Every student has the right to a safe and equitable learning environment free from verbal or physical harassment. For students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ), school can be a difficult place to learn and mature. LGBTQ students are often invisible in our schools. Whether or not faculty and administration are aware of its gay students, these students need a supportive, safe environment.
Students at Risk
The results of the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey show that 5.9% of students described themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual and that, when compared to heterosexual students, LGB students were:
- more than 4 times as likely to have attempted suicide in the past year
- more than 4 times as likely to have missed school in the past month because of feeling unsafe
- almost 2 times as likely to have been injured or threatened with a weapon at school
What is your school climate like for LGBT students? How often do they hear anti-gay language such as faggot, dyke, and “that’s so gay” (meaning “stupid”)? Of youth who attempted suicide, 89% experienced harassment. No student should have to endure the degradation that gay students, or those perceived to be gay, experience daily. In Massachusetts it’s against the law to discriminate because of sexual orientation; it should be against school policy.
How We Help
PFLAG Kansas City’s Safe Schools and Communities Project helps schools establish safe environments where all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, can flourish and grow. Teachers and students are given the tools to recognize and address what LGBT students cope with in school each day. They are empowered to bring about change and given the resources to support long-term progress. Our speakers are parents, family members and friends of LGBT people, as well as LGBT people. We share our personal stories and address anti-gay name-calling and bullying, transgender students’ rights, and more. We are available for:
- Classroom discussions and assemblies
- Faculty and administrator training
- Student leadership summits
- Diversity days, Day of Silence programs, health fairs, violence prevention workshops, and panel discussions
- Gay/straight alliance assistance
- PTA sponsored evening events for parents
How We All Can Help
As parents we can…
- encourage our schools to be openly supportive of all students by speaking up in school committee, PTA/PTO, and other community meetings to ensure that our schools are safe and supportive for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.
- attend parent/teacher conferences and ask our children’s teachers what steps they are taking to ensure that schools are safe and inclusive.
- let our children know that we support them whether they are straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or gender-variant.
- stand up for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, whether or not our own children are gay.
- write letters to our newspapers and our state and local legislators telling them that we believe ALL students, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, deserve equal rights.
As teachers we can…
- make it clear that harassment of, and discrimination against, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students will not be tolerated in our classrooms.
- make our curriculum inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender components by including homosexuality in a sex education or health class, the gay rights movement in the study of civil rights movements, or gay and lesbian influences in the arts and history.
- inform ourselves about the needs of and resources for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender,and gender-variant students.
- not assume that all students or their parents are heterosexual.
As students we can…
- support the creation or ongoing activities of a gay/straight alliance.
- ask questions about homosexuality and bisexuality in class or in conversation with others.
- speak up against discrimination toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.
We all can…
- insist that our schools extend respect and dignity to all students and families.
- refrain form assuming that all students will grow up to be in heterosexual partnerships or that their current families are “traditional” heterosexual families.
- speak out against discrimination toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, teachers, or families.
- insist that our schools offer a curriculum that is inclusive of the diversity which includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender topics interwoven throughout the disciplines, and that our libraries include information and literature on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and history.
- serve as role models, gay and straight, youth and adult, who are open to, and accepting of, differences and supportive of the potential for all students to mature into responsible, happy, and productive adults.