Teaching Tolerance in New York City Schools

Christine Quinn is the current Speaker of the New York City Council, one of the most powerful positions in city government after the Mayor. Quinn is the first female and first openly gay person to serve as speaker, which is a position that was created in 1990 as result of a revision in the city charter. Quinn was elected to the city council in 1999. After serving on the city council for almost seven years, she was elected city council speaker in January 2006. Quinn entered politics to manage the city council campaign of Thomas Duane in 1991, after which she served as Duane's Chief of Staff for five years. Quinn later became the Executive Director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project and was appointed a member of the NYC Police/Community Relations Task Force by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

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TRANSCRIPT

Question: What can be to done to better fight homophobia in New York? 

Christine Quinn:  Well, you know, we are in a place we’d rather not be at right now in 2010 where we’re seeing anti-LGBT hate crimes occurring at a much higher number than they did last year.  And often they seem exceedingly violent and with multiple perpetrators attacking fewer victims and something singular victims.  That’s something I thought, we had all thought was behind us.  That level of violence. 

Now why this is happening?  I wish I knew the answer because if I had the answer, I could solve the problem.  What I know is, is that if this level of violence is happening against the LGBT community—or any community in New York—it means we are not doing enough and it means that we need to do more and that’s what we're taking upon ourselves to do. 

We had already put in place last year a "Respect for All" curriculum and week in our New York City Public Schools we’re expanding that through more teacher training and more curriculum development.  A week or so ago we convened a meeting with the presidents of all of the colleges in New York City to talk to them about how we can expand our efforts toward acceptance and tolerance and reduction of bullying on college campuses and also what more college presidents can do to prevent suicide on their campuses.  And in New York City, since a lot of our colleges are a part of our City University of New York, there are more commuter colleges than residence colleges, and that’s a totally different model that needs to be put in place. 

We also as a response... in response to this recent rash of hate crimes have put out a—and kind of turned it around almost immediately—a city-wide public service campaign against anti-LGBT hate crimes and towards acceptance and tolerance.  So we just need to keep working at it because it’s the kind of thing that is obviously just unacceptable and if we’re going to honor in any way the memory of those young men who took their lives, we have to do it by making sure our city becomes an even more accepting place.

Recorded on October 28, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont

Directed & Produced by Jonathan Fowler


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