In order to help students thrive academically and personally, schools must create environments that support students' health and well-being. It has been proven, however, that affirming policies, such as policies that offer explicit, enumerated protections, have a positive impact on students who are lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, queer, non-binary, or any other non-heterosexual or non-cisgender, as well as reducing bullying and suicide rates.
There have been numerous policies proposed over the last several years restricting the rights of LGBTQ+ students in schools, including the right of transgender students to access bathrooms or play on teams. After an increasingly supportive policy environment, these proposals were a big change.
The discrimination and prejudice faced by LGBTQ students present a unique set of
challenges. In order to support these students, there are a few things you can do:
1. Learn about LGBTQ issues.
In order to support your LGBTQ students, you should first educate yourself about LGBTQ issues. A major part of this process is learning about the different gender and sexual orientations that exist, as well as the discrimination that LGBTQ people experience.
You can learn more about LGBTQ issues through books, websites, and organizations. One book we recommend reading is “I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for Our Kids.”
2. Be an ally.
It is possible to be an ally to your LGBTQ students once you have learned about LGBTQ issues. Speaking out against discrimination and supporting their sexual orientation and gender identity are important parts of this.
As an ally, you can also provide a safe and inclusive environment for LGBTQ students.
3. Use inclusive language.
Whenever you speak to students, it is important to use inclusive language. It is important to avoid words like "opposite sex" and "biological gender" that are heterosexist or transphobic.
In addition, you can use gender-neutral terms like "they" or "them" when referring to students whose gender identity is unclear.
4. Be sensitive to pronouns.
Students' pronouns should be respected. In other words, ask students what pronouns they use and use those pronouns when referring to them. Correcting others who use the wrong pronouns for your students is also important.
5. Post signs indicating safe spaces.
Your classroom door can be marked as a "safe zone" with stickers or posters. By doing this, you show students that you're LGBTQ-friendly and willing to challenge anti-LGBTQ language. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) says that safe zone stickers help students know that teachers, counselors, and administrators are "open to discussion of LGBTQ issues in the context of classwork or just in conversation."
In the biennial National School Climate Survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the following findings were found: "The safe space campaign, like enumerated antibullying policies, makes a tremendous difference in LGBTQ students' perceptions that their schools are safe and that their teachers are adults they can trust."
6. Provide curriculum topics related to LGBTQ issues.
Teachers are encouraged to incorporate LGBTQ topics and people into the classroom by the Human Rights Campaign. Consider the contributions of LGBTQ individuals such as Harvey Milk (politician) or Alan Turing (computer scientist) when assigning science, history, or art topics.
Students can also understand the world around them in an authentic way with GLSEN's LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum.
7. Refer students to resources.
Refer struggling LGBTQ students to resources that can assist them if they need assistance. As well as mental health professionals who are knowledgeable about LGBTQ issues, this includes organizations that provide support and advocacy for LGBTQ people.
8. Celebrate diversity.
By recognizing LGBTQ holidays and events, you can celebrate diversity in your classroom or school. Additionally, you can include LGBTQ history and culture in a curriculum.
9. Organize an LGBTQ club at your school.
According to the AFT, extracurricular groups in schools have the “potential to shape school climate, address inequality, and affect student performance." LGBTQ student organizations show great promise in "reducing discrimination against LGBTQ students, promoting their well-being, and fostering safe and affirming school environments."
LGBTQ groups provide support for LGBTQ students and help to counteract discrimination in schools. Additionally, they can ensure that the curriculum and policies of a school are inclusive. Establishing a student group at your school or becoming an advisor to an existing one can ensure that students have a positive school experience.
10. Be visible.
Let your LGBTQ students know that you are visible and supportive of the LGBTQ community. This means displaying rainbow flags and other symbols of LGBTQ pride in your classroom or office. You can also participate in LGBTQ events and speak out against discrimination.
11. Continue your professional development.
Inclusion, safety, and affirmation for LGBTQ youth can be ensured through workshops and professional development with experts. It is possible to educate staff on how to deal with harassment and bullying through professional development, as well as share resources and best practices to ensure a safe and respectful school environment.
12. Educate them on their legal rights.
Here are a few basics about LGBTQ students' legal rights in public schools, courtesy of the ACLU.
Freedom of Expression. In some schools, students who express their views on LGBTQ issues are silenced. It is your constitutional right to express your views and identity if you attend a public school
Gay-Straight Alliances or Gender-Sexuality Alliances (GSAs). In the same way that Chess Club or Fellowship of Christian Athletes are noncurricular student-led clubs, GSAs are clubs for LGBTQ students. As a matter of law, public high schools that allow any other noncurricular clubs must also allow GSAs.
School Dances. Schools can't prevent you from bringing a same-sex date to prom or homecoming who is otherwise allowed to attend or tell you you can't dress a certain way or run for prom king or queen because it's not traditionally acceptable.
Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students. Students who identify as transgender and gender nonconforming often face discrimination over dress codes, restroom access, and pronoun choices. If you are having trouble getting respect and safety at your school, contact the ACLU LGBT Project.
Harassment. Contact your principal or another official as soon as possible if you are being harassed or threatened. All incidents should be documented with dates. Your school must protect you, so let them know.
Privacy. Even if you're out to some people at school, schools should not out you without your permission.
Here are some tips you can use to help your LGBTQ students succeed. By providing them with safety, support, and acceptance, and by fostering their potential, you can set them on the path to success.
The following resources may also be helpful to you:
It is important for LGBTQ students to know they are not alone. It is important to know that there are people who care about you and want to help you. In case you need assistance, feel free to contact one of the resources listed above.