Increasing LGBT Inclusiveness in Elementary Grades
Increasing inclusiveness for LGBT students should begin in elementary grades, and Sara Train (bio) offers some suggestions.
So elementary schools are really key because that's where a lot of the learning is happening, right? You see, middle school, high school behaviors can already become habits. And so we want to make sure that in elementary school we really stress the importance of a welcoming environment and a safe school. And there are some ways to do that.
For elementary schools we talk about family diversity, right? We talk about, "I have two mommies, two daddies, one grandma, one grandpa." And there are some really excellent resources on curriculums that fit within the standards that meet state requirements for teachers to use. And by using a book or a lesson plan that just highlights and is inclusive of LGBT families — this is inclusive of single parent homes — in elementary school, the students get that. "So and so loves this person." At the elementary school level they understand that. We talk about it in regards to families.
But elementary school is where a lot of gender expression and gender identity is being explored. And statistically we know, in the work that we do, even in LA Unified School District, that we have young people who are expressing their gender nonconformity even before getting to kindergarten. In first grade they want to be playing more with the girl toys or the boy toys, and gender-segregated activities. You have students who are showing that they're doing what maybe is not seen as typical.
And that is where — and I think we're addressing a systemic change in an elementary school — making sure that we don't just have boy line and girl line. That instead we do, people who like, I don't know, pink ice cream versus orange ice cream. That we choose ways of interacting with each other that are inclusive of everybody's gender expressions.
And that is not just based on people not conforming to certain gender roles, but also our cultural backgrounds. It allows people to express who are they are, entirely. So we work in elementary a lot with curriculum because that allows you to use teachable moments and frame language that's positive, right, not being mean and teasing people about being different, as well as using teachable moments around gender expression when people are different. And in elementary school we've seen that to be very successful.
Excerpted from an interview at CBITS Summit 2013 in Santa Monica, CA.