2024 April Newsletter

Spring has sprung and we're hopping with energy...

Emilly Osterling [NC] & C. Scott Miller [CA]

We hope you are doing well and counting the days down to spring break. The NEA LGBTQ+ Caucus has been busy advocating on behalf of members and students.

The Caucus Steering committee has been collaborating with NEA on the 2024 election. We received an update from Katrina Mendiola on the political landscape and polling data that NEA is using to better inform members about what is planned for member engagement. The stakes couldn’t be any higher with the rhetoric and misinformation swirling out of control in our country. Democracy as we understand it is what is at center stage. This same presentation was shared with Caucus members at our March 21 Quarterly meeting. Your Zone Directors also presented their engagement plans at this meeting. With over 400 anti-LGBTQ+ bills making their way through State Legislatures, now is the time for victory this November. The Caucus will launch our collaborative efforts at the NEA-RA this summer in Philadelphia. In addition, Caucus Officers have had and are continuing with quarterly meetings with Becky Pringle and joint quarterly meetings with the Center for Racial & Social Justice and the NEA SOGI Committee. We are seeing, firsthand, the positive effects that NBI #1 is having within NEA.

We are happy to announce that the I’m HERE badge program is thriving. We have distributed over 115,000 badges throughout the US, Canada, Norway, and Finland. We are receiving positive comments about how the I’m Here badges have made impactful school culture shifts, fostered inclusivity, and even saved lives. We are thrilled that Caucus members have carried the badges’ message to so many!

The NEA-RA planning is in the works. We will update members in the May/June newsletter. Please save the following dates so that you can plan your trip to Philadelphia: Ichabod Crane Debating Society Reception on July 3, 2024, and the Robert Birle Memorial Dinner on July 6, 2024. We hope to see everyone at both events.

Our fourth LGBTQ+ Leadership and Social Justice Conference is scheduled for April 11-13, 2025. Our planning efforts are underway to provide an outstanding and meaningful experience in Las Vegas. State leaders will receive more information regarding the conference in May. We hope that you will be in attendance!

We recognize that there is still much work to be done to create a world where LGBTQ+ individuals are fully embraced and celebrated without fear of discrimination or prejudice.  By coming together as a community and championing diversity in all its forms, we can move closer to that vision of a more just and inclusive society.

So, whether you identify as LGBTQ+ yourself, are an ally, or simply someone who believes in the power of diversity, we invite you to join us on this journey. Together, let's celebrate the beauty of LGBTQ+ identities and continue to build a world where everyone can live authentically and without fear.

With Pride,
C. Scott Miller & Emilly Osterling
NEA LGBTQ+ Caucus Co-Chairs

From the Desk of the Treasurer

David Fernkopf [KS]

Your Support Drives Our Impact!

As we navigate through the vibrant tapestry of the NEA-LGBTQ+ Caucus, it's essential to recognize the cornerstone of our collective strength: you. With your unwavering support and active participation, we can continue our vital work advocating for LGBTQ+ rights within the National Education Association (NEA) and beyond.

First and foremost, let's dispel a common misconception: NEA funds our operations. False, In reality, it's your memberships and contributions that power our initiatives, events, and advocacy efforts. Without your support, we simply cannot sustain the impactful work we do.

We want to take a moment to emphasize the importance of renewing your membership with the NEA-LGBTQ+ Caucus. By renewing, you not only reaffirm your commitment to our cause but also ensure that we have the resources needed to advance LGBTQ+ rights in education and society.

As a reminder, the NEA-LGBTQ+ Caucus offers five different levels of membership to cater to diverse needs and circumstances:

Active: Available to NEA members, staff, retired, and life members. Enjoy full voting rights and receive newsletters, informational emails, and mailings.

Active ESP: Tailored for NEA members, staff, retired, and life members who are education support professionals. Benefit from full voting rights and receive newsletters, informational emails, and mailings.

Associate: Ideal for NEA members who want to show their support for the caucus. While there are no voting rights, associates receive newsletters, informational emails, and mailings.

Student/Retired: Designed for NEA Aspiring Educator members or retired educators. Enjoy full voting rights and stay updated with newsletters, informational emails, and mailings.

Active/Married/Domestic Partner/Civil Union: Specifically for NEA members, staff, retired, and life members residing at the same address. Full voting rights are granted to NEA members only, and one household receives newsletters, informational emails, and mailings.

Foundation Levels (various):  This gives members all the benefits of Active membership while also providing more monetary support/donations for the work being done by the caucus.

Moreover, we have an exciting offer for those who renew their membership through July 2025. Your early renewal not only ensures continuous support but also demonstrates your dedication to our cause for the year to come.

Together, we can create a more inclusive and affirming educational environment for LGBTQ+ individuals and communities. Your membership renewal is not just a formality; it's a powerful statement of solidarity and commitment to equality.

Renew your membership today and stand with us as we strive for progress and representation within the NEA and the broader educational landscape.

Thank you for your ongoing support and dedication.

In Unity & Pride,
David Fernkopf, Treasurer, NEA LGBTQ+ Caucus

Call for Stories on LGBTQ+ Policies in K-12 Schools

GLSEN, a national non-profit working to improve inclusive learning environments in K-12 school settings, is seeking testimonials that speak to the LGBTQ+ student experience. Current or former students (both LGBTQ+ and ally students), parents, teachers, and other interested parties are welcome to share their direct stories about how school policies can positively or negatively impact the well-being of K-12 students. Please complete this interest form and/or reach out to policy@glsen.org if you are interested in sharing your personal experience with the GLSEN team!


From the Desk of the Secretary

Sonia Martin-Solis [CA]

Spring has sprung! We are nearing the end of the school year, and we are getting ready to do the many things we do for ourselves to recharge and to get inspired to continue doing the work we do. I hope that our members were successful in their elections to the positions you ran for.

Speaking of elections, I look forward to seeing everyone who will be a delegate to this year’s Representative Assembly in Philadelphia, PA.  Don’t forget that we will have our caucus meetings, Ichabod Crane Reception, and Robert Birle Memorial Dinner, where we can come together while at the RA.

Caucus Elections will be taking place at the RA. The Female/Non-Binary Co-Chair and Secretary Officer positions are open for nomination. Please look at the flyer in this newsletter for more details. The positions of the 4 Female/Non-Binary Zone directors will open for nominations on April 15th as well. Please note that these elections (if contested) will take place on July 6th, 2025.  Following last year’s example, the elections will be held electronically and everyone who has renewed their membership by the required deadline, will receive a ballot in the email they provided when they renewed their membership.

MEMBERSHIP is now open for renewal. Anyone wishing to renew their membership for the 2024-2025 school year can do so now! Consider renewing your membership early so that we can have your materials ready for you to pick up at the RA. If you are not attending this year’s RA, the caucus will mail you your membership materials from Philadelphia at the close of the RA.

Finally, I wanted to thank all of our members who have been so amazing during our Rainbow Series and our General membership meetings. It has been amazing to see how many people have participated in these events. We have another Rainbow Series coming up soon.  If you have not yet signed up to participate, take a moment to register with the QR Code or registration link found here in the newsletter.

In our General Membership meetings we look forward to receiving information from our NEA staff and other partners, but we also look forward to hearing about those things going on with our members, in their locals and in their states. The Zone Directors are eager to work with all members in their zone or simply share information of those things that are going on within their zones:  the good, the bad, and the ridiculous. Remember that we are as strong as we choose to be. The more involved our members are, the better informed we are to fight the bigger battles.

Happy Spring and may the end of the school year be filled with more achievements than you had planned.

In Unity & Pride,
Sonia Martin-Solis, Secretary, NEA LGBTQ+ Caucus

Outreach Director

Sarah “Mili” Milianta-Laffin [HI]

Happy Spring! The joy of this season to me is that we’re moving ever closer to being together again soon at the NEA Representative Assembly! Thank you to all who joined us for the March Informational Meeting, where we learned a lot about NEA’s plans for the election season. If you haven’t already downloaded the NEA’s “EdActivist” app, please check it out. If you’re like me and you’re experiencing some election anxiety, this app is a one-stop-shop of ways that you can help public education causes. https://educationvotes.nea.org/take-action/be-an-edactivist/

I want to congratulate NEA’s Asian and Pacific Islander Caucus on their fabulous conference that was held on March 27-30, 2024 in Hilo, HI. From everything I saw on social media, and heard from attendees, it was a great event. Please know, your caucus steering committee made sure they had flyers and information about our caucus at the event too.

Next up, the NEA Hispanic Caucus Leadership Conference will be in Phoenix, AZ from April 19-21, 2024. Registration has now closed, but they have been known to make exceptions for late enrollment, so it never hurts to ask! https://nea-hispanic-caucus.square.site/ If you’re attending this conference, my “Outreach Director” favor I’m asking is that you please be on the lookout for presenters or sessions that might be great for our LGBTQ+ Leadership Conference in 2025. If you find the perfect session or presenter, please let me or our Steering Committee know so that we can reach out on the Caucus’s behalf.

Finally, those of you who know me know that for the last decade, I’ve sponsored my school’s GSA Club. In the 90s, we called these clubs “Gay Straight Alliances'' but the modern name for these clubs is “Genders & Sexualities Alliance” Clubs. On April 12, GLSEN is hosting its annual “Day of Silence '' where teachers and students spend the day in school silent to show the erasure of LGBTQ+ students in schools, and curriculum. However, in this political climate, there’s a twist. GLSEN is calling for a “Day of NO Silence.” On that link, you can find opportunities for action, lesson plans, and more. Use this link to register and receive some special discounts on merch. https://act.glsen.org/a/dayofnosilence-2024

All The Best,
Mili, Outreach Director, NEA LGBTQ+ Caucus


Jennifer Rokasky [VA] & Tony Martinet [VA]

We hope that everyone is doing well, and that you had or are about to have a great Spring Break rest. Your Co-Directors have been working to try and connect with as many of you as possible. JRo recently attended the Delaware State Education Association’s Convention and hosted a NEA LGBTQ+ Caucus table. Thank you to all the members who stopped by to learn more about the work of the caucus. If you would like us to come to your state delegation or have caucus materials sent please let us know.

Zone 1 also held a meeting on March 7th, where we discussed ideas about engaging the people in our social networks in preparation for the upcoming election season. This will be an important election for setting the policy agenda for the next few years. We were excited to hear that many of our members have strong organizing and training support from their state affiliates. If you feel disconnected or need more support, please let us know, so we can support you.

Looking ahead for the rest of the school year and the summer, we hope that many of you will be delegates to the NEA RA. If so, we hope to connect with you in-person. For those still in school during the month of June, share with us what you are able and planning to do to celebrate Pride month with students and staff. Check out GLSEN’s Educator Resources for ideas and materials.

Caucus Engagement Opportunities

Rainbow Series Zone1 is hosting the April 18th Rainbow Series. Join us with Drag Queen Stormi Skye, Drag King Jackson B. Nite, and Freestate Justice at 7:30 pm eastern to discuss Drag is an Art Form.

Give Your Thoughts

Do you know something or someone we should highlight for our fellow caucus members? Did you want to connect more with the caucus or have ideas or thoughts about how the caucus can support our members more? Email your Zone 1 Co-chairs at zone1@nea-lgbtqc.org

JRo & Tony


Kristel Behrend [NC] & Darell Crawford [TN]

It’s School Library Month and your librarians need your support more than ever. They are busy fighting for their profession, ensuring equitable access, defending the constitution, and protecting your right to privacy. They’re also teaching lessons, curating resources, integrating technology, and building inclusive collections.

The American Library Association was one of the first professional organizations with a LGBTQ+ specific committee focusing on queer rights; it was a queer librarian, Michael McConnell, who helped found it following the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. Libraries have since transformed into sanctuaries for LGBTQ+ youth, a far cry from the days of the “Lies in the Library'' when most LGBTQ+ materials in the library had negative portrayals and misinformation. It was librarian activists who convinced publishers that there was a market for positive LGBTQ+ materials. It was librarian activists who fought for their patrons’ right to privacy so that patrons could safely explore “closet” topics.  It is librarian activists who are defending the first amendment today. Despite the current censorship trend, libraries continue to have strong LGBTQ+ representation. Your librarians aren’t backing down from this ongoing war for information control.

One issue with school librarianship is that people often base their opinion of the entire profession on their experience with one librarian. If that librarian doesn’t meet expectations, people often want to throw out the entire library program or staff it with someone who is not qualified. Imagine if we replaced every substandard teacher or counselor or administrator with someone who would accept half of the pay. That is exactly what is happening in some school libraries across the nation. 

Librarians have become the scapegoat for an extreme political movement to destroy public education. They are public programs, intent on making sure everyone feels safe and is represented, where all services are free and support learning, literacy and emotional well being, yet they’ve been twisted into nefarious grounds for grooming liberals.  Libraries are, indeed, the antithesis of capitalism, yet every type of person goes through periods of needing free services, support, and materials. Free means free for all, and libraries still welcome everyone.

Take a minute to support your school librarian this month. There are so many easy things to do. Your school librarians will continue supporting LGBTQ+ kids as GSA advisors, by providing a safe haven on the upcoming Day of Silence, by buying books with LGBTQ+ representation or curating PRIDE displays. In many of our Southern states, this support may mean they are putting their jobs on the line, and they willingly do it every day.

School Librarian Day: April 4th

  1. Write a sticky note thank you
  2. Check out a book
  3. Nominate a stellar librarian
  4. Gift your librarian with an “I’m Here” badge - every librarian should have one.

National Library Week: April 7-13

Display created by the Knightdale High School GSA in collaboration with their school librarians.


Kristel & Darell


Stacy Schmidt [IA] & Frank Burger [MI]
NEA Leadership Summit

We would like to thank everyone who attended our training session at the NEA Leadership Summit. For those who couldn’t be in attendance, our session was titled: Out Educators: A Must in Creating Safe Schools for All Students.  In our session, participants were given the opportunity to dialogue with each other and learn about how to make sure that LGBTQ+ Educators can create safe working environments to ensure that school is safe for all members and students. We are pleased to report that we trained over 40 people in our session at the Summit. 

Zone 3 Membership Meeting

We would also like to thank everyone who attended our Zone 3 membership meeting on February 8. At this meeting we were able to share updates with caucus members about the caucus and to allow members to network with each other about what is happening in their respective states. We plan to have another meeting before the end of the school year. Please watch your email and our Zone 3 Facebook page for more information about our next membership meeting.

Zone 3 - 2024 Election

As you all know, the 2024 election is right around the corner, and this election is critical for our community as we move forward. Your Zone Directors have been busy working on a plan with the leadership of the caucus to make sure that we are successful this November from Local School Board races to State House and Senate races, to US House and Senate races, and the President of the United States. We have several plans that we will be sharing with members over the course of the next several months on how you can get involved to make sure we are successful in protecting and expanding our rights as educators, union members, and LGBTQ+ citizens. 

Zone 3 - Survey

Your Zone 3 directors are seeking your input on how we can better serve you in our Zone. We ask that you complete this survey no later than April 30. Please click the link below to complete the survey: Zone 3 Survey

Stacy & Frank


Elise Sotello [CA] & Joe Bento [WA]

Hey everyone! Spring is here! I want to express my deep appreciation for your ongoing support. I’m Joe Bento, a teacher and IB Career Program Coordinator from Kent, Washington. Additionally, I proudly serve as the Co-Director of the NEA LGBTQ+ Caucus for Zone 4, alongside my amazing colleague Elise from California.

Not only do I serve on the steering committee of the NEA LGBTQ+ Caucus, I am also the Co-Chair of the WEA LGBTQ Caucus (www.wea-lgbtq.org)

If you are a member of the WEA-LGBTQ+ Caucus, they are hosting a virtual Pre-RA Meeting on Monday, April 8, 2024 at 6 PM. If you are a past or present member of the WEA- LGBTQ+ Caucus, we’d love to have you join!

WEA RA is April 11-13. What are you doing to bring concerns from our Caucus to the floor of your State Representative Assemblies? There is power in having a collective voice when it comes to the issues of our Caucus—so make your voice heard!

Are you allowed to sell memberships to our Caucus at your State RA? If you are interested in doing so, please reach out and we’ll let you know how you can help!

Does your State hold an annual LGBTQ+ Conference for Educators? If so, what does it look like? Does your State or Local Association Host it? Or does another community partner put on the Conference? Let us know! We are curious about what the different states do when it comes to a statewide LGBTQ+ Educator Conference.

Feel free to reach out to me via email if you have any questions, comments, or concerns—I am here to support you. As the Zone 4 Co-Director, I’m also interested in connecting with State LGBTQ+ Caucus leaders. Let’s discuss what’s happening in each of our states within Zone 4.

Our goal is to expand our caucus’s membership in our zone, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch and let me know how I can assist in growing your state’s membership.

Thanks for being supportive and for your dedication to our students. Wishing you a fantastic spring.

Joe Bento

Happy Spring to All! I hope if you’ve observed your Spring Break, you were able to rest and recharge and if you haven’t, I hope your break is enjoyable and relaxing.

Recently, I had the privilege of attending a Two Spirit-Xochipilli Ceremony, held March 29-31 and located on 12 acres on the Tule River, about an hour and a half from my home in Bakersfield, California. According to the welcome packet sent after registration, “Two Spirit is a contemporary term used to describe indigenous people who assume cross or multiple gender roles, attributes, dress, and attitudes for personal, spiritual, cultural, ceremonial, or social reasons. These roles are defined by each cultural group and can be fluid over a person’s lifetime. Some people use the word indigiqueer or titles/identities in their own language(s).”

Two years ago when I asked organizer Xico Xavier Garza for more information about the ceremony, thinking he would give me the basics that I could share with others, I was surprised when he invited me to attend. Because although I am Queer, I am not indigenous or Two Spirit. He explained to me that all are welcome, and later he would share a story about being humiliated at a powwow in the Bay Area after identifying as Two Spirit and never wanted anyone else to feel the way he did that day.

When I attended two years ago, I helped in the outdoor kitchen a bit but I was mostly there as a spectator. This year, I threw myself into being of service and it was very rewarding. The welcome letter to registrants encourages people who are not Two Spirit or Indigenous to “offset labor with allyship by volunteering.”

When not helping with check-in and registration and assisting the kitchen crew, I did participate in an inter-generational talking circle and walked in the procession that began off the property and ended in the dancing circle. This year there was a statue of Aztec god Xochipilli, which translates from Nahuatl as “flower prince,” in the middle of the circle. I(I learned from my research that the statue is a replica of a 500-year-old one unearthed in Mexico in the mid 1800s.) The procession is a beautiful sight to behold as it features many Two Spirit and other Indigenous people in their different tribal regalia. Those without indigenous attire are asked to wear white clothing with a red sash or red bandana rather than street clothing in order to preserve the solemnity of the ceremony.

Other events included a nature walk guided by an expert on the flora and fauna of the area and a temezcalli (Mexica sweat lodge) that was exclusive to those who identify as Two Spirit.

There were about 200 people who attended at least part of if not all of this year’s event. Xico said that registration was full after only three days of being open. If you would like to attend a Two Spirit event in your area, make sure you check with organizers first. Although this one was open to all to register, others are exclusive to Two Spirit and their immediate family members and/or partners.

If you’d like to learn more about my experience attending the ceremony, please send me a message. I’d be happy to share. Also, if you are attending NEA’s invitation-only “Speak Up! Speak Out!: LGBTQ+ Educator Voice Engagement” in Phoenix April 13-14, please seek me out. I’d love to meet you.

Elise Sotello