By C. Blair
How To Improve Schools For LGBT Students
Despite people’s treatment of those who are LGBT, things are beginning to change for the better. LGBT students still face high amounts of bullying and harassment. Those who are or perceived to be LGBT are twice as likely to be bullied in school than those who are not. Plus 82 percent of transgender youth report being bullied. This bullying has lead to an estimated 64 percent of those who identify as LGBT to not feel safe in school. It may seem like it is impossible to fix this ,but studies say that with a few edits to our schools, we can not only help LGBT students but all students. Since so many are going back to school there now, there is no better time to discuss how we can improve our schools and hopefully put a stop to bullying.
Make School Curriculums More Inclusive
Even though the topic is very controversial, researchers have found that incorporating LGBT related topics into everyday lessons will positively affect the overall environment and improves all students’ educational outcomes. The easiest class to incorporate inclusive lessons into, is history classes. We teach students the roles that LGBT people have played in history as well as the historical oppression they have faced. By doing this, we take away the negative stigmas and replace it with real life faces. In addition it will help by allowing LGBT students to connect with what is being taught, give everyone a better understanding of the world, and optimize the potential of what they are learning.
Here are some of the many ways we can make our curriculums more inclusive:
- Bring up how historical figures like Alexander the Great, Eleanor Roosevelt, William Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, etc. were/could have been gay.
- Do lessons on lesser known LGBT people who played a role in history like Alan Turing (who invented the computer).
- Do a lesson on the Stonewall Riots, Matthew Shepard’s death, or another LGBT historical event.
- Read a book which includes a LGBT character.
- Law classes can do lessons about the battle for marriage equality and the Supreme Court’s ruling.
- Provide accurate and relevant sex ed information. Only 5 percent receive positive information on LGBT issues in health class.
- Just talk with them about the LGBT community.
Another great way to improve a school’s climate is to add in a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) or some other related club. One study done by GLSEN showed that when a school has a GSA, the amount of homophobic/transphobic remarks heard in school drops 18 percent. They also will feel safer. Often LGBT youth need some kind of safe space where they could feel accepted for who they are and this club is designed to be just that. It will also allow them to meet other students who are going through the same thing that they are. Nationally 53 percent of secondary school teachers agree that having a GSA will make schools safer, but only 22 percent of LGBT secondary school students have access to one. Those who are African American are even less likely to have access to one, especially when the school is predominantly African American. Those who live in the south and small towns/rural areas are least likely to have a GSA in their schools.
Sadly with several states having what are known as “No Promo Homo” or “Don’t Say Gay” laws these things could be even harder to accomplish. These laws forbid teachers and schools from discussing LGBT issues and HIV/AIDS awareness in a positive light, if they are even allowed to discuss them at all. Some actually require teachers to portray LGBT people in a negative or inaccurate way. They also limit or even eliminate the amount of resources and safe spaces that are available to students. Students who go to these types of schools are more likely to hear homophobic remarks from teachers and report experiencing ineffective intervention from school staff. These harmful laws need to be removed in order to make way for a better school experience.
Bullying Policies And Training Staff Members
When it comes down to it, in order to stop bullying we must have strong anti-bullying policies put in place. Even though many schools do indeed have some kind of anti-bullying policy, some may need to update theirs or add in specific guidance on homophobic/transphobic bullying. While things like having inclusive curriculum or getting a GSA may be hard to get everyone behind, most would be all for a zero tolerance for bullying policy. It could help if something is added on the school’s website so that they could anonymously report bullying as well. These guidelines, when used properly, will cut down bullying up to 25 percent. It will also send a public message that the school stands behind it’s LGBT students.
Once these policies are in place the next step would be to train staff members. Everyone from teachers to the principal will need to not only be trained on how to implement the new policies but on how to better address when bullying occurs. You may assume all staff members would know how to handle bullying, but this is not always the case. About 31 percent of LGBT students who reported being bullied said that the staff made no effort to respond. 61 percent did not report it at all. If the staff become LGBT allies this would allow students who were bullied to feel more confident about reporting bullying and lets them know that something will be done. Some training should also be done to help teachers/staff know what to do when someone comes out as LGBT. Specifically the school as a whole should be prepared for when someone comes out as transgender or gender nonconforming.
It may seem like it is impossible to put an end to bullying, but if our schools are willing to make some changes we can help improve schools for LGBT students, as well as those who are not LGBT. One of the first things that needs to be done is to repeal “No Promo Homo” and “Don’t Say Gay” laws in states that have them. Teachers should try to at least, to an attempted degree, to incorporate LGBT topics into what they teach. Students can help by requesting to form a GSA or something like it. If a school receives government funding and has another non-curricular club then they have to allow a GSA under the Federal Equal Access Act. Schools need step up and fix their bullying policies, plus train staff members. Doing these things may not eradicate bullying right away, but with a little time they will make schools safer places for LGBT youth.
- LGBT Bullying Statistics
- Transgender Bullying: A National Epidemic
- Creating A LGBT-Inclusive Climate
- The Necessity of LGBT-Inclusive Curriculum
- Sex Ed Needs to Better Include the Issues of L.G.B.T. Students
- GLSEN GSA Research Brief
- “No Promo Homo” and “Don’t Say Gay” Laws
- “No Promo Homo” Laws
- Bullying Statistics
- GSA Network: Legal Resources