3.4 School policy ideas
Beyond creating welcoming spaces in your classroom, you may wish to change your school or district’s policies to be more inclusive of LGBTQIA people. Remember that in North Carolina your school is responsible for upholding the School Violence Prevention Act, and that all students (including transgender students) are protected under Title IX.
Research from GLSEN has shown that comprehensive anti-bullying policies, meaning ones that specifically include LGBTQIA identities, are more effective in protecting students. When writing an anti-discrimination policy, make sure it includes:
- Sexual orientation. You may also wish to include the words lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, etc., though sexual orientation will cover all of these.
- Gender identity AND gender expression. Gender identity will protect transgender and genderqueer students, while gender expression will also help students of all gender identities whose dress and appearance are different from what people expect (for example, a boy who likes to wear dresses).
- Intersex status in the list of protected groups. Intersex advocates want “intersex status” to be included in anti-discrimination laws, because if intersex people are being discriminated against based on their biological traits, then they are not protected by the inclusion of “gender identity.”
Support Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) or similar groups by ensuring school policies follow the Equal Access Act. If there is any discrimination against a GSA by students or staff, follow through with the appropriate procedures.
Recruit multiple teachers to serve as GSA co-advisers. Multiple teachers will show the students lots of people care about them and create a pipeline of teachers who can serve as future advisers.
Conduct professional development for other teachers on the needs of LGBTQIA students. Those in North Carolina may want to attend professional development sessions by the NCAE.
Stakeholders will need to demonstrate the need for a policy. Building a local coalition of other groups, not just teachers, who advocate for LGBTQIA students will be important. This coalition could include parents of out LGBTQIA students, local doctors, psychologists/counselors, social workers, local NAACP chapters, local NCAE chapters, Communities and Schools, United Way and other non-profits (e.g. Guilford Education Alliance).
- Create a safe space in your own classroom and school.
- Begin to build a coalition of people who are committed to creating safe schools for LGBTQIA students.
- Determine the policy-making process within your district; it should be available from your district’s public relations officer or attorney.
- Have coalition members bring up the need for an LGBTQIA policy during the public comment period of school board/board of education meetings. This should happen every time the board meets until the board agrees to create a policy. You usually have to sign up to speak a few minutes before the meeting begins. Find out the process from your district via the district’s public relations officer.
- Board policy is typically drafted by the staff policy committee. The committee is chaired by the board attorney and consists of staff representatives from the various components of the district. Share recommended language (see the previous section or this guide from GLSEN) with the committee.
- Begin to educate other principals on the needs of LGBTQIA students. Principals have input into the policy draft process.
- Policy is presented to the policy sub-committee of the Board of Education. This is a public meeting; media may attend. You should attend and advocate for the policy.
- Policy is presented to the board for first public reading and then a period of public comment.
- Policy is presented to the board for a second reading. The board usually votes on the policy during this meeting.
- Until the policy is adopted, continue to have representatives at the Board of Education meetings to speak during the public comments portion.
- Be prepared for this to take a while. It will not be easy. You may face resistance or be in the media.
Teachers may want to find a community leader to lead this effort and be the public face. LGBTQIA teachers in North Carolina should also consider the political climate of their district, as they are not protected by non-discrimination policies. Teachers in other states should check their non-discrimination laws and policies.
Teachers, administrators, parents, and other community supporters may wish to cite academic research to support the need for policies and practices to support LGBTQIA students. Here are some suggested resources:
- Blackburn, M. V. (2010). Acting out!: Combating homophobia through teacher activism. New York: Teachers College Press.
- Haskell, R., & Burtch, B. E. (2010). Get that freak: Homophobia and transphobia in high schools. Halifax, N.S.: Fernwood Pub.
- Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Diaz, E. M., and Bartkiewicz, M. J. (2012). The 2011 national school climate survey executive summary: Key findings on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in our nation’s schools. New York: GLSEN. Retrieved from http://glsen.org/research.
- Mayo, C. (2014). LGBTQ youth and education: Policies and practices. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
- Payne, E. & Smith, M. (2013). LGBTQ kids, school safety, and missing the big picture: How the dominant bullying discourse prevents school professionals from thinking about systemic marginalization or…Why we need to rethink LGBTQ bullying. QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking, 1 (1), 1-36.
- Sears, J. T.(2005; 2003). Gay, lesbian, and transgender issues in education: Programs, policies, and practices. New York: Harrington Park Press.