Safe Schools Project
Our nation’s LGBTQ people are under a new wave of assault, this time at the highest levels of our political system. Recently, the President was quoted as joking that the Vice President, “thinks we should hang them all,” with regard to LGBTQ people. The Attorney General is pushing for judicial interpretations that would render legal and protected discrimination against LGBTQ people in all sectors on the basis of religious belief.
Current policies, including the climate of hatred and intolerance they generate, are affecting some of our most vulnerable citizens—including LGBTQ youth—in significant ways.
According to researchers from GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network), “Schools nationwide are hostile environments for a distressing number of LGBTQ students, the overwhelming majority of whom routinely hear anti-LGBT language and experience vicitimization and discrimination at school.”
But some of the language around safe schools and supporting LGBTQ youth is perpetuating the same divisiveness and "othering" that's created these problems in the first place. My safe schools work embraces but also looks beyond "LGBTQ" to consider the world we can build—starting at the community level—when we push back boundaries and preconceptions that hurt LGBTQ kids. My work loves LGBTQ youth for what they teach us all, and seeks to create a space where through the lens of their diverse experiences, we can all learn to love ourselves more.
Creating safe and inclusive schools is not as simple as putting up a few safe space signs and a Pride month display in the lobby, and boilerplate policies only go so far. The large national LGBTQ organizations all offer safe schools programming. However, educators are in a unique position in that they must balance their desire to create safe and welcoming school environments with legal considerations (such as students’ rights to access versus parents’ rights to make decisions with regard to their children), keeping the culture and beliefs of their communities in mind.
This book will combine, in a single resource, the myriad issues at play in creating safe schools, along with the information and advice needed to navigate them successfully. It will include general information about what it means to be LGBTQ these days, along with common experiences of LGBTQ young people, both personally and in school environments. It will present a broad view of the challenges faced by both students and school officials when it comes to creating safe and inclusive schools, as well as straight-forward solutions, where available. It will frame out inclusive ways of thinking about these issues that are focused on areas of mutual benefit and gain, rather than old-paradigm models of competing desires and goals, and will venture into broader concepts, such as implementing open and inclusive communication strategies among stakeholders. It will also include concrete, actionable resources for teachers from early childhood to secondary, including sample activities.
Data from GLSEN’s latest “National School Climate Survey” (which contains data from a sample of 10,528 students across the country), shows just how significant and pervasive challenges are at school for LGBTQ youth.
• 85.2% of students experienced verbal harassment
• 98.1% of students heard “gay” used in a negative way at school
• 95.8% of students heard other homophobic remarks, such as “dyke” or “faggot”
• 85.7% of students heard negative remarks specifically about transgender people
• 57.6% of students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation
• 71.5% avoided school functions and 65.7% avoided extracurricular activities because they felt unsafe of uncomfortable
• 31.8% of students missed at least one entire day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable
• 48.6% of students experienced cyberbullying
• 59.6% of students were sexually harassed
• 27% of students were physically harassed
• 13% of students were physically assaulted
And this behavior is in many cases supported, either overtly or implicitly, by school staff and policies:
• 56.2% of students reported hearing homophobic remarks from their teachers or other school staff; 63.5% reported hearing negative remarks about gender expression from teachers or other school staff
• 81.6% of students reported that their school engaged in LGBT-related discriminatory policies or practices
• 57.6% of students who were harassed or assaulted at school did not report the incident to school staff, most often because they doubted that effective intervention would occur, or that the situation would become worse
• 63.5% of students who did report an incident said school staff did nothing in response, or told the student to ignore it.
What Can You Do?
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