Putting a focus on creating an inclusive learning environment for the young LGBTQ populations in K-12 schools is more important than ever. While there are more LGBTQ leaders represented in politics, media, and entertainment industries, schools can still be a very challenging place for LGBTQ kids. At a younger age children are questioning and discovering exactly who they are, which is why it’s essential to make sure you have an inclusive classroom and a safe place for kids to learn.
Studies have shown LGBTQ students are much more likely to experience bullying and harassment in school, which leads to absenteeism and a higher risk of suicide. Mary Gilreath, a teacher in Colorado, goes out of her way to address gender identity in her classroom. Gilreath says “it’s a safety issue and a mental health issue for kids," pointing to the recent suicide of a 9-year-old Denver boy who was bullied after he came out to his classmates.
A 2013 study reports more than 74% of LGBTQ students were verbally harassed, and 36% were physically harassed due to their sexual orientation. Truly shocking statistics. Bullying in any way is terrible, but bullying directed at young children who are discovering their gender identity can be extremely detrimental to a child’s mental and physical health. At Alert Solutions, we do not tolerate bullying or cyberbullying in any way. Our Speak Up! Anti-Bullying platform was designed to help drastically reduce bullying incidents in K-12 schools, while maintaining student anonymity.
Before working on an inclusive classroom, teachers and school administrators need to understand gender identity terms. Without this knowledge teachers will struggle to fully grasp the range of identities within these communities, which automatically puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to supporting their students as allies. Accredited Online Schools put together a helpful list of the most common terms that relate to LGBTQ groups. They include:
An ally is somebody who doesn’t identify as LGBTQ, but supports any and all individuals who do. They also advocate on their behalf.
Asexual individuals are not sexually attracted to either sex.
Bisexual individuals are attracted to both sexes, either in physical or emotional ways, or both.
A cisgender individual is somebody who identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth.
An individual who has not yet revealed their gender identity or sexual orientation publicly.
- Coming Out/Disclosure
When an LGBTQ individual discloses their sexual orientation or gender identity to their friends, family, and community.
Individuals who are emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to someone of the same gender.
Gender-expansive individuals believe there is a wider spectrum of gender identities than just male and female.
- Gender Expression
How one expresses gender identity using outward appearances, behaviors or other means.
- Gender Identity
Gender identity is how somebody sees themselves, not by the sex assigned at birth.
Gender neutral “refers to a number of different concepts, all of which revolve around neutrality. It could be used to discuss gender-neutral pronouns, bathrooms or identities.”
Individuals who are questioning are people who are exploring their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Individuals who are transgender don’t identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. They choose to express a different gender identity.
Transition is “when an LGBT individual takes steps legally, medically, or socially to affirm their gender identity. This may include changing one’s name or seeking gender reassignment surgeries.”
Having knowledge of the above terms as a teacher or school administrator is the starting point of creating an inclusive classroom. Without knowing the several terms that relate to the LGBTQ community teachers may struggle to advocate for their students as allies, which would create an unsupportive learning environment where children spend most of their time.
5 Ways to Create an Inclusive Classroom
A Queer Endeavor is an organization that helps teachers navigate how to intervene when they see anti-LGBTQ bullying and how to be there for students who are feeling vulnerable. They put together a list of helpful tips on how to make your classroom an inclusive classroom:
- Let Students Identify Themselves
On the first day of class have students fill out index cards with their preferred name and pronoun. Teachers should update their class list, and make sure to address their students by their preferred name and pronoun.
- Avoid Gendered Language
Teachers should avoid addressing the class with gendered language such as “Ladies and Gentlemen” or “Boys and Girls”.
- Avoid Grouping by Gender
Instead of grouping students by gender for activities and projects, group them by preferences such as ice cream flavors or favorite animals. You could also group by birthdays or birth months.
- All-Gender Bathrooms
If your K-12 school has all-gender bathrooms, make sure your students know exactly where they are. Teachers should also be clear they are for everybody.
- Solidify Your Ally Status
Make sure your students know you are their ally. For example; you could hang a rainbow flag, share your own pronouns with students, and start up or support LGBTQ groups or clubs.
Having an inclusive classroom will benefit everybody in the class! LGBTQ students will feel safer knowing they have an ally in a teacher or school administrator, and will likely have their classmates as their allies as well.
At Alert Solutions we understand the importance of having an inclusive classroom. We work hard to help K-12 schools and districts battle and tackle bullying incidents with our Speak Up! Anti-Bullying platform. Want to learn more? Download our brochure today!