Pride month is a vibrant and significant time when communities around the world come together to celebrate, honor, and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and identities. Beyond the rainbow-colored parades and festivities, Pride Month carries a profound message of acceptance, visibility, and equality. It serves as a powerful reminder of the ongoing efforts to create safe and inclusive classrooms and schools for LGBTQ+ students.
Yet throughout the U.S., these efforts are under attack. In fact, at least 417 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures in 2023, the highest number to date. Many bills focus specifically on regulating curriculum, books, and discussion of LGBTQ+ identity in schools. The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health showed that suicide attempts for this vulnerable population have increased over the past 3 years. 45% of LGBTQ teens seriously considered suicide, and rates were higher for students of color than their white peers.
In the current climate, what can educators do to help? Research from GLSEN, an organization dedicated to fostering schools free of bullying and harassment for LGBTQ+ students, notes that “Having just one visibly supportive educator in a school can ensure that LGBTQ students feel safe, welcomed, and encouraged to learn.” And, the Trevor Project’s data shows that “LGBTQ youth who found their schools to be LGBTQ-affirming reported lower rates of attempting suicide.” Educators are poised to make a potentially life-saving difference!
Below are practical strategies, paired with supporting resources, for teachers and school staff so they can work to cultivate a safe and supportive environment for all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
- Educate: Learn about LGBTQ+ experiences, challenges, and rights. Attend workshops and seek professional development opportunities to better support LGBTQ+ students.
- “Framework for Gender Inclusive Schools,” from Gender Spectrum
- “Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Youth,” from The Trevor Project
- “Learn and Connect: Educator and Education Professional Resources,” from Gender Spectrum
- “Activate Supportive Educators,” from GLSEN
- “Top 10 Ways to Make Schools Safe,” from PFLAG
- Establish Inclusive Policies: Create school policies that prohibit discrimination, bullying, and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Encourage open dialogue and empathy.
- “Respect for All: Policy Recommendations to Support LGBTQ Students,” from GLSEN
- “Best Practices for Serving LGBTQ Students,” from Learning for Justice (Please see Section 1: Policy Checkup)
- “Gender Inclusive School Policy and Mission Statements,” from Gender Spectrum
- A Model Policy on gender inclusion from GLSEN
- Use Inclusive Language and Curriculum: Avoid assumptions and heteronormative language. Include LGBTQ+ representation in teaching materials to create a sense of belonging.
- “Pronoun Guide,” from the National Education Association (NEA)
- Use GLSEN’s Pronoun Form to ensure you’re using students’ preferred pronouns and names.
- “Advocate for Inclusive and Affirming Curriculum,” from GLSEN
- “Defending the Freedom of Our LGBTQ+ Students to be Themselves,” toolkit from the NEA
- “Lesson Plans to Create LGTBQ+ Inclusive Classrooms and Schools,” from Welcoming Schools
- “Lesson Plans to Create Gender-Expansive Classrooms and Support Transgender and Nonbinary Students,” from Welcoming Schools
- Promote LGBTQ+ Visibility: Celebrate LGBTQ+ history, achievements, and contributions throughout the year. Display inclusive symbols and support LGBTQ+ events.
- Programs to Engage School Communities and Raise Awareness, from GLSEN
- “Safe Space Kit: A Guide to Supporting LGBTQ Students in Your School,” from GLSEN
- “Educator Rights to Create an Inclusive Classroom,” from the NEA
- LGBTQ History Lessons, from Facing History and Ourselves
- “LGBTQ Pride Month and Education Resources,” from the ADL
- “30 Fun Pride Month Activities to Promote Love and Acceptance,” from We Are Teachers
- Support LGBTQ+ Student Organizations: Encourage and support LGBTQ+ student organizations. Offer assistance, be an advisor, or provide resources to create a supportive community.
- “What is a GSA Club?” from the GSA Network
- Resources for Building Your GSA, from GSAFE
- “Fostering Safe Spaces: How to Create a GSA at Your High School,” from Shaped
- “GSA Advisor Handbook,” from the GSA Network
Creating LGBTQ+ inclusive spaces in classrooms and schools is an ongoing process that requires dedication, knowledge, and empathy. By fostering a safe and supportive environment, we empower our LGBTQ+ students to thrive and reach their full potential. This Pride Month, let us commit to cultivating inclusivity, breaking down barriers, and creating a brighter future for all students.
For more information on creating inclusive classroom spaces, be sure to check out Course 5143: Creating Safe and Supportive Spaces for LGBT+ Youth!