FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nevada Alliance for Student Diversity
Announcing the Launch of Nevada Alliance for Student Diversity
Nevada Alliance for Student Diversity, a new non-profit that provides supports for racially diverse, gender diverse, and neurodiverse students and their families, announced the launch of the organization and its website, allianceforstudentdiversity.org today. Founded by parent advocates with a strong history of impacting education policy and advocating for children, NASD exists to inform, organize, and mobilize community members to support and celebrate the many diversities of Nevada’s student population. NASD offers weekly support groups for families in each of their core programs, online support groups, and regular social events bringing parents from all programs together to create an inclusive and intersectional community. NASD also provides advocacy training classes to empower families to advocate for their own children, as well as an opportunity for parents and community members to attend advanced trainings with the goal of creating a team of mentors and professional advocates to provide student support services in Nevada.
“We realized that neurodiverse students, specifically students with ADHD, are under-served and under-supported both in our public and our charter schools. Parents are often outnumbered by school officials during IEP meetings, and they can struggle to find competent and affordable education advocates to assist them,” said board president and co-founder Jenna Robertson. “We want to help parents feel more confident in those meetings. We also realized that many racially diverse families struggle with challenges at home or school based on racial bias, stereotypes, and prejudice. We look forward to meeting with community members of color to identify needed supports and gaps in services as we continue to build these programs.”
Executive Director Laura Hernandez co-founded NASD after 6 years with local non-profit Gender Justice Nevada, first as their Family & Youth Services Coordinator, and then as the Executive Director. The parent of a transgender child, Laura first became involved with the organization as a parent seeking services. Laura met GJNV co-founder and therapist Jane Heenan shortly before Laura’s daughter began her gender transition in school. In trying to work with the school to address her child’s needs, Laura found that in 2011, Nevada’s public accommodations laws were updated to include “gender identity and expression, regardless of sex assigned at birth”, however, there were no state laws or local policies specifying how these laws applied to gender diverse student’s access to restrooms and locker rooms. Laura was struggling to get her daughter’s needs met, and together, Jane and Laura began meeting with school administrators to advocate for her daughter. What followed was a very difficult year, including multiple incidences of discrimination and bullying, as well as having to legally change her daughter’s name and gender marker before the school would allow her to use the girl’s restroom.
Jane and Laura began attending CCSD school board meetings and meeting with the school board trustees to advocate for policy. In 2014 Laura started the “Southern Nevada Parents and Families of Gender Diverse Persons” support group online, a group which now includes over 150 local families of gender diverse youth. Laura was hired on with Gender Justice Nevada as the Family & Youth Services Coordinator in 2015, working to support other families as their children were transitioning in school. Together, Laura and Jane created the GJNV Family & Youth Services program, which included two weekly in-person support groups, low or no-cost counseling, monthly social events for families, and most importantly, student advocacy for transitioning students. Over the last 6 years Laura has personally advocated for over 150 gender diverse students transitioning in school. In 2016 Laura assisted in the writing, and testified in favor of senate bill 225, which was signed into law in 2017. SB225 requires for all school districts in the state of Nevada to implement a policy that will address the rights and needs of students with diverse gender identities.
After winning that victory, Laura turned her attention back to CCSD, as they began their process towards implementing policy. Laura was part of CCSD’s Gender-Diverse Workgroup researching other school’s policies and helping to determine what would be included in the district’s policy. During CCSD’s multiple public input sessions, Laura and GJNV led the effort to mobilize the community against organized opposition by anti-lgbt hate groups, drawing crowds that filled even the overflow rooms of the Government Center. After years of endless setbacks and delays, Laura’s efforts were finally successful in August of 2018, when CCSD’s board of trustees finally voted to implement their gender-diverse policy 5138. Since then, Laura has been focusing on implementation and compliance of SB225, providing professional development and policy development to charter schools and other districts in the state.
“After 6 years with GJNV It became clear to me that my true passion has always been about supporting families and creating community,” said Laura. “And I began to think about all the other types of diversity that exist, even just within our gender diverse parent group. Talking with other parents from group, we discussed how lucky we felt to have each other and the amazing network of support that we have built within our group, and we talked about how there are so many families struggling with other challenges who could benefit from peer support, parent mentoring, and community building. I met with my good friend and longtime group member Jenna Robertson, and together we brainstormed about how we could identify gaps in existing community services and create new resources to support and empower diverse families.”
During the current lock down, NASD will provide all services online, including professionally facilitated live online support groups via Zoom, moderated online peer support groups, parent mentorship, family engagement, homeschooling advocacy, educational workshops, and interactive presentations. Once schools resume classes, NASD will provide student advocacy services for racially diverse, gender diverse, and neurodiverse students, as well as parent empowerment and certified advocate training. NASD will also provide diversity and inclusion training for schools and youth-serving community organizations.
The founding team of Nevada Alliance for student diversity includes 8 talented professionals with decades of experience in multiple contexts, including roles as classroom teachers, and school, non-profit, and district leaders. These perspectives enable NASD to bring the management experience, empathy, and contextual understanding required to access a wide range of stakeholder voices and put ideas into action.
For more information, please go to
Laura Hernandez, Executive Director