Even as the general atmosphere for LGBT people becomes more accepting, the current administration is intent on eviscerating Title IX protections, which often cover transgender students, and rolling back civil rights protections for LGBT people. In more conservative locales, discrimination against LGBT students—and teachers—can result in expulsion, job loss, and more.
In the face of all this, what can you do to support LGBT students in your classroom, and in your school? Here are a few tips.
1. Create a welcoming atmosphere
Posting fliers and signs in your classroom about your schools LGBT student association or gay-straight alliance is an easy and quiet method for supporting LGBT students. Set a rule in your classroom that students must be accepting and respectful of students from different backgrounds, and enforce that rule when it’s broken.
2. Respond to insensitive comments about gender and orientation
When I was in high school, students bandied about the words “faggot,” “dyke,” and “queer” as if they meant nothing at all. The teachers in my school didn’t do anything about that language, which left LGBT students feeling unsupported, and maybe even threatened. Think about some tools for supporting LGBT students before you’re confronted with the issue. Some experts recommend that you have clear consequences for these words, but rely on more reflective practices like journaling in order to give students pause to think about that kind of language, why they use it, and what they can do differently.
3. Take bullying complaints seriously
If a student comes to you and says they’re being bullied, listen to them and don’t dismiss it as “just teasing.” You don’t need to know why they’re being bullied, and the student may be uncomfortable telling you if they’re being bullied on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Centers for Disease Control report that more than 10 percent of LGBTQ students reported missing school during the past 30 days due to safety concerns. Supporting LGBT students means taking their concerns seriously and reporting the bullying to your principal.
4. Start or support a gay-straight alliance (GSA)
If your school district is in a more liberal area, you can support LGBT students by creating or supporting your school’s GSA. If you live in a state or district that is not support, try starting an anti-bullying club where students learn to advocate for and support anyone who’s being bullied.
5. Be a role model
Kids are always watching adults to take cues from their own behavior. Set a good example by modeling acceptance in thoughts, words, and actions. Be aware of your own biases around gender norms and stereotypes, and do your best to help students understand where their own biases lie. Reflective journaling and including LGBT voices in your curriculum can go a long way to helping students see that “different” is not scary. It also provides a tool for supporting LGBT students by showing them positive role models, and by showing other students that LGBT people have always been around and that they’ve done some amazing things.
What have you done in terms of supporting LGBT students? Do you have any other advice? Please share your thoughts in the comments.