Annapolis Candidate Questionnaire

Rhonda Pindell Charles, Ward 3 (D)

1. Please let us know if you have ever volunteered with or supported any LGBTQ+ organizations, such as Annapolis Pride, PFLAG, or the Human Rights Campaign. Feel free to include events in which you participated. Please include all groups you feel are pertinent including LGBTQ+ Equity actions or advocacy that you have taken in other non-LGBTQ+ organizations or Boards. If no previous volunteer or advocacy experience with or for LGBTQ+ Community, please explain why not and how you now understand the importance of such advocacy.

I would consider my advocacy for LGBTQ+ community to be not overt. And this aligns with most of my advocacy for groups and communities considered to be “underrepresented”. With that being said, as a part of my advocacy work as the School-Community Liaison Specialist for the Office of Equity and Accelerated Student Achievement, Anne Arundel County Public Schools, one of my tasks has been to update our Community Resource Guide, i.e., among others, community partnerships, including those that provide mental health services, that support the LGBTQ+ community in Anne Arundel County as well as surrounding counties. Additionally, in January and August, I created and presented a Professional Development power point to 2 middle school staffs, which included, for example, a better understanding and support for Native/Indigenous youth and families. Also, for about 3 years, I was a member of the Youth Suicide Awareness Action Team for the County (until I was transferred to another assignment).

2. The Trevor Project National Survey on LGBTQ+ Youth Mental Health 2021 surveyed nearly 35,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13-24 across the United States. Among the key findings of the survey:

+ 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.
+ 12% of white youth attempted suicide compared to 31% of Native/Indigenous youth, 21% of Black youth, 21% of multiracial youth, 18% of Latinx youth, and 12% of Asian/Pacific Islander youth.

Please discuss your feelings about the data above and how you would help support LGBTQ+ youth and specifically Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), and transgender nonbinary youth. Have you advocated for or endorsed legislation and actions on the state or local level to keep LGBTQ+ youth safe? Explain if you have not and what you intend to do in the future to improve the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth in Annapolis.

During my aldermanic election campaign of 2013, which began in 2012, a person, who was age 17 at the time, reached out to me on several occasions to discuss politics and for updates regarding my campaign. This person’s contact with me continued into my re-election campaign in 2017. In August 2019, a family member of this person (whom I have known for well over 30 years) indicated to me that the person was very interested in getting into politics and that I would be the best person for them to talk with. Of course, I said absolutely—I readily agreed. We met in October 2019 for 5 hours and 15 minutes—from 5:30-10:45 p.m. I was allowed to critique the person’s resume. I indicated to the person that their resume needed more balance, i.e., that it was too heavily laden with politics. Also, I strongly suggested that the person join our very robust and long-standing community association in the ward and its leadership team. Additionally, I suggested that the person join a City Board or Commission, and that I would provide a recommendation on their behalf. Furthermore, I provided the person with strategies on how to campaign and govern successfully. I also indicated to the person that most likely that 2021 would be my last campaign; and so I would definitely serve as a mentor for them in the 2025 election. The person obviously was very interested in the information that I was relaying. I ran into the person at an event in mid-January 2021, we chatted for about 20 minutes, and at that time, I restated my offer of support in a variety of ways.

As you can see, my support for the LGBTQ+ community, and even other communities, usually revolves around me working with persons individually, which I prefer—one on one—rather than as a group, or public displays.

Also, please see my answer to Question #1.

3. On June 16, 2021 the Anne Arundel County Public School Board passed the Safe and Inclusive Environments for LGBTQ+ Students, a comprehensive policy that prohibits discrimination and harassment based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The policy states support for the right of any student to be addressed by a name and pronoun that correspond to the student’s gender identity. Additionally, the policy supports the right of any student to use school facilities that correspond with gender identity in which the student identifies.

Please discuss the importance of the adoption of policies in schools that respect student gender identification, including consideration of reasonable and respectful accommodation in regard to facilities. Please provide your feelings regarding “Bathroom Bills” that have been proposed around the country.

I am supportive of our Anne Arundel County Public Schools Board policies that promote students’ rights when it comes to safety and inclusion, and that prohibit discrimination and harassment. Growing up is difficult enough. These policies, and others, allow our students to grow and mature in their own way—in a way that makes them feel comfortable and supported. I saw this first hand at an Anne Arundel County Public Schools’ elementary school that I was assigned to for 7 1⁄2 years.

4. How have you advocated for the LGBTQ+ community and supported inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community in the past (i.e. have you spoken out publicly for policies at your place of business, testified before government bodies, adopted written policies for your employees, marched for equal rights, etc.)? Please be specific.

Again, I serve as the School-Community Liaison Specialist in the Office of Equity and Accelerated Student Achievement for Anne Arundel County Public Schools. As a part of that Office, and a staff member for almost 16 years, I have embraced what our schools’ system stands for and promotes.

5. It has been well documented that LGBTQ+ people face health disparities linked to societal stigma, discrimination, and lack of access to quality health care. How have you advocated to reduce LGBTQ+ health disparities? Explain if you have not and what you intend to do in the future to improve the health of LGBTQ+ people in Annapolis.

Again, one of my Anne Arundel County Public Schools’ tasks has been to update our Community Resource Guide, i.e., among others, community partnerships, including those that provide mental health services, that support the LGBTQ+ community in Anne Arundel County as well as surrounding counties.

6. What is your position on police reform and do you support police training and education on issues of concern to the LGBTQ+ community?

As the City Council’s Public Safety Standing Committee Chair, I support police reform that entails police training and education on issues of concern to the LGBTQ+ community. And as a prosecutor in Baltimore City (1983-2004), I very successfully interacted with persons from a variety of communities.

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