I have learned a lot in researching this question about what we, as teachers, can do to support LGBTQ students. Considering how many students experience discrimination (or worse) in school every day, it is no surprise that their academic experience is negatively impacted. I mentioned earlier that 30% of students surveyed by the GLSEN Research Division in 2013 felt so unsafe at some point in the month prior to the survey that they missed at least one day of school because of it. Students being so afraid for their own safety that they choose to miss school is certainly not conducive to learning.
As many people have observed, students need to have at least one place in their school where they feel safe to be themselves, free from judgement and bullying. Teachers can create that space in their classrooms using all of the resources listed in my LGBTQ Resources list. If you’re a UGA student and would like to go through Safe Space Training, you can sign up here to get training through the LGBT Resource Center. You can join or start a chapter of PFLAG to support LGBTQ students and community members near you. You can also start a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at your school so that students have a safe space to be after normal school hours are over.
Another important thing I learned is just how important staff and administration training is. The failure of teachers and administration to act in response to bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students perpetuates said bullying and harassment, creating a fearful environment for students. We need to find a way to train teachers, no matter what their personal beliefs, in how to educate, advocate, and provide support on behalf of LGBTQ students. This need is one that would require further exploration. In the meantime, individual teachers can take the responsibility of training themselves through the resources in my list.
I hope my exploration has been helpful for you all! Let’s make sure we’re working together to support all of our students – especially the ones who currently need us most.
Find my LGBTQ Resources list here!