Questions and Answers on Why We Address Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Schools
Sometimes questions arise when educating people about youth and staff that identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning. The following questions and answers are can be helpful to understanding why discussing and understanding LGBTQ people is important.
Why are we spending time on LGBTQ topics? What does it have to do with school?
Our school district is located in one of the most diverse communities in the nation. Many cultures and identities reside side by side in our neighborhoods, families and schools. Bullying, putdowns, exclusion or harassment related to actual or perceived sexual orientation in the second most common reason elementary, middle and high school youth are made to feel unsafe or disrespected. It is our job as legal, ethical and professional to address the safety and well being of young people in our district. Read more...
Our students are from a variety of cultures. We just don’t hear this discussed at our school.
Young people live in a social society where information is at their fingertips. Often youth hear messages about groups of people, and the messages are accurate, inaccurate, partially accurate or they have never heard messages about a particular group. These messages sometimes relate to people that are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and in schools, research points to anti-gay slurs being rampant. Read more...
Inappropriate terms about LGBTQ issues and people exist in every language and culture. Even if we do not always hear anti-LGBTQ namecalling or insults, it does not mean that students are not using them. Intervening in insults and namecalling teaches youth that all people should be respected, including LGBTQ persons. Read more...
Calling people gay and name-calling in general is rare at our school. Besides, there are very few, if any, gay kids at our school.
Inappropriate terms about LGBTQ issues and people exist in every language and culture. Even if we do not always hear anti-LGBTQ namecalling or insults, it does not mean that students are not using them. Intervening in insults and namecalling teaches youth that all people should be respected, including LGBTQ persons.
Younger children are too young to begin a discussion about LGBTQ issues.
By addressing LGBTQ issues in school, we are not talking about sex, we are talking about family, identity and respect for others. In today’s world children are being regularly exposed to LGBTQ issues. Children see marriage equality being discussed on national news broadcasts, they watch TV and movies that discuss, satirize and possibly even ridicule LGBTQ people. Our obligation as educators is to confront stereotypes and address inappropriate language to make schools safe for all students and families. Again, these discussions are not about sex or sexual activity or body parts, but are about respect for differences.
Parents are not ready to talk about LGBT topics by schools or by their children.
The School Board of Broward County Nondiscrimination Policy 4001.1
and Anti-Bullying Policy 5.9
expressly prohibit the discrimination and harassment of students and staff on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Accordingly, we have an obligation to address LGBTQ issues in our ongoing efforts to create safe environments for all students and staff. Read more...
What about the religious beliefs of our families?
It is the professional, ethical and legal responsibility of all school employees to ensure all youth are respected, valued and treated with dignity to assist them in feeling safe and connected so as to receive a quality education. There is a separation between church and state in the United States. As educators we teach students to respect differences between people, and that includes LGBTQ persons. The concept of mutual respect does not infringe on any religious beliefs.
Children are just too young to know about sexuality.
Children become aware of their sexual orientation at different times. Also, many young people, whether gay or straight or questioning, express their gender in ways that may not be aligned with the societal norm of gender expression. For example, a young girl may like to climb trees, play football or always play and socialize with the opposite sex, or a young boy may want to cook at the kitchen center, wear accessories that are not typical of a boy or always play and socialize with the opposite sex. By giving students the opportunity to ask questions and seek answers, we affirm them in every step of their journey toward maturation. As we allow young people to explore and ask questions, we allow them to better understand the often unique trials and tribulations of LGBTQ family members and friends.
There are too few LGBTQ students. Other student concerns are more pressing. Why not focus on them?
All people deserve to learn, thrive and grow academically and emotionally in our school communities. Many students who identify as LGBTQ do not feel safe and often experience anti-gay bias. Read more....
Harassment and bullying cannot be tolerated on any level. Moreover, LGBTQ students come from all cultural, racial and socio-economic backgrounds. LGBTQ youth are three to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight-identified peers. This marginalized group may be a minority in our schools but the challenges they face are anything but minor. Finally, straight youth are impacted negatively by anti-LGBTQ slurs and bias in schools because negative comments are pervasive. This isn't just a concern for LGBTQ youth.