Schools are places of learning and also miniature societies. The climate of a school has a direct impact on both how well students learn and how well they interact with their peers. Teachers and administrators work hard to make their classrooms welcoming places where each student feels included. But despite these efforts, students who are—or who are perceived to be—lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT) continue to face a harsh reality.
According to a recent Human Rights Campaign survey, LGBT students report being harassed at school—both verbally and physically—at twice the rate of non-LGBT youth. With heightened stressors like bullying, harassment and a lack of role models, LGBT students are also more likely to experience negative educational outcomes.
Needless to say, LGBT students need allies.
Studies have shown that creating a supportive environment for LGBT students improves educational outcomes for all students, not just those who may identify as LGBT. And remember, it’s not about politics—it’s about supporting students. Any educator, regardless of his personal beliefs, can be a resource for LGBT students.
It all starts with awareness. Often educators are unsure how to support their LGBT students in a meaningful way. These best practices were compiled to give school leaders the knowledge they need to create a climate in which their most vulnerable students feel safe and valued. Through inclusive policies and nurturing practices, administrators, counselors and teachers have the power to build an educational environment that is truly welcoming to all students.
Before a school can be inclusive of all students, it must be safe for all students. Your school’s anti-bullying policy or code of conduct is the most public statement of its commitment to student safety. A strong policy protects all students, but many schools need explicit guidance on safeguarding LGBT students.
• Include language specifically prohibiting harassment based on nonconformity to gender norms, gender identity and gender expression.
• Give examples of harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation.
• Evaluate the effectiveness of your school’s anti-bullying program annually using student and staff surveys.
• Designate an anti-bullying coordinator as well as an anti-bullying task force. Staff members specifically trained to prevent and respond to bullying incidents play a pivotal role in developing and maintaining your school’s anti-bullying program and are essential if a bullying incident occurs.
• Communicate effectively and often with students, parents or guardians and the community about school climate issues such as bullying. Post the name and contact information for your schools’ anti-bullying coordinator in the office, on the school website and in the student handbook.
• Ensure that reactions to reports of harassment do not further stigmatize students who were targeted for their real or perceived LGBT identities.
• Educate teachers and administrators about common bullying myths, such as the idea that LGBT students are “asking for it” by expressing their sexual orientations or dressing in their preferred manners.
From students to district administrators, everyone has a role to play in creating an inclusive school climate. Proper training gives all school community members a thorough understanding of the part they play in making their school an environment that welcomes all students.
Conduct student training once a year, including ageappropriate discussion of the following:
• The importance of diversity (including nonconformity with gender norms) in the student body;
• Behaviors that constitute bullying;
• The negative impact of bullying;
• How students should respond to bullying;
• How teachers should respond to bullying;
• Disciplinary consequences for students who bully their peers; and
• The process for reporting bullying.
Conduct teacher and administrator training once a year, including the following topics in addition to those above:
• Root causes of bullying;
• Steps to foster an inclusive education environment for all students—specifically students who don’t conform to gender norms or who might be perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender;
• Review of the school’s bullying policy, emphasizing staff’s responsibility to respond to all bullying; and
• Disciplinary consequences for school staff who engage in or ignore bullying.
Last edited: 23-Jun-16 12:33 AM