3.6 What to do if your school administrator isn't supportive
Administrators have many issues on their desks, and some do not prioritize anti-bullying interventions. However, federal and state laws are clear about school administrators’ responsibilities towards their students. As a result, your school principal must take specific steps to stop all bullying and harassment even if he or she is facing other major challenges, has alternative definitions of bullying, or has intolerant beliefs.
- Review your school’s policies and procedures and relevant federal laws. North Carolina state law requires all schools to provide a safe learning environment. North Carolina’s School Violence Prevention Act now defines bullying and harassment to be:
any pattern of gestures or written, electronic, or verbal communications, or any physical act or any threatening communication, that takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function, or on a school bus, and that: (1) Places a student or school employee in actual and reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or damage to his or her property; or (2) Creates or is certain to create a hostile environment by substantially interfering with or impairing a student’s educational performance, opportunities, or benefits. For purposes of this section, “hostile environment” means that the victim subjectively views the conduct as bullying or harassing behavior and the conduct is objectively severe or pervasive enough that a reasonable person would agree that it is bullying or harassing behavior.
For various reasons, principals sometimes avoid sanctioning lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ)-inclusive activities, organizations, or curriculum. This not only feels demeaning but also it is often illegal. School Issues explains your legal rights surrounding common issues that arise in schools, such as forming a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), allowing same sex couples at the prom, bathroom and locker room issues, and wearing clothing that matches the student’s gender expression/identity. Talking to a lawyer knowledgeable about LGBTQIA school issues will help teachers and families clarify their legal rights.
- Teachers often wish to be supportive of LGBTQ students but fear that non-supportive administrators will take retribution on them with negative evaluations or undesirable class assignments. The district’s North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) contact may be able to give school employees and families a better idea of the school climate and suggestions for working with school administrators. NCAE employees or Safe Schools NC board members can also speak to administrators about their legal responsibilities towards targets of harassment and bullying. To contact Safe Schools NC about harassment, go to Report Harassment.
- Documenting bullying incidents and conversations with administrators is key. Although most people do not wish to sue school districts, it is important for those who have been bullied to record what has happened and their actions in case the situation escalates. For example: “Feb. 17, called names by X classmate, reported to teacher.” Documenting conversations will also assist LGBTQIA-supportive teachers with unsupportive administrators. See Responding to a bullying incident for specific actions.
- Go up the chain of command. If you do not get an adequate response from the principal, contact the school system’s superintendent and safety officer, which North Carolina law requires each school district to have.
- School boards are also responsive to their electorate. If you are not satisfied with your school board’s decisions, find like-minded neighbors and work to change the board make-up. Identify LGBTQIA-friendly school board candidates and assist their campaigns to increase the likelihood that they will win. Question candidates at public forums and through questionnaires and let your allies know their responses.
- Next: Student resources