Back to School: Creating a Welcoming Environment for LGBTQ Students

As my retired-school-teacher mother always says, once you start hearing those cicadas in Ohio in mid-August, you know a new school year is upon us. And here (and hear) we are.

It’s a sorry fact that LGBTQ youth in our schools face increased harassment and bullying, by fellow students and also faculty and staff, as compared to their straight peers. This pervasive diminishment in safety negatively affects students’ overall sense of well-being, not to mention their studies. Schools can counteract this by adopting (or updating) and enforcing inclusive language in their school policies. Below is a non-exhaustive list of ways a given school policy could be made more welcoming of LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff:

  • Is the school policy compliant with the State of Ohio requirement that all public-school districts implement an anti-bullying policy? Does the policy explicitly cover bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression?
  • Is the school district compliant with Ohio law requiring school districts to report semiannually the number of incidents of verified bullying and harassment by school building?
  • What non-discrimination clauses are included in the policy? Is discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression expressly prohibited?
  • Does the school ensure that all staff and faculty members are aware that allowing students to use the restroom that aligns with that student’s gender identity is reflected in policy and practice?
  • Does the school enforce a dress code and, if so, is it gender neutral?
  • Does school faculty, staff, and personnel receive training in cultural sensitivity?

How well does your school’s policy fare in the face of these questions? Could it use updating?

Let’s ensure our kids have the best school year they can by making our schools welcoming for all!

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