Creating an LGBTQA-Inclusive Classroom Environment
As we identify more LGBTQA students (lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, questioning and ally), we want to make them feel safe in the classroom and not ashamed of their identities. It is simply not something that can be ignored, as was the common practice until more recent years. There are things that educators can do to establish more LGBTQA -inclusive practices that support all students in the classroom.
Why Our Efforts Are So Important
In a 2013 Human Rights Campaign survey of over 10,000 LGBT 13- to 17-year-olds, a student wrote, “I live in such a narrow-minded community—it’s really hard on me. I deal with so much ignorance on a daily basis. The survey painted an unfavorable picture of how LGBT students are feeling in schools. While 67 percent of non-LGBT students stated that they feel happy, only 37 percent of LGBT students reported feeling the same way. One-third of the LGBT students claimed that they do not have a trusted adult to talk to and twice as many LGBT students used alcohol and drugs, compared to their non-LGBT peers. In addition, 21 percent of LGBT students reported having problems with bullying and four out of 10 LGBT students considered their communities to be intolerant.
What Teachers Can Do to Promote Inclusion
Given these statistics, it is clear that educators have a responsibility to promote LGBT-inclusive classrooms and safe school environments. Teaching Tolerance, part of the Southern Poverty Law Center, offers free Teaching Tolerance Kits and shares the following best practices for teachers and administrators:
- Form a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Club. Like any other school club, this group allows students to feel accepted and gives them the ability to promote LGBTQA awareness in positive ways.
- Promote diversity, treat all students equally and do not tolerate hateful remarks or actions.
- Use students’ preferred pronouns and offer either gender-neutral bathrooms or allow students to use their identified gender bathrooms.
- Enact policies to ensure that anti-bullying policies protect LGBTQA students and periodically review those policies for effectiveness.
- Educate students about diversity, bullying and how to respond to bullying situations.
- Celebrate Pride Month every June, decorate the classroom with “Wear Your Pride” banners and host school-wide celebrations.
The following are organizations and individuals committed to LGBTQA student safety. They are valuable sources of information for educators who want to create an LGBTQA-inclusive classroom.
- Teaching Tolerance – This organization has a weekly newsletter and blog. It also offers a number of educational resources like professional development, film kits and other tools.
- Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) – This organization conducts research, analyzes policies and offers a wealth of teacher and student resources. Teachers can get free curriculum materials to support LGBT students.
- Dignity for All: Safeguarding LGBT Students – Peter Dewitt’s book is a valuable asset in committing to a positive school culture. A member of the Teach.com and Teach100 communities, his blog post “Is There Really Dignity For All?” is an inspiring read.