National PTA adopts Burbank-led efforts for meaningful homework and LGBTQ student inclusiveness

A tutor helps a high school student with her geometry homework.

A tutor helps a high school student with her geometry homework.

(Roger Wilson / Staff Photographer)

Two conversations that began years ago among small groups of Burbank parents may now ignite similar conversations among many more parents in other cities, following the recent passage of two resolutions that were created by Burbank PTA members and approved during the 2016 National PTA convention recently in Orlando, Fla.

The first one, called “Homework: Quality over Quantity,” pushes for more meaningful homework instead of a lot of it. It was drafted initially by John Burroughs High School parents Suzanne Weerts and Tina McDermott, who surveyed fellow parents and found that homework caused stress and tension in many homes.

The resolution was passed by the California PTA in 2014.

For Weerts, its passage at the national level demonstrates “the power of advocacy and that parents have a voice,” she said in an email.

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“Parents and their families [and] children shouldn’t suffer any longer if the homework [assigned to their] children isn’t relevant or is too difficult for the student to do on their own or takes far too long and impacts the child’s emotional well-being negatively,” she added.

McDermott said she hopes other parents will use the resolution as a supportive tool if they are looking to advocate for homework policies in their own school districts.

“It sends a message to the educational community that it’s time to rethink some of these practices and do what’s best for children,” McDermott said.

It sends a message to the educational community that it’s time to rethink some of these practices and do what’s best for children.

— Tina McDermott

The second resolution passed at the national PTA convention, titled “Recognition of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) Individuals as a Protected Class,” was developed, in part, after an initiative by Burbank parents and students as well as parents in other states who advocated for LGBTQ students’ inclusiveness.

In 2015, the California PTA passed LGBTQ+ Inclusiveness in Health Education.

The parents wrote the resolution after Burroughs student Brian Kaplun advocated for sexual health education and learning materials acknowledging lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender students and those who are exploring their sexual identity.

Portions of the national resolution are nearly word-for-word compared to the one thelocal parents created, said Steve Frintner, president of the Burbank Council PTA.

In one paragraph, the resolution gives the National PTA the charge to “seek and support legislation that creates a safe, supportive and accepting environment in schools, specifically with training for educators and other school-related professionals to support all students.”

It also encourages states to adopt medically-accurate and culturally sensitive information into schools’ health curriculum.

Frintner said two years have gone by since parents first discussed what they could do to help LGBTQ youth.

He said he’s proud the resolution passed and hopeful other parents can refer to it when advocating for curriculum changes in their own school districts.

“Our school board has been pretty supportive already and been working toward possible changes in the curriculum,” he said. “We’re already a little bit ahead of the game. I think other PTAs around the state and country now can use this as further evidence.”

Fellow parent Barbara Miller worked on the resolution with Frintner.

“Hopefully, this will be one more step to make schools across the country safe, inclusive and supportive learning environments for every child,” Miller said.

Overall, parents involved in both resolutions said they are proud to put the national attention on issues that grew from a local effort in Burbank.

Before Frintner traveled back home from Orlando, he joked with fellow parents about calling Burbank by a new name.

“We can change the name to Resolution City,” he said.


Kelly Corrigan,

Twitter: @kellymcorrigan