Wrapping It Up

My research on this topic has reaffirmed just how important it is to ensure that LGBTQ students feel safe in schools and other youth organizations.  Two videos from the Georgia Safe School Coalition contain stories from LGBTQ youth about their high school experiences, both positive and negative.  One of the reasons I decided to teach middle school is that I find that high school students are at the age where they’ve become jaded; they are already set in some of their opinions (often those of their family members and religious organizations).  Middle schoolers, on the other hand, are old enough to have those tough conversations but not so old that they’re not open to new ideas and alternative views.  If we can take advantage of this and target middle school students for social justice education, we might be able to nip some of the LGBTQ-related bullying in the bud.

One of the things that most surprised me (which, upon reflection, actually does make sense to me) was that bullying in schools and unsafe environments do not fall solely at the feet of the students.  In their article “‘It’s Complicated’: Collective Memories of LGBTQQ Youth,”** Johnson et al. mention that “[systems] of discrimination and prejudice appear to be the main obstacles in implementing personnel training on heterosexism and homophobia” (2014, p. 421).  Even more disturbing, they reveal that “data reveal that school personnel seldom intervene when bullying or harassment of LGBT students occurs, which further isolates those students being victimized. Consistent with these findings, researchers concluded that increased rates of LGBTQQ bullying are the result of school personnel (e.g., teachers, counselors, psychologists) looking the other way when heterosexist/homophobic incidents of bullying occur” (2014, p. 420).  In other words, teachers, administrators, and other school personnel are just as responsible as students for making LGBTQQ students feel unsafe because they do not take action when discrimination and harassment occur.

In my last post, I included a lot of resources for teachers to use who want to create a safe space for LGBTQ students.  It seems that the next step in investigating how to support LGBTQ youth in schools is to investigate how to overcome that barrier in order to train school personnel how to create that safe environment and to step in when bullying occurs.  While school personnel do have a right to their own beliefs and opinions, I think the majority of us would agree that that right ends where the creation of an unsafe environment begins.  If your beliefs are interfering with your responsibilities to all of your students to make them feel safe and accepted, then something has to give.

In order to share my work with the other students in class, I’ll create a list / annotated bibliography of all of the sources I’ve discovered so far so that they (and anyone else interested) can easily find these resources for their own use.  Below is the rubric that will be used to grade this project:

  3 Points 2 Points 1 Point 0 Points
Genius Hour Question Genius Hour Question is
(a) relevant to current day middle grades education, and
(b) narrow enough to be appropriate for this format.
Genius Hour Question is
(a) mostly relevant to current day middle grades education, and
(b) could have been more narrowed in order to be appropriate for this format.
Genius Hour Question is
(a) only loosely tied to current day middle grades education, and
(b) almost too broad to be appropriate for this format.
Genius Hour Question is much too broad and completely unrelated to current day middle grades education OR there is no Genius Hour Question.
Blog Posts All blog posts meet the required length and contain ample information related to answering the Genius Hour Question. 3 out of 4 blog posts meet the required length and contain ample information related to answering the Genius Hour Question. 2 out of 4 blog posts meet the required length and contain ample information related to answering the Genius Hour Question. Only 1 out of 4 blog posts meets the required length and contain ample information related to answering the Genius Hour Question OR no blog posts are completed.
Resources Resources include:
* At least 3 Twitter handles
* At least 3 Twitter hashtags
* At least 3 other resources (articles, websites, etc.)
Resources include:
* 2 Twitter handles
* 2 Twitter hashtags
* 2 other resources (articles, websites, etc.)
Resources include:
* 1 Twitter handle
* 1 Twitter hashtag
* 1 other resource (article, website, etc.)
No resources are mentioned in any of the blog posts or in the final project.
Spelling & Grammar No errors in spelling or grammatical forms. A few minor errors in spelling or grammatical forms. Many minor errors and/or a few major errors in spelling or grammatical forms. Many major and minor errors in spelling and grammatical forms.

**Johnson, C. W., Singh, A. A., & Gonzalez, M. (2014).  “It’s complicated”: Collective Memories of Transgender, Queer, and Questioning Youth in High School.  Journal of Homosexuality. 61(3), 419-434.

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2 thoughts on “Wrapping It Up

  1. Jen, I love what you say about middle school students being at the perfect age to have those difficult conversations. My genius hour project is about social justice in the classroom, so while my focus was slightly different than yours, I think we probably had some overlapping findings. I agree that Middle School is the perfect age to really encourage those hard conversations. But as teachers, as you mention, we have a responsibility to facilitate those conversations. In order to combat LGBTQ-targeted bullying, we as teachers must be constantly cognizant as to where we fit into the school environment. It is highly distressing for me to read that the data shows that faculty “seldom intervene” when they see those in the LGBTQ community being targeted. I don’t want to oversimplify the issue, but I think that giving students the opportunity to discuss these issues is a step in the right direction. I think that often, the kind of bullying we’re talking about comes from a place of ignorance and fear of the unknown. We have to allow these conversations to take place! Or else, no one will be comfortable. So great to read about your research, Jen.

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  2. Your project is great! I think you’re absolutely right that it’s not just a matter of individual actions, but rather institutional attitudes that often make LGBTQ students feel unsafe. It’s definitely difficult to work against oppression when it’s upheld as personal opinion, but the safety and well-being of our students has to come first.

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