June may be Pride Month but creating safe and inclusive school environments for LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) students, and students with LGBTQ family members, is a year-round effort.
California, as the first and only state to require that students be taught about the contributions of LGBTQ people as part of their social studies coursework, is viewed as a leader in inclusivity by advocates. Still, according to a UCLA study published in 2017, California’s LGBTQ youth, who make up 10.3 % of the public middle and high school population, report feeling less safe than their non-LGBTQ peers.
According to a survey from research firm RTI International, LGBTQ students are two to three times more likely than their peers to be physically assaulted or threatened at school, and are “in urgent need of safe and tolerant environments.” And school personnel, who may be in a position to help, often “lack the knowledge and skills to advocate for them.” The Human Rights Campaign says inclusive schools are essential: “It’s simple: students who don’t feel safe can’t focus on learning. Once students feel like they belong, they thrive academically and socially.”
The following are some of the many online training and education resources available for teachers and students.
- The Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools Initiative offers resources such as lesson plans and staff training materials. Particularly helpful are their “Answering Children’s Questions” and “LGBTQ Definitions” sections.
- GSA Network, a nonprofit that helps youth activists start clubs to fight homophobia and transphobia in schools, has a 10-step guide to starting a new GSA, a downloadable report with suggestions for growing or expanding an existing club, and a compendium of California-specific research about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. They also have a network of California student activism clubs.
- The nonprofit LGBTQ education advocacy group GLSEN, which has chapters in Los Angeles and San Diego, provides tools for teachers and students, including lesson plans, book recommendations, a blog with frequent posts about LGBTQ students and school supports for them and a research-focused Twitter feed.
- In a commentary for Education Week, psychiatrist and author Laura Erickson-Schroth offers “Five Myths about Transgender Students Educators Need to Unlearn,” including the idea that it isn’t acceptable to ask how you should address someone: “It’s commonly thought that asking people questions about their gender is inadvertently going to offend them. When these questions are asked sincerely and politely, most transgender people are glad to be asked what pronouns they use.”
- The Anti-Defamation League offers a set of curricula and recommended books on topics such as marriage equality, LGBTQ history, transgender students, bullying and hate-crime prevention at no cost at this link. Resources include standards-based downloadable lesson plans organized by grade level. According to the Anti-Defamation League, LGBTQ history “is American history and should be integrated into the curriculum throughout the school year.”
- Facing History and Ourselves, an international education and professional development nonprofit, has an extensive selection of training and curricular resources on bullying and ostracism, many related to LGBTQ and gender identity issues.
- Three organizations (Advocates for Youth, Answer at Rutgers University, and Youth Tech Health) launched an initiative called AMAZE in 2017 that provides animated YouTube videos geared to 10-14 year olds on topics such as sexual orientation, and gender identity. The project also provides educators with lesson plans at this link.