On February 22, guidance from the Obama Administration that supported an interpretation of gender as inclusive of gender identity, was reversed by our current administration. As director of Teach For America’s LGBTQ Community Initiative, I know how troubling and concerning this news has been for many teachers and especially the LGBTQ students and families you serve across our regions.
After the tragic shooting at Pulse in Orlando, many of you mobilized to more firmly activate your commitment to LGBTQ students, in particular, LGBTQ students of color like so many of the Latinx and Black LGBTQ young people who lost their lives because of hate. You asked for resources, guidance, and support to make the connection between anti-LGBTQ language we deem casual and statistics that fortify barriers to a quality education, such as CDC findings that:
- More than one in 10 LGBTQ students reported missing school during the past 30 days due to safety concerns; or
- More than 40 percent of LGBTQ students have seriously considered suicide, and 29 percent reported having attempted suicide during the past 12 months.
The rescindance of Title IX guidance principally impacts transgender students, and has sparked a whole host of state house bills aimed at the LGBTQ community broadly, from reversals in municipal non-discrimination ordinances to schools and communities reversing policies that protect transgender students. Your voice and awareness can be critical in ensuring they know your classroom or school will be a safe place to learn. How can we expect students to achieve when even our laws and policies make them feel unwelcome and unwanted?
In addition to to resources available at Teach For America’s LGBTQ Initiative, a few additional resources that can assist you in supporting LGBTQ students include:
- GLSEN’s 9 steps to support Transgender students
- National Center for Transgender Equality webinars and resources
- GLSEN’s guide to working with LGBTQ students of color
- GLSEN’s toolkit for elementary educators to help students feel safe and develop respectful behaviors and attitudes
- Teaching Tolerance guide to creating an LGBTQ-inclusive school environment
- Training from the Trevor Project to help adults understand the environmental stressors that contribute to a heightened risk for suicide in LGBTQ youth
As concerned educators, we can’t focus exclusively on federal legislation, but we can leverage our impact to support LGBTQ students at district and school levels. Even prior to Title IX guidance, many districts extended bathroom use to students based on gender identity. Many cities have successfully passed non-discrimination ordinances that provide an additional level of protection. Ultimately, our commitment to safe classrooms is as much about achievement as it is identity. Acting in accordance with this belief should compel us to consider ways we can affirm students so they achieve their educational promise.
For additional information about how you can help support LGBTQ students nationally and at the local level, please join Teach For America PRISM on Facebook and its nearly 1,500 educators and advocates.