son hated school, but then again, he didn’t even like nursery school. Could this non-compliance be teenage moodiness and rebellion? It’s hard for a parent to know.

By the time, he was in his freshman year in high school, his mood was beyond flirting with depression. He was depressed. The teasing continued, and even his new “troublemaker” girlfriends couldn’t protect him. Nowadays, if you are harassed at school and the educators don’t come to your rescue, you can have LAMBDA Legal, American Civil Liberties Union or Transgender Law Center on Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defender to assist you(Refer to my blogpost”When the Fail-Safes Fail at Your Child’s School,” September 7, 2011 at http: //

He went to the school nurse frequently, and got excused from class. Many GLBT students (one out of three) skip school at least one day a month to avoid facing the slurs of their tormentors. To combat this truancy as well as other social ills, GLSEN’s anti-bullying programs for all school grades, educators, communities, are getting the message out that harassment of any group is not to be tolerated. If your bullying is found to be a “hate crime,” you can be sentenced to prison, as in the case of former Rutgers University student, Dharun Ravi who spyed with a webcam on his gay roommate Tyler Clementi having sex and then sent the images virally. As a crime stopper, recently, an anonymous Cyber Bullying Reporting Service was launched by SchoolReach, an automated parent notification service used by public, private, and parochial schools throughout the United States.

These support groups were not around when I was coping. I wish they had been when I later found out the root of my son’s depression. I discovered in a letter what confirmed my fleeting thought a year earlier: he was, in fact, gay. He was not “out” to us, and may have been in denial to himself as well. I think he must have internalized the homophobia he experienced at school. His self-esteem was low. He was unhappy and had psychosomatic illnesses. For a while, he thought he had mono. He, divorcing himself from his father, younger sister, and I, would spend hours in his room with the door shut. It pained me to see him isolating himself. In the past, he had enjoyed family activities.

He consented to seeing a psychiatrist, but that doctor couldn’t read between the lines and was hoodwinked by my son who told this mental health expert that he wasn’t “gay.” He had “fallen through the cracks.” Wasn’t there anyone who could help? I, of course, was at wit’s end. How do you help someone who claims that “there is nothing wrong?” There was a Gay-Straight Alliance at his School, but as he confided in me years later, “If I joined, the kids would have have known for sure then that I was gay.”

Even with my lesbian grandmother who died in the late 6o’s, I felt as if I had no role model so I would stand in bookstores reading parenting books for advice. Most parenting-a-teen books had scant information on how to deal with issues raising a gay son. Of course, now there are many more books out on the subject such as Kevin Jennings’s (the former director of GLSEN)and social worker, Pat Shapiro, M.S.W.’s classic, Always My Child. A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Your Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans-Gendered or Questioning Son or Daughter.(Fireside Books: 2003) or the more recent Coming Out, Coming In. Nurturing the Well-Being and Inclusion of Gay Youth in Mainstream Society by school guidance counselor, Linda Goldman, Ms. (Routledge: 2008).

With teens in contemporary society “coming out” in middle or high school, there is definitely more openness and more publicity about the gay community. It used to be that gay and lesbian kids waited until after they were out of high school to tell Mom and Dad.

Because there was not this openness in our house, I felt ineffectual as a parent as I wasn’t much help to our son. Eventually, he stopped going to school altogether and choose to watch “The Price Is Right” in his pajamas. What a trajectory for a bright adolescent!

The next year, he transferred to another school in another town. He was no longer one of a few gay kids whose reputation preceded him at a new school. His outlook was better than the previous year. When he was old enough, he moved to California where there was a large gay population who embraced him. In the interim, we joined PFLAG (Parents for Lesbians and Gays) with nationwide chapters and learned how to deal with issues unique to raising GLBT kids.

But, strange as it seems, children are not just bullied at school. Parents can be the culprits, too. Hate begins at home. If teens aren’t respected and loved unconditionally despite their sexual orientation, they may take to the streets. Gay and lesbian youth on the street make up between 20 and 40 percent of the 1.6 million homeless and runaway teens according to some studies.

To make sure you are doing your due diligence at home, see tips on my blog “Parental Homework for Anti-Bullying Defenses,” and “Antibullying Tactics Begin at Home,” September 21, 2011.

I’m happy to say that our son never ran away from home. Time worked magic and now our son is happy and comfortable in his own skin. Sex columnist Dan Savage who conceived of the internet video, and now television program, “It Gets Better” is truly right.


Karrie, a mother of a young girl named Elise, and I connected over Twitter. Karrie was actually one of the very first people to help promote the Twitter, Facebook, and website for MyKindnessCounts. Karrie has encouraged and inspired me through her encouraging tweets, kind words, and her courageous battle against bullying for her daughter. With all that she and her daughter have been through, I thought her story might really resonate with other parents who are going through a similar situation with their own children. Thankfully, Karrie and Elise agreed to share there story with us. Before you read her story below, please watch the clip of Karrie and Elise being feature on a local news station:

In November of 2010, my daughter Elise started a long journey no child should ever have to take. It all started on the bus when a few older kids began teasing her. The teasing then led to one of the boys punching my daughter in the face, giving her a black eye. While we are still not sure why this happened, one theory is that this boy liked my daughter and was upset when she didn’t like him back.

Over the course of the next five months, Elise continued to be tormented on the bus. She was tripped, kicked, punched and shoved, and for each incident, I called the school to report what had happened. I was told by the school that these kids would have to sit in the front of the bus and if they tormented my daughter again, they would be kicked off the bus. This promise was not kept. Later in the school year, Elise’s chin was split open from being hit with a seat belt. The school nurse reported this incident to be an accident and told my daughter it was an accident as well. My daughter, terrified by what had happened, just went along with what the adult told her. Elise never rode the bus again that year and nothing was ever done to address the bullying behavior my daughter experienced.