Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



Chicago Public Schools principal fosters social justice, safe space for LGBTQ+ students
by Max Lubbers

This article shared 1671 times since Thu Nov 18, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

When Jas Thurmond became principal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Academy of Social Justice in 2016, the K-8 school had only recently been renamed. That was an important change, Thurmond said, but as she stepped into her new role, she had a goal: to actually live up to that name.

That's what she tries to achieve every day, she said. Now, in her 10th full year in education, about half of which were spent at King Academy, Thurmond is reflecting on what she's accomplished—and what culture she hopes to continue fostering.

"I am dreamy enough to believe that we can literally change the world, one student, one school, one community at a time," she said. "I'm so excited about where we're going in terms of social justice."

To put that into practice, Thurmond changed the way King Academy disciplined kids. Rather than punish children for manifestations of trauma, teachers and staff take a trauma-informed approach. In response, administration saw suspensions and infractions drop.

When Thurmond started, Chicago Public Schools identified King Academy as a Level 3 school on the School Quality Rating Policy, indicating it needed intensive support. When the school reached Level 1, she could hear shouts of joy through the hallways.

"There were people who had tears in their eyes," she said. "I had teachers who had worked here longer than I had been living, and the excitement that they had was incredible."

Thurmond and her team also implemented an annual Peace March and Rally, in which students march against bullying and violence. During the pandemic, the school created a social justice week in its place. She said these initiatives help children understand they can increase visibility around a cause they're passionate about.

Under her leadership, the school also offers a committee to emphasize students' voices and encourage them to advocate for themselves and their peers. They can have a real impact on school policy, she said.

"Oftentimes, Black kids from Englewood—they don't know their power, right?," Thurmond added. "When you know that your words and your collective impact has power, you can recognize anything is possible, so it's just really important to give kids that power early on."

Thurmond said she had her own journey toward finding her voice and confidence. Growing up, she said she didn't feel safe or confident enough to explore her sexual orientation until her first year of college. When she returned home, she didn't come out—instead, her mom outed her to herself.

"She told me, 'You've been hanging out with other lesbians and It seems like you're a lesbian, too.' I didn't say anything, and she said, 'Well, is it true?' And I started bawling," Thurmond said. "My mom said: 'I'm going to love you no matter what—you don't have to hide who you are for me. So wipe those tears away. There's nothing for you to be crying about.'"

That moment changed her life, Thurmond said, allowing her to feel more comfortable in her identity. But when she first entered education, she felt wary about being open. She wasn't exactly closeted, but she wasn't out, either.

Years into her career, she started working at Butler College Prep, where the principal was incredibly intentional about diversity, equity and inclusion. She said in that space, she felt incredibly supported in all her identities.

So when she became a principal herself, Thurmond wanted to create a positive, diverse atmosphere. Still, she worried that she may not be accepted.

"The parents and staff all saw that I was focused on the kids, and it's always about what's in the best interest of students," she explained. "Because of that, nothing else mattered. The very thing that caused me so much anxiety ended up not even being a factor anymore."

If anything, her lesbian identity has created a safer space, especially for LGBTQ+ students. That was never something she anticipated, but it feels incredibly good, she said.

Every student deserves to be unapologetically themselves, Thurmond said—and she will stay unapologetically Black, unapologetically lesbian and unapologetically herself, too.

"I know that for some kids, I'm their North Star. They've never known a Black woman who is out as a lesbian and is a profession that is relatable to them, who also has street cred in the community," she added. "It means the world to me."

This article shared 1671 times since Thu Nov 18, 2021
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Gay News

Kentucky lawmakers pass anti-trans youth bill; governor plans to veto measure
In Kentucky, Republican lawmakers passed a bill that bans minors from receiving gender-affirming care, lets educators refuse to refer to trans students by their preferred pronouns and would not allow schools to discuss sexual orientation or ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Folx Health, gay mayor arrested, powerlifter's suit, Versace visit
Boston-based Folx Health—which provides primary healthcare services and gender-affirming healthcare to LGBTQIA people—made Fast Company's list of the world's 50 most innovative businesses. A few of the other healthcare companies ...

Gay News

Center on Halsted presents annual Intergenerational Talent Show
On March 2, Center on Halsted hosted its Fifth Annual Intergenerational Talent Show, featuring performances from participants from the Youth and Family Services and the Senior Services programs. Participants in the free event presented a program ...

Gay News

LGBTQ+ groups criticize Tenn. bill that bans access to medical care for trans youth
--From a press release - NASHVILLE — On March 2, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed into law HB1/SB1, a bill that prohibits transgender-related healthcare in Tennessee for people under the age of 18. The bill is set to take effect on ...

Gay News

Elections 2023: Rosanna Rodriguez Sanchez vies for second term representing the 33rd Ward
This is part of a series of interviews Windy City Times is running on LGBTQ+ candidates in the 2023 municipal elections taking place Feb. 28. Youth educator and activist Rosanna Rodriguez Sanchez is seeking her second ...

Gay News

Adler president reflects on being out in academia
Adler University President Raymond Crossman admits that leaders in higher education sometimes feel that they have to act as robots. "We always have to give the right answer, and not offend anybody—because you don't want to ...

Gay News

More LGBTQ PoC report barriers to academic achievement than white LGBTQ peers
--From a Williams Institute press release - A new study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, conducted in collaboration with the Point Foundation, the nation's largest LGBTQ scholarship nonprofit, finds more than twice as many LGBTQ POC as white LGBTQ ...

Gay News

Queer songwriter donates $500K to Chicago Academy for the Arts
Returning to the school that they said saved their life years ago and set them on a path to becoming one of the most celebrated activists and songwriters of the modern era, it was announced Feb. ...

Gay News

HRC on SOTU: Biden's support of trans youth highlights anti-trans legislative attacks
--From a press release - WASHINGTON — In tonight's State of the Union address, President Joe Biden made a point to defend transgender and non-binary youth from the wave of attacks they're facing, saying "Let's also pass the bipartisan Equality Act ...

Gay News

LGBT poverty dropped to 17% during the COVID-19 pandemic
--From a press release - Economic well-being increased most among LGBT people of color and in households with children A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds a dramatic decrease in the number of LGBT and ...

Gay News

ELECTIONS 2023: 49th Ward challenger Belia Rodriguez on why running, differences from incumbent
This is part of a series of interviews Windy City Times is running on LGBTQ+ candidates in the 2023 municipal elections taking place Feb. 28. Belia Rodriguez is a lifelong Chicagoan who attended Chicago Public Schools. ...

Gay News

PASSAGES Gene R. Matterer
Gene R. Matterer died on Jan. 16, 2023 of cancer, according to his family. He was 82 years old. Matterer was born on Feb. 17, 1940. Following his school days in Crystal Lake, Illinois, he enlisted ...

Gay News

Billy Porter discusses his fashion choices, personal ambitions
Billy Porter—the Tony, Emmy and Grammy winner—needs no introduction—especially to the many fans of his character Pray Tell on Ryan Murphy's hit TV series Pose. Coming up exclusively in theaters Feb. 3, Porter will star as ...

Gay News

One in five older LGBT adults experienced poverty during the COVID-19 pandemic
--From a press release - A new report from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found that during the COVID-19 pandemic LGBT adults aged 50 and older were more likely to have household incomes below the federal poverty level ...

Gay News

Howard Brown strike reaches third day
Amid layoffs of 60 unionized and four non-union staffers at multiple Howard Brown Health (Howard Brown), Broadway Youth Center and Brown Elephant locations across Chicago, over 400 HBH Workers United non-nurse members represented by the Illinois ...


Copyright © 2023 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.