Support for LGBTQ+ Youth
Although PRIDE month and the school year are coming to an end, it is important to recap on the importance of supporting our LGBTQ+ youth and hopefully better prepare for the years to come.
Historical Support for LGBTQ+ Youth
In regard to LGBTQ+ history pertaining to LGBTQ+ youth, in 1990, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) was founded; this educational organization focused on creating a safe and affirming school community for all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
Support for transgender students really only began around the early 2000s. In 2003, the Horizon Foundation created a fund to support school-based programs which promoted the understanding of transgender individuals. President Obama signed a federal law in 2009, known as the Matthew Shepard Act; this law expanded the federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by an individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. This was the first federal law to include the protection of transgender individuals.
The United States Department of Education issued a statement in 2011 clarifying that students have a right to form Gay-Straight Alliance, now referred to as Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) groups under the Equal Access Act; school officials were required to provide GSAs with the same opportunities as other school groups.
The Department of Education then issued official guidance, in 2014 to clarify that transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX (9), a federal civil rights law. This issue prohibited discrimination against students based on sex/gender in federally funded programs, such as the public school environment.
Sadly, the challenges for the LGBTQ+ community, specifically transgender students, continues. In 2017, the Trump administration repealed Title IX Obama guidelines which protected transgender students in the United States. Additionally, as of 2022, there are still several states in the United States that do not have any laws that protect LGBTQ+ students, and two states with laws that prevent schools / school districts from incorporating policies that protect LGBTQ+ students (See pictorial below). Furthermore, issues concerning the protection of LGBTQ+ youth / students are currently being discussed in the news, and these issues are a heavily debated topic of discussion with the 2024 presidential candidates, with several of the candidates opposing LGBTQ+ rights.
Pictorial taken from Movement Advancement Project (MAP) website.
Therefore, there is still much that can and should be done in order to respect the rights of LGBTQ+, specifically, transgender individuals, and create supportive and safe school environments for these students.
LGBTQ+ students are at a greater risk for:
Worse academic performance
Missing school days due to fear of possible violence
Lower educational aspirations post-graduation
Some effective methods to support LGBTQ+ students include:
Having the LGBTQ+ community visible/represented in the school building
Presence of a GSA (Gender-Sexuality Alliance) club
LGBTQ+ stickers / flags on designated safe spaces within the school building
Stressing the importance of knowledge and understanding of the LGBTQ+ community
Utilizing an inclusive curriculum (one that includes positive representations of the LGBTQ+ community, their history, and events in order to promote a positive academic environment for LGBTQ+ students)
Having professional development and bringing in speakers from LGBTQ+ organizations
Ensuring that school professionals are proactive, consistent, and committed to communicating the message that, “different is not bad” across all grade levels
Having parental support / receiving positive reactions from parents / guardians
Allowing students to use gender neutral restrooms or the restroom associated with their gender identity
Bathrooms and locker rooms are often perceived as the least safe spaces in schools for transgender youth, and thus are often avoided. Therefore, it is important for there to be gender-neutral bathrooms in schools in order to represent safe spaces within the school
It is critical that all the students, not just LGBTQ+ students, promote the use of gender-neutral bathrooms. The use of these bathrooms by all the students will prevent LGBTQ+ students from getting bullied for using these bathrooms
Allowing students to have their chosen name in the electronic student database system
Having support from the school leaders
Having / implementing specific transition plans for these students
Some Helpful Resources:
Blog by: Dr. Courtney Cross, PsyD, NCSP, Licensed Psychologist and Coastal Light Clinician LGBTQ+ Affirmative Therapy in North Carolina & Florida
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