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Education

Addressing the LGBTQ Climate in Public Schools

When addressing LGBTQ matters, schools must implement proactive and preventative strategies. These strategies should include creative initiatives that examine and address their unique school climate, which may include the introduction of LGBTQ-specific programs to provide the opportunity for students to understand and respect their similarities and differences to one another. To be the most effective, multiple ongoing strategies should be implemented simultaneously and accompanied by time for reflection, adjustments, and updating as needed.

Due to the amount of time spent with students, it is imperative that teachers consciously work to provide a safe environment for LGBTQ students by developing engaging and diverse lessons with the opportunity for open discussion. By building rapport with their students through active involvement in the classroom, teachers may identify, avoid and ameliorate potential points of conflict among students. Furthermore, by reducing points of conflict among students, teachers aid in fostering a positive school climate and sense of community, which is particularly important for LGBTQ students.

LGBTQ students frequently have self-image issues, and may view themselves, incorrectly, as not capable or less capable than their peers. These students are often among the first to be negatively impacted by a less-than-supportive school climate, which can lead to poor performance in the classroom, decreased attendance and withdrawal from school. However, when situated in a positive and supportive environment, these students can be among the greatest beneficiaries and thrive amongst their peers.

When developing guidelines for improving a school’s climate, educators need to understand that the greatest volume of discussion will happen among and between the students themselves. Therefore, it is imperative that schools educate and provoke thought among students in an age-appropriate manner, particularly in older grades. By educating students with social and emotional skills, educators are able to influence the school environment through conversations that occur inside and outside the classroom.

To meet the needs of LGBTQ students, administrators, faculty and staff should be familiar with recent LGBTQ-related litigation and should be aware that courts are increasingly intolerant of actions or inactions by school officials that contribute to the mistreatment of LGBTQ youth. By discussing the implications of current events, employees will develop a greater understanding of the current potential issues and their responsibilities under the law. Furthermore, educators will be more prepared to lead conversations with students about topics that may otherwise be difficult to comprehend without a deeper understanding of case precedent and current societal trends.

Through proactive measures implemented at the classroom level and an emphasis on developing students’ social and emotional skills, schools may provide a positive environment for LGBTQ students.

Contact David O. Fleischer (954-941-1844; dfleischer@bucknersportslaw.com) for additional recommendations relating to LGBTQ issues.

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