The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club Tuesday night endorsed gay rights and Ward 8 civic activist Phil Pannell for a seat on the D.C. State Board of Education for Ward 8 in the city’s April 26 special election.
The club made the endorsement following a forum in which candidates running for the Ward 8 and Ward 4 school board seats spoke to club members on a wide range of issues, including issues related to LGBT youth.
“I’m honored and humbled,” Pannell said following the endorsement vote. “This is an endorsement that I really wanted and that I really need. And I think it’s important for people to know in this city that there are those of us in the LGBT community who put public education at the top of our agendas.”
Pannell, a longtime member of the Stein Club, received 62.5 percent of the votes cast, bringing him over the 60 percent vote threshold required for an endorsement under the club’s rules. His closest rival was D.C. civic activist and LGBT rights supporter Eugene Kinlow, who received 34 percent of the vote.
Ward 8 candidate Sandra Williams received 3 percent and the remaining three Ward 8 candidates attending the forum – Tijwanna Phillips, Larry Pretlow II, and Cardell Shelton – did not receive any votes.
Three other candidates running in the nine-candidate Ward 8 race – Trayon White, R. Joyce Scott, and Anthony Muhammad – did not attend the forum.
In the Ward 4 race, none of the four candidates participating in the Stein Club forum received 60 percent of the vote, preventing the club from making an endorsement in that contest. Ward 4 educator An Almquist came close, capturing 54.5 percent of the vote in a second ballot runoff against Ward 4 activist D. Kamili Anderson, who received 39.3 percent of the vote. The other two Ward 4 candidates who participated in the forum were Andrew Moss and Bill Quirk.
Adam Tenner, executive director of the local group Metro Teen AIDS, served as moderator for the forum. Among the questions he asked was how the candidates would address the D.C. public school system’s high drop-out rate, which Tenner said was believed to be high among LGBT students. He also asked about HIV prevention programs, including condom distribution in the schools.
Pannell said school bullying and harassment of LGBT students was a contributing factor in students’ decision to drop out of school. He said many students, including LGBT students, regularly fail to attend school, contributing to what he called an unacceptably high truancy rate in the school system.
“So many of our LGBTQ students find that the school experience isn’t working for them,” he said.
In addition to improving programs aimed at curtailing bullying, Pannell said he would push for allowing students to form LGBT-related student organizations and for encouraging them to serve as volunteers for LGBT-related organizations in the city such as the Whitman-Walker Clinic and Us Helping Us.
Each of the other candidates participating in the forum also promised to provide support in varying ways to LGBT students in the city’s schools.
Pannell and the other candidates expressed support for age appropriate HIV prevention and sex education programs. All of the candidates said they would restrict condom distribution in the schools to parental consent.