Here are 5 ways you can make your school safer for LGBT students no matter what your role:
If you’re a student:
- Doing nothing can be worse than the act itself: Report harassment, bullying, or threats targeted at LGBT students to a trusted teacher or advisor.
- Encourage your teachers to address homophobia and transphobia in the classroom by posting safe-space posters, stopping hate speech, and supporting gay-straight alliances (GSAs).
- Watch what you say: Don’t use words associated with being LGBT as euphemisms for stupid and explain to friends and peers who do why they shouldn’t.
- Ask your school to address LGBT issues by having a Pride Week, bringing a speaker to your school, and talking about sexual orientation and gender identity in class.
- Support your LGBT peers by joining a GSA: the A stands for ally.
If you’re a teacher:
- Stop hate speech in your classroom. Speak out if you hear a student in your class or in the halls using words like “fag”, “dyke”, or “gay” as put-downs or insults.
- Ask your administrator for the opportunity to attend “Respect for All” training for diversity and LGBT issues.
- Participate in educators’ conferences, and speak to current and future teachers about being allies for LGBT staff and students.
- Post safe-space posters, materials, or just talk to your students about why your classroom a safe-space, free of harassment, bias, and violence.
- Support gay-straight alliances, chaperon LGBT positive proms, and help LGBT students and staff advocate for fair school policies.
If you’re an administrator or guidance counselor:
- Reach out to both parents and students to help make them aware that peers may be struggling with sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Meet with teachers and parents to help them learn about the issues that their students, children, or their children’s peers may be facing as a LGBT person.
- Make sure your library, school healthcare workers, and health teachers include accurate information about gender identity, LGBT sexuality, and health.
- Ensure that the NYC DOE’s “Respect for All” program and the Chancellor’s Regulation on Bias-Related Harassment and Bullying are known in your school, and that students, parents, and teachers know how to respond to bias incidents.
- Let students know that your office is open to them, should they need support speaking about bullying, violence, harassment, or conflict at home.
If you’re a parent:
- Understand the issues and terms associated with LGBT issues, and teach your children what you learn.
- Talk to your kids about hate speech, bullying, and acceptance. Let them know that not participating in these activities, and standing up for others, earns your respect.
- Work with your PTA to create allied groups in your community, focused on making your school safer.
- Write to local papers and contact your school administrators to make it known that your family and your community are concerned about safe school issues.
- Let your children know that you accept them, their friends, and their peers, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Make your home a supportive and open space.
(image from University of New Mexico)