Increasing Inclusiveness for LGBT Youth in Schools
Sara Train (bio) suggests several ways that a school can create a welcoming environment for LGBT students.
So schools have a lot of tools available and ways that they can make their campuses feel more welcoming, especially to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning young people. Some of the ways are just addressing systemic things — policy. Is policy specifically enumerating LGBT youth and making sure that they're included?
And families! Celebrating a diverse family, so when you have a family day — mom day, dad day, or parent conferences, make sure that they also make visible our same-sex families, so that the students can see that as well.
Thinking about inclusive language. So if you're asking a student a question, not assuming heteronormativity, not assuming more of their identity than only based on the stereotypes that have framed our own biases. So really using inclusive language to get to know somebody.
And an easy example is asking a young person if they are interested in somebody. Do they have a crush on somebody versus "Do you have a boyfriend? " or "Do you have a girlfriend? " because that already sets a tone for how much of themselves they can disclose.
I think it's also really important to have visuals around your campus that celebrate all identities and all families. And maybe that's the rainbow. Maybe it's a pink triangle. Maybe you ask the students to come up with their own symbol and you include their voices in what that means.
That goes a really long way in creating, throughout the campus, throughout the school, a welcoming environment, so that when there are issues, people feel like they can come to you to talk about it. So what we've seen in schools, and what research shows, is that when schools make these changes, to promote accepting, welcoming schools both in curriculum, in their forums, and in how they talk to people, incidents of bullying and harassment decrease.
And you can see where that correlates because people feel that they can be more themselves, and those kind of unaccepted behaviors are not going to be tolerated. So it really goes a long way to setting that.
Excerpted from an interview at CBITS Summit 2013 in Santa Monica, CA.