Local New York educator to receive NEA Human and Civil Rights Award
WASHINGTON - June 24, 2009 -
Mary Jane Karger, a retired social worker with 31 years of experience in the Carmel Central School District in Patterson, N.Y., is being honored with a Human and Civil Rights Award from the National Education Association. NEA is honoring Karger for her work over the last decade to make sure the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students in Patterson’s public schools are safe and treated with understanding and equity.
Karger will receive NEA’s Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights as part of the Association’s 43rd Annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner on July 2 in San Diego, Calif.
Her years of work at the elementary and high school levels, counseling regular and special education students and their parents, serving on a school board, advising community groups, chairing social services organizations and volunteering since 1997 at the chapter and national level of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) prepared Karger well to champion gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) youth and address the concerns of parents.
“Mary Jane Karger is an outstanding individual who has taken Herculean steps in creating an environment where individuals and their families can have open, fearless conversations about their sexual orientation,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “How GLBT Americans fit into society is a debate that continues. But Mary Jane Karger has worked tirelessly to make sure that debate doesn’t threaten the safety or marginalize the educational opportunities of gay and lesbian students.”
Among her earliest efforts to provide acceptance and safety for GLBT students, and support for their parents, Karger co-founded a conference where young people and adults could share their experiences and openly discuss gender issues.
PrideWorks provides information and support to those who educate and care for the youth of Westchester County so that schools and communities will be safe and affirming for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Karger presents workshops for education personnel, parents and students. She also advises schools in developing safe and inclusive environments for GLBT students.
Her advocacy work started 13 years ago in 1996 when her son openly announced his sexual orientation. “We had no understanding of what it really meant to be gay,” said Karger. “Everything I had known about being gay was vague and negative. Since I knew our son was a wonderful person, I knew I had to learn about his sexual orientation.”
NEA’s Uribe Award was established in 1984 to promote the appreciation for diversity among the gay and lesbian community, as well as recognize the contributions of leaders who demonstrate creativity in improving the conditions and opportunities for gay and lesbian people.
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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing
3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals,
school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.
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