June 27, 2019

LGBTQ+ Inclusive Schools are Healthy Schools

At Healthier Generation, we are committed to addressing the health needs of the whole child—inclusive of social-emotional health—to ensure every child can grow and thrive at school, at home, and in life. 

Research continues to show us that social connection can greatly improve all aspects of health. Moreover, feeling connected at school has the added benefit of improving academic performance. 

Research is also telling us that a positive and inclusive school climate helps all youth, and has a particularly positive impact on LGBTQ youth, who are more likely to experience bullying, harassment, and suicidal ideation than their heterosexual peers. For these reasons, explicitly focusing on creating welcoming and inclusive environments for LGBTQ-identified youth can have an incredible impact on building and sustaining a healthy school. 

Want to build an inclusive school, but don’t know where to start? Here are 4 quick tips to promote safe and supportive environments. 

 

1. Learn Something New for You 

Continued professional learning in this area not only supports an understanding of LGBTQ youth, but can also equip educators with language, strategies, and ideas for creating more welcoming environments. Regardless of where you are at in your journey, there is always something new to learn.  

Teaching Tolerance has a great guide on best practices for serving LGBTQ students, including a really helpful glossary of terms. 

My personal learning at the moment is learning about the history of the Pride Flag and what the colors represent

 

2. Diversify the Classroom Library 

Books that are representative of various populations not only helps kids feel more seen and heard, it also builds social awareness and relationships skills among all students. The Human Rights Campaign has a great list of picture and middle grade books for use at school or home. Scholastic has also compiled a list that includes books for high school students

At home, my kids really enjoy reading A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo 

 

3. Model Inclusive Language  

Educators are highly inspirational and influential people in students’ lives. Similar to diversifying the classroom library, modeling inclusive language and using teachable moments to interrupt patterns of bias can help all students feel secure that their classrooms are spaces where they are safe and supported. This document from the British Columbia Teacher’s Association is a great place to start.   

Another example: Include your own gender pronouns in your email signature, like so: 

Elizabeth Cook (she/her/hers) | Senior National Advisor, Social-Emotional Health 

 

4. Formalize your support in your system by becoming a Welcoming School or sponsoring a GSA 

Gender-Sexuality Alliances (formally known as Gay-Straight Alliances) is a student-run club where kids can take a leadership role in promoting inclusive school environments and promoting positive cultures. The GSA Network has a great resource for getting started with a GSA. 

At the elementary level, the Welcoming Schools professional development program has a comprehensive set of resources and trainings for schools who want to develop a whole-school approach to embracing diversity and inclusion. 

 

What steps are you taking to create a safe and supportive environment for youth? Let us know by sharing your ideas on social media with the hashtag #HealthySchools!