After the San Antonio Independent School District’s chief communications officer asked district principals to avoid highlighting National Coming Out Day, SAISD made moves to officially establish the day as a district holiday.
At a Monday meeting, communications staff told SAISD board members that they were working on drafting a district holiday calendar and would be giving that to the governance committee and advisory committees to review before bringing it back to the board for approval. No timeline was provided on Monday for when the board could formally adopt the calendar.
Superintendent Pedro Martinez maintained that this action did not come as a response to backlash to an email sent out by SAISD Chief Communications Officer Vanessa Barry earlier in October. In that email, Barry asked principals to refrain from posting items about National Coming Out Day on school social media, organizing events, creating related lessons for students, distributing related swag or promotional items, or hosting team meetings on the subject.
National Coming Out Day is celebrated each year on Oct. 11, as a way to commemorate the anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
Martinez told board members that the district holiday calendar was a project set for November already, prior to media reports about National Coming Out Day celebrations being discouraged at SAISD schools.
“To Vanessa’s credit, she recognized that we didn’t have a formal process to recognize multiple dates,” Martinez said. “And so different schools were doing different things. We wanted to have a consistent calendar that we can also help support schools with because otherwise different schools are recognizing different events, and then if you have a child at multiple schools, you say, ‘Well one school is recognizing this but not the other school.’ This was just a way of formalizing it.”
Trustee Steve Lecholop said he was supportive of “the intent” behind adding more inclusive holidays but expressed some hesitation at expanding the district holiday calendar.
“My fear here is not about being inclusive or equipping our staff members to do whatever mentioned, which is to love our kids as they are,” he said. “It’s that we publish a list and then a whole lot of ‘what abouts’ start happening. And the list we publish ends up being interpreted as intentionally excluding certain groups of folks [whom] we most definitely did not intend to exclude, but it appears that way. And so we are coming back then, month after month, adding new groups and new dates to the rule and eventually we have a 1,000-page list of groups.”
Board Secretary Debra Guerrero pointed out that there are many “days” that aren’t recognized, but the process of adding holidays like National Coming Out Day to the district calendar is an attempt at showing that “equity exists for everybody.”
“I think the important thing is that there not be a discouragement of any kind of recognition,” she said.
“I think the idea is, let’s learn from what happened last week but more importantly, let’s reaffirm … what we believe in for our students. That’s the bottom line, as far as I’m concerned, today.”