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Pride Month: How to Support LGBTQIA+ Students

Pride Month: How to Support LGBTQIA+ Students

The 2019 National School Climate Study conducted by GLSEN, an organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for LGBTQ students, found that 86.3 percent of students who identify as LGBTQ have experienced harassment or assault based on personal characteristics, including sexual orientation, gender expression, gender, actual or perceived religion, actual or perceived race and ethnicity, and actual or perceived disability, and that 59.1 percent have experienced LGBTQ-related discriminatory policies or practices at school.

Adolescence can be a difficult time for anyone—but for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, there are many additional challenges they face not only during their school years but also throughout their lifetimes. In honor of Pride Month, we’ve gathered some resources for teachers who want to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for these students at school. Let’s start with some of the top tips we found—but please keep in mind that these are only suggestions for a starting place.

1. Educate yourself

Invest time into seeking out information on LGBTQIA+ issues, learning the correct terminology, and staying informed on current events and policies that could make students feel unsafe, including reports of acts of violence against people who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, or the recent federal policy change that erases protections for transgender patients in medical settings.

2. Always use a student’s appropriate name and pronouns

It may seem like a no-brainer to call learners by their own name, but this can make a world of difference to students who may no longer identify by the name or pronouns they were assigned at birth. According to this article by Larry Ferlazzo from Education Week: “Research shows that when others use the chosen name that matches a youth's gender identity, transgender youths report 71 percent fewer symptoms of severe depression and 59 percent fewer suicide attempts.”

3. Use inclusive language when you’re teaching

Not everyone falls within the gender binary of “boy” or “girl.” Instead of saying things like “Hey, boys and girls,” practice using more gender-neutral language like: “Hey, everyone!” or “Listen up, folks!” It may take some getting used to, but it's the effort that counts! Using inclusive language can also extend to interrupting restrictive ideas about gender, instances of gender policing, and also attitudes that are rooted in sexism, homophobia, and transphobia.

4. Include LGBTQIA+ stories in your lesson plans and LGBTQIA+ literature in your class library

Ensuring that reading selections include diversity in gender identities and orientations can help LGBTQIA+ students feel seen and represented, and it can also help encourage ally behavior from those who don’t fall into a particular group. This Edutopia article about creating inclusive elementary school classrooms has a short list of book recommendations for mostly grades K to 5. The Concious Kid also has assembled a great list of books and read-alouds!

5. Speak up against anti-LGBTQIA+ behavior

It’s important to let your students know that anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric and behavior from other students (or other teachers or staff) will not be tolerated. Keep in mind that sometimes hurtful or harmful actions or words may not be totally intentional, in which case it might be a good time to open up a quick dialouge. The goal should always be to better equip all students with the tools to treat everyone with equitable levels of respect and dignity.

6. Know your policies

Inquire about schoolwide or districtwide policies around LGBTQIA+ inclusion and teacher training on how to handle these issues, especially if you’re in an administrative position. Systemic change can help give guidance to teachers who are unsure of what to do, as well as show students that their school is a supportive place to be rather than just individual classrooms where teachers have taken it upon themselves to be outspoken allies.

7. Display a “safe space” sticker or sign

This is a simple way to let students know that your classroom is a place where they will be valued and respected regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. There are many free printables out there that you can find by conducting an Internet search for “safe space classroom sign.” You can also find one in GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit, which is a comprehensive guide on being an LGBTQIA+ ally as a teacher.

Additional Resources for Educators:

  • GLSEN has been focused on ending discrimination, harassment, and bullying in K–12 schools since 1990. The organization has a webpage full of educator resources, including guides, lesson plans, and safe space kits.
  • Learning for Justice, an organization whose mission is “to help teachers and schools educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse democracy,” has a guide to Best Practices for Serving LGBTQ Students that is incredibly comprehensive. The appendix alone has a list of LGBTQIA+ books and movies for the classroom, a list of historical figures to reference or teach about, a list of terminology and acronyms, and a school checklist to see how well your school is meeting the needs of LGBTQIA+ students. Learning for Justice also has an article about intersectionality (a framework for understanding how social identities combine to create unique modes of discrimination—for example, sexual identity and race).
  • Edutopia has a great article about teachers struggling to find ways to help LGBTQIA+ students that provides examples of why it’s so important to be allies and how to go about starting.
  • This article from Accredited Schools Online has a great overview of LGBTQIA+ terms, students’ legal rights, actions to take to prevent bullying, and more.

Every educator knows that what students learn in the classroom goes way beyond what the curriculum dictates. By stepping up and supporting your students who need an ally, you’re not only helping them on their journey toward academic success, but you’re also teaching them that they matter and that they are deserving of their success.  

This blog was originally published June 2020 by Maddy Settle, and has been updated.

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Edmentum Team

This blog was written in collaboration with multiple Edmentum team members.