Brookline resident Susan Rees was sworn in for her fifth term on the Massachusetts Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Youth on Tuesday at the Massachusetts State House, in a ceremony with Senate President Stan Rosenberg and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders to recognize the Commission’s twenty-fifth anniversary.
Governor William Weld swore in the first members of what was then the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth in June of 1992, in response to high suicide rates among LGBTQ young people. Today, the Commission remains the first and only entity of its kind in the country.
Rees joined the Commission in 2009 as a representative of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. She currently chairs the Commission’s Safe Schools Committee, which provides strategic direction for the Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students. The Program, a joint initiative of the Commission and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), provides training, technical assistance, and student leadership development opportunities related to school climate and nondiscrimination.
“I am proud of the work that the Commission and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education have accomplished in the past several years,” said Rees. “Successes range from the Board of Education’s approval of Principles for Ensuring Safe and Supportive Learning Environments for LGBTQ students to the implementation of nondiscrimination laws in hundreds of schools throughout the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, much work remains to reduce bullying, suicidality, truancy, and discipline disparities so that LGBTQ students reach their full potential.”
Rees noted that promising new initiatives at ESE include model curriculum units to integrate LGBTQ content into the classroom, in response to student requests to see themselves reflected more fully at school.
Rees brings her background of more than 30 years in public education to her work on the Commission, with a focus on diverse learning needs.
“Susan’s work is nothing short of inspiring,” said Representative Frank Smizik (D-15th Norfolk). “Not only has she dedicated years to advancing the safety and inclusion of marginalized students in our public education system, but she carries out her work in the best way possible: by listening to students and taking action to ensure their needs are met. Our Commonwealth is lucky to have such a devoted and humble advocate who will keep working until all LGBTQ students feel empowered in our schools.”
“As the mother of a gay child, I saw the positive impact that joining a GSA and attending a school with a welcoming and inclusive environment can have,” said Rees, whose son attended Brookline High School in the mid-1990s. “I wanted to help other communities across the state offer similar opportunities to LGBTQ students.”
Rees joins fellow Brookline resident Allen Lin, currently halfway through a two-year term, on the Commission.