Making schools safe for youth is a priority for families, educators and advocates across the country. Despite putting in the hard work, though, many communities are still getting failing grades where a safe and fair education for LGBTQ kids is concerned.
To pass with flying colors, everyone must be engaged in the process. Here are three facts from GLSEN’S most recent National School Climate Survey, and three corresponding ways for you to tackle them head-on, in your own community. All students deserve to achieve their full potential fairly and safely, and it’s on all of us to make sure they do. Together, we can make a difference for LGBTQ and all students.
1. A silent majority
More than 85 percent of LGBTQ students are verbally harassed in school, and nearly 40 percent missed at least one school day because they didn’t feel safe. School districts must adhere to Title IX, and they can also create further inclusive policies that protect LGBTQ students.
Assignment: Check out your school district’s anti-bullying policy (you can often find it online). Do you see both sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in there? Only about 10 percent of LGBTQ students say they do, and enumerated policies are most effective. Find out what steps you and others in your community can take to change the policy.
2. Reinforcing the rules
While many states have anti-discrimination or anti-bullying laws of some sort, not all of them are inclusive of LGBTQ students. Persistent attacks on federal Title IX jeopardize the safety of LGBTQ students even further.
Assignment: Connect with school administrators and remind them that Title IX is federal law. Then, connect with your two U.S Senators and one representative and ask them to prioritize protecting the safety of vulnerable LGBTQ children.
3. Cause and effect
Seventy-six percent of LGBTQ students were more likely to have the support of their non-LGBTQ peers when an inclusive curriculum and resources were included, and readily available.
Assignment: Connect with your local schools to see how you can be of help, whether that’s providing inclusive materials to classrooms and libraries or helping to found a gay-straight, or Gender and Sexuality, alliance (GSA).
Elizabeth Kohm, Interim Executive Director, PFLAG National, [email protected]