Schools Struggle to Support LGBTQ Students
Student Roddy Biggs was pushed against a locker after being whaled on by another student. This resulted in a black eye, a cracked eye socket, and a wounded rib cage for him. Biggs was not the only one involved in this affair. He came out as gay during his freshman year of high school in Tennessee.
BIGGS, now 23 years old, has vivid memories of growing up in an environment where homophobic slurs and death threats were routine. “I was suffering from despair, panic attacks, and all the other symptoms that came with it,” says the author.
The teachers that either overlooked bullying or simply remarked, “That’s just not cool,” and walked away from the situation are happy memories for Biggs to this day. He received assistance from certain educators. One such educator was the science instructor, who took him to the principal’s office after his beating and sat with him for more than an hour throughout the class. Despite their greatest efforts, teachers frequently discovered that state or district laws stopped them from accomplishing even more in their profession.
For Unity Day, kids at Brenda O’Connell Madison Elementary School form a peace sign in honor of their teacher.
According to Biggs, while the majority of educators desired to assist, they either did not know how or were limited in their abilities to do so. A reference to the absence of laws in Tennessee to protect lesbians, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) adolescents from being bullied by their classmates. Tennessee is one of 32 states that does not provide such safeguards.
Bullying can take many forms, ranging from online abuse to physical violence. Bullying LGBTQ students, on the other hand, is more common.
to go unnoticed or not dealt with by school staff, according to recent research.
Educators agreed that they should provide a safe environment for their LGBTQ students, according to a survey conducted by the organization, which aids K-12 schools in building safe settings for LGBTQ students. This could be accomplished by the use of visible support signals or by disciplining them for using homophobic language.
TEACHER INTERVENTION IS REPORTED BY STUDENTS
There are a variety of reasons why LGBTQ students do not receive the assistance they require.
Teachers have stated that they are uncomfortable discussing sexuality with pupils because of their personal opinions or perceptions. Some teachers believed they were under pressure from parents or authorities to remain silent. Inadequate professional training has left teachers ill-equipped to deal with bullying and LGBTQ issues, and the lack of such training has made it difficult for them to foster inclusive environments and recognize harassment and anti-LGBTQ behavior. While the growth of controversial issues such as granting transgender kids access to bathrooms that correspond to their gender identities has boosted the LGBTQ community’s national prominence, it has also made it more difficult to have a healthy discourse about these issues with others.
Nearly 2,500 students and teachers across the country were surveyed by researchers. They found that bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity was more common than bullying based on race, ability, or religion. According to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network,
TRAINING IS ESSENTIAL
Loretta Farrell Khayam is a Northern Virginia high school math teacher. Her hesitation to support LGBTQ students is simply due to a lack of training.
Khayam said that she has not received any guidance from the administration about how to deal with students who are transitioning. She wants to help a transgender student in her school. “I am not a young, hip teacher. I don’t know how to respond or what to do. It would be great to hear from the school administration, both at the district and school level, what we will do as a school or school system to support these students.
According to educators and advocacy organizations, there is an increasing interest in teaching educators on themes such as inherent bias, equity, and inclusion, among other things. Most schools, on the other hand, do not require it. Teachers who have requested training have said that their requests have been denied by administrators, who have stated that they should be concentrating on other matters.
Melissa Joy Bollow Tempel reported that she encountered opposition when she attempted to incorporate professional development on gender identification into the training she offers to teachers in the Milwaukee Public Schools system as a culturally responsive teacher leader. To receive training, Bollow Tempel was required to travel outside of the district; her attempts to impart what she and her colleagues had learned were continually turned down.
Vincent Pompei, director of, Youth Well-Being Project at Human Rights Campaign and the largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, said that even within the 18 states that have anti-bullying legislation, discomfort and neglect are common. He also noted that many attendees to a recent training in Southern California could not distinguish sexual orientation from gender identity.
STUDENTS LEARN A LGBTQ-INCLUSIVE CURRICULUM
Pompei added that educators are still concerned about the inclusion of LGBTQ students. They are concerned about backlash from the community or parents, and they are worried whether school or district leadership will support them if they take action. We believe that students should see signs of safety, but we also believe that educators should be confident that their administration will support them and be there for them if they have to deal with a complaint from a parent or member of the community who is anti-LGBTQ or who is discriminatory in any way.
The impact of a lack of support from school staff on LGBTQ students can be significant.
Lesbian, gay, and bisexual students are twice to three times more likely to bully than their non-LGBTQ peers. They’re also more likely to miss school and nearly five times more likely to attempt suicide –according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a large survey of 15,600 high-school students. Another study showed that bullied gay and lesbian students had higher rates of substance abuse than those who were bullied heterosexually.
STUDENTS LISTEN TO BIASED LANGUE AT SCHOOL
Miles Sanchez, a 9th-grader from Colorado who identifies as bisexual and transgender, explained that “my middle school didn’t have any processes in place, and my teachers were unsure of what to do.” Sanchez claims that he attempted to get measures put in place to protect LGBTQ children from bullying, but was consistently denied by the administration, prompting him to quit. He stated that he believes that many of his difficulties could have been averted if educators had received training on how to deal with bullying in all levels of education.
This is a problem that affects everyone, not just students.
Hanan Heidi works as a 7th-12th grade special education teacher in the Bay Area of California, working with at-risk students. She is concerned that integrating LGBTQ content in her courses would lead students and faculty to believe she is attempting to advance a political agenda. Despite her desire to be “automatically the representative for all gay things,” Heidi acknowledges that she has avoided the subject of homosexuality on several occasions.
After becoming dissatisfied with the school system, Heidi told his colleagues last year that they, too, must “carry on the torch” when disciplining children for using homophobic hate speech, which is prohibited by school laws.
SPACE FOR SECURITY
History unErased and Gender Spectrum give professional development and support to K-12 classrooms to meet this demand… These organizations provide lesson plans, workshops, manuals, and other resources to teachers and students.
The Madison Metropolitan School district in Wisconsin, for example, is integrating professional development directly into the educational process. A social worker is employed by the district to assist with LGBTQ-specific staff training, family assistance, and the implementation of the Welcoming Schools professional development program.
Jennifer Herdina and the team of the Welcoming Schools read “I Am Jazz,” a tale about a transgender child, to a Madison kindergarten class this week.
As part of the initiative, social workers, teachers, school psychologists, and social workers from the district got specialized training. Among the subjects covered were appreciating family diversity, bullying prevention, and bias-based bullying. In addition to holding student and parent panels to discuss the experiences of LGBTQ students, the district organizes a variety of events. Readings of LGBTQ-themed children’s literature are among the events planned in the community.
According to LGBTQ supporters, it is not necessary to use a top-down strategy to make a good influence in the lives of kids. Even a single educator can be of assistance.
It is sometimes as simple as putting up posters declaring that a school or classroom is available to students of all backgrounds. Small changes from one person might sometimes spur larger adjustments from others.
Teacher Dan Ryder of Mount Blue High School in Farmington, Maine noted that he has personally observed change occur gradually over the nearly two decades that he has been employed at his institution. He recalls the days when the policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was prevalent and homophobic slurs were commonly heard. Students in the school’s technology program, according to him, have created signage to attach to new gender-neutral restrooms as part of their project.
According to him, even though I’m a straight, white, married male, he wants to demonstrate to students that we are complex beings who can change over time and have experiences that may unite us more than our differences. He then goes on to describe his efforts to assist students in achieving this goal: Sometimes all we need is for someone to tell us who we are and what we are capable of. I get what you’re saying. It’s fine with me if you do. It’s all well with me. I wish to assist you in every manner that I am able.