What Can Teachers Do to Help LGBTQ Students?

February 17, 2011 § 24 Comments

Whether you went to school in the 1950s or are a current highschooler, I am asking for YOUR HELP! In two days I will stand before 130 teachers and faculty members of my high school and assist with a presentation on lgbtq bullying and what teachers can do to help. While I certainly have my own experiences with lgbtq bullying and my personal views on what I think teachers can do to save the students of today and make for a better world – I want to hear your thoughts!

This Friday is the perfect opportunity to promote change within my school and I know my teachers yearn to support our cause – but they may not know just how to do so. They want to know what we need, what troubles we face, what hope they can offer.

So, to my blog readers and a community that has thus far been extremely supportive – I ask of you one thing: tell me what you wish your teachers would have done differently in high school, what they could have done to make your life better.

Feel free to share your ideas by commenting on this post, emailing me at craiggaymail@gmail.com or by Tweeting me your thoughts.

I can’t wait to read what you all have to say!

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§ 24 Responses to What Can Teachers Do to Help LGBTQ Students?

  • Alan E. says:

    I wish that the teachers in my school, including the counselors, would have at least brought the parents of all the kids that were bullying me together. From what I understand, hardly anything was even said to the students themselves. I cried almost every day that year, and not a damn thing was done about it. At the very least, something rather than nothing needs to happen.

    • Craig says:

      So bringing the parents in to make sure they’re notified of their child’s actions seems like a fair place to start. How does something along the lines of parent notifications on what your child’s infractions were which need to be signed? Great idea Alan!

  • Travis Gilbert says:

    I encourage the following steps at my school:

    -Including prominent and successful glbtq historical figures into the curriculum, and discussing their contributions to our society. My history class was shocked and surprised to find out that James Buchanan was said to be gay….

    -Having teachers who are passionate and supportive of glbtq students display safe haven stickers on their doors, so students know which classrooms and teachers are there to help

    -Encouraging the administration and principals to meet with students from the student body that represent the glbtq community, allowing time to discuss concerns and introduce new ideas.

    -Having a zero tolerance policy for using the term “that’s gay” in classrooms. I once saw a poster that displayed 100 different synonyms for the saying “that’s gay.” Very effective.

    -Encouraging glbtq support days, such as the purple day held last fall for the recent increase in related suicides. Simply asking faculty to wear purple and the effect of seeing all the support is overwhemling.

    Glad to Have Helped =]

    • Craig says:

      Those are some fantastic ideas Travis! From previous conversations we have had, it sounds like your zero tolerance policy seems relatively effective. Any tips as to why it works or what makes it work?

      Since we have a very general no tolerance policy, we will most likely try to add more specific details into it after tomorrow’s presentation so if you have any insight on the details of your policy – I would greatly appreciate hearing them!

  • Kyle says:

    There’s a Spanish teacher at my school who always gives speaking quizzes on the Day of Silence — makes me so angry. Like Travis said, LGBTQ support days should definitely be allowed to go on, and not passive aggressively protested against.

    • Craig says:

      Wow, that’s rough Kyle. Aside from a Latin substitute we had one year – I have never heard of any teachers forcing students to speak on the Day of Silence. I’ll be sure to bring that up tomorrow just in case!

  • Mike says:

    I wish teachers would simply let bullies know they will not tolerate treating
    ANYONE badly and give REAL consequences for hurting others!

    • Craig says:

      So adherence to school rules and following through on what teachers pledge/say they will do – we will definitely be stressing the importance of action during tomorrow’s presentation. Thanks for the comment/great suggestion Mike!

  • This is a little trickier, but I honestly think there’s a level at which teachers need to look into themselves and hold their own deeper feelings to the test. None of them may outwardly bully, and probably few (I hope) are openly hostile to LGBTQ students. But both in speech and in overall attitude, people have ways of letting you see where they stand. Even a mildly insensitive attitude on the part of educators can make a hostile atmosphere worse, and make the LGBTQ student feel far more hopeless, alone and outnumbered. Only thing is, it’s a challenge to say this to teachers in just the right way. But I think I can be done. Easy for me to say, of course…

    • Craig says:

      Thanks for the wonderful comment Catherine! While it may be a challenge to say it in the right way, you have written it extremely well . If you don’t mind, I would like to use a few of your phrases tomorrow.

      As long as we open with a qualifier and set up a positive and correct context, one which enables growth and prevents (negatively) inflaming others, our chances of achieving proper communication should be decent. With proper communication will hopefully come greater understanding – and your words will certainly help!

  • Barry says:

    I was bullied all the way through school for being “different”; I didn’t like sports or play any, but I loved music. I was raised in a very small town in Vermont and surrounded by very typical “straight thinking” New England traditional values of heterosexuality and intolerance for anything and anyone who was different. Myself and a few others just didn’t fit and were therefore, bullied continually, emotionally and physically beaten down whenever the opportunity presented itself just because we didn’t fit the “norm.” When I say physically, I mean broken arm three times in the shower room which I hated, verbal abuse in classes, anything at anytime. Through all this I had no idea what gay even meant or was. It wasn’t talked about or mentioned, but I knew I felt different and also knew I liked boys more than girls. But there was no way to talk to anyone out of fear. At home it was made very clear that it was a subject not to be talked about…at school the guidance counselors refused to discuss the subject for fear that it might reflect on themselves, the administration refused to do anything about the physical attacks saying that it was all a part of growing up. When you stand before those parents and teachers let them know that the most important thing for them to be is a listener to their child at any age. Irregardless of their own feelings, they have to be open to encouraging their children in growing up, able to express themselves as who they really are. You know that being gay is not a choice. My parents and family who shun me to this day as an adult insist that it is. Educate them…ask them did they make a “choice” to be straight? No, and surprisingly, not many gay people would make the choice to be gay either because of the way we are treated and discriminated against. Bullying does not originate at the school. We are all products of our environment and bullies are mostly products of bullies. Following that back then, parents who mistreat their kids and don’t show them love and allow them to grow as they need to, with encouragement into individuals, instead of models of their parents failures,almost always end up continuing on the circle of bullying. Parents must be responsible and take accountability for the way they raise their children. But the problem of bullying is so much bigger than kids, parents, teachers, administrators or school boards. Look at the paper every morning at the fights and discussions between the politicians over issues. Bullying is used every day, at every level of our society and has become a way of life in our society. The one with the biggest gang, the most money, the loudest voice, the biggest fist wins. There have to be changes, and for change to happen in any society it has to happen at the grassroots. SO bring your story back down to your friends and enemies and make a pact. An agreement that from now on bullying is something that politicians do, or ot the the “higher-ups” need to be educated about, but it’s up to your generation to teach them how to stop it. Seal the deal with your age groups that it ends with them and hold your parents to the fire to stop, then make them hold the teachers to the fire to stop it and supports those below them in the deal, and so on and so forth. It can and will work. It takes time, but it starts with you! Good luck and let us know how it went. I feel like you’re my younger brother by now and I care about how you do, so go for it!

    • Craig says:

      Thanks for the support Barry and I’m sorry you have had to deal with so much! While I can’t get your family to accept you again, hopefully this writing will help others accept themselves and can prevent a family from the turmoil which yours has experienced. Hope all goes well for you “Big Bro” :)

  • Jim at Outsports says:

    Hi:
    This was posted in a Facebook thread about Craig’s post:

    Teachers, administration, and staff need to take action when they witness bullying and when they are told about a bullying incident.
    – Schools and school board should have anti-bullying policies and procedures for dealing with issues like…: bullying, name-calling, harassment, discrimination.
    – Teachers, administration, and staff need to encourage and foster inclusive and welcoming attitudes and behaviours in classrooms and throughout schools.
    – Parents and schools need to encourage and foster inclusive and welcoming attitudes and behaviours in homes and throughout their community.
    – Schools and community libraries should have books/videos regarding bullying, harassment, diversity, inclusiveness. They also should have books that share the experiences and stories of GLBTTQ people.

    Successful anti-Bullying programs requires community response – students, parents, family, teachers, administrators, education staff, school board members, city councilors, Mayors, public employees, community organizations, community leaders.

    Ethically (and often legally) every person should stop harassment against other people based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, language of origin, or physical or mental abilities.

    Across the USA and Canada, most teachers, as part of their profession, are obligated to protect students from harm and discrimination.

    The following have free resources or ideas for teachers and students to address bullying:

    Make It Better Project

    http://makeitbetterproject.org/

    Stop Bullying Now

    http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/kids/

    Safe and Caring Schools and Communities

    http://www.sacsc.ca/

    Pink Shirt Day

    http://www.pinkshirtday.ca/

    Began when students took action against bullying when a fellow student was teased and harassed for wearing a pink shirt.

    Safe Schools Coalition

    http://www.safeschoolscoalition.org/

    Educator’s Guide to Intervening In GLBTTQ Harassment

    http://www.safeschoolscoalition.org/guide_educator_interveneharass2005NAT.pdf

    Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network

    http://www.glsen.org/

    Teaching Tolerance

    http://www.tolerance.org/

    http://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/2001/uslgbt/action.htm

    • Craig says:

      Thanks Jon! I would have missed these entirely had you not posted them. They will definitely go into our PDF on how to create a more friendly environment for gay teens in school!

  • Fred says:

    Consider arranging a time for staff and students to view the movie Bullied. More info here: http://www.tolerance.org/bullied
    Form a committee to develop a no tolerance policy not just about anti-gay bulling but all forms of bulling. It’s important for administration to have the resources and that they adopt and “enforce” a no tolerance policy. Sometimes you have to do the work for them or make the work so easy for them that they can’t refuse.
    Tell real life examples and stories that hit close to home. Personal stories of bulling that you experienced or witnessed and then tell teachers how they might have stepped in and what they might say to stop it – and then tell then what affect their comments would have – it might be one little glimmer of hope for a bullied student nearing suicide.
    It takes courage for teachers to step in sometimes – empower them, give them permission to step in.
    Maybe have a skit on stage – use hand picked teachers – have a mock bully and victim – lead by example – let audience view how a bully scene develops and how a teacher steps in .

    Best Wishes and Good Luck

    • Craig says:

      Thank you Fred for the good ideas! Our administration is really trying to drive home the point of enforcing the rules we have in place and not tolerating any bullying – thankfully they have made that very clear so we aren’t the only ones supporting a no tolerance program.

      Thank you also for the movie suggestion. At 40 minutes it should meet the time requirement which we have and we may be able to present it in a similar context to Friday’s. If not, I may get our student council to watch it so we can be re-energized to do more against bullying.

  • Mike says:

    First off, Congratulations on all you’re doing. It’s truly courageous and inspiring to see one so young taking such initiative and really making a difference.

    As a starting point in your discussion with the faculty I’d emphasize two main points; Teacher/Admin Education and Instituting a formal Zero Tolerance Anti-Bullying Policy at your school.

    Most teachers don’t fully understand what lgbt kids endure on a daily basis. The teachers need to be educated with seminars, recommended reading lists, etc. They really need to know what it feels like and empathize with the gay kids who are getting bullied.

    Secondly, schools need to introduce formal Anti-Bullying Programs with written rules, procedures and processes that specify how to prevent bullying, what to do when it occurs, how to engage parents (of both the bullies and thoses being bullied), support for victims and penalties for the bullies. Obviously that is a very short list that’s probably missing many important items. But it’s a start. The key point is to get a formal, written policy in place. Otherwise any gains made now can easily be lost if no one steps into your place when you graduate.

    Again Congrats!! and THANK YOU for all you’ve already done and good luck with the next steps in your journey.

    • Craig says:

      “Most teachers don’t fully understand what lgbt kids endure on a daily basis.” I think you hit the nail on the head with this one. After the presentation, I think the teachers now have a (better) idea of what goes on every day to some lgbt students though we have yet to even skim the surface. Thank you for the congratulations and support as well as your comment!

  • Jacob Woods says:

    There are a ton of various activities that are nationally recognized in the lgbt community. It is sort of like an activism calendar really. Encourage participation in those days through various groups that would be interested. Human right groups, government groups, etc might be interested in participating in the national day of silence coming up in April.

    Though I personally disagree with the concept it is already ingrained into the culture and history.

    The other suggestion I have is to have teachers proactively approach subjects like that’s so gay, its gay, fagot, etc. I know teachers here it in the hall and in there classrooms and sometimes no one says anything.

    My teacher always use to ask when someone said thats so gay, “Does it have the capability to be attracted to the same sex?”

    The student would answer, “You know what I mean.”

    Teacher,”No I don’t. It is derogatory towards homosexuals. There could be one sitting in the room right now and you never may know.”

    This approach is very effective for changing people’s views. I wish all of my teachers were like her. I was the unknown gay guy sitting silently in the classroom.

    Thirdly, bullying is a hot topic. LGBT bullying exclusively doesn’t win over to well with some people. Make sure to say that you are still against all bullying, I assume that you would do that anyways. It is important to mention that bullying is a bigger issue than just the lgbt one. Bullying happens everywhere and it happens to be a hot topic simply because it has been getting a ton of media attention.

    The best of luck to you. I hope all goes well. As far as curriculum is concerned all history is important. To have a bit of gay history is fine, in larger schools it may even be an excellent elective to have an lgbt history class.

    I once had a class all about the holocaust. Though all history is important and schools shouldn’t be required to focus on lgbt issues, or any specific issue, they should want to. And if there is a need for it and someone willing to put together a lesson plan for a class dealing with lgbt issues it should be allowed.

    • Craig says:

      My teacher always use to ask when someone said thats so gay, “Does it have the capability to be attracted to the same sex?”
      The student would answer, “You know what I mean.
      Teacher,”No I don’t. It is derogatory towards homosexuals. There could be one sitting in the room right now and you never may know.”

      Thanks Jacob for that great scenario! I quoted this (in brevity) during the presentation as an example of how to combat the use of such phrases and turn it into a learning moment. The teachers seemed to take to the idea well as much as I could read from their reactions.

  • Dan Woog says:

    A great question — and congratulations on all you’re doing, Craig. You rock the universe.

    In addition to the excellent ideas above, teachers MUST:

    — Realize that they have GLBT students in every class they teach. Some they may suspect; others they’d be surprised at. Some students are sure of their sexuality; others are struggling with it. Just as every teacher is cognizant of physical and intellectual differences — he’d never make a “fat” joke with a heavy student in class, or one about a stutterer, a child with Down syndrome or one in a wheelchair — he must understand that there are students with differences he can’t see. Every teacher wants to make his classroom safe for all students, and have them all reach their potential. Recognizing that LGBT students are everywhere (and so are those with LGBT relatives and friends) goes a long way toward creating a classroom atmosphere of acceptance and tolerance for all.

    — Say the words “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual” and “transgender” out loud. It’s a simple thing, but some teachers are afraid speak these words. That says volumes about fear and shame — not only to GLBT kids, but to straight ones. An English teacher can talk about “gay poets”; a history teacher can discuss the gay rights movement along with women’s rights and civil rights, etc.

    — But gay stuff doesn’t always have to be spoken. A math teacher can have word problems with two men and two women going to the grocery store, along with others with straight couples. Any teacher can stop mentioning “boyfriends” or “girlfriends” — with the assumption of heterosexuality — and instead substitute “someone you love.” It’s a subtle difference, but it sends a huge message.

    — Teachers can speak up when they hear anti-gay jokes or comments made in the teacher’s lunchroom. They can ask why “sexual orientation” is not included in the school’s anti-discrimination or anti-bullying policy. They can NOT be afraid that, by speaking up for GLBT issues, someone will “assume” they’re gay. No one questions a white person speaking up for African American rights, a man talking about women’s issues, or a human being advocating for animal rights. This is no different. At its core, this is not about “sex” or even sexuality — it’s about making your classroom, school and community a better place for every student, allowing each to reach his or her potential. And who can argue with that?

    Dan Woog
    Author/speaker on gay issues — and an openly gay high school soccer coach

  • Rajnish Dave says:

    There are some amazing ideas here to stop bullying at school. I would emphasize parental involvement as crucial. Kids often figure out from parents and religious groups that’s its ok to bully and loathe.
    I would be surprised to see accepting parents whose kids bully their schoolmates.

    Its vital to stop bullying in school before the bullies become your teacher, coaches, bosses and colleagues!

    Goodluck! This is a great step in the right direction.

  • [...] high school and the captain of his track team.  Craig recently endeavored in a campaign to ask, “What Can Teachers Do to Help LGBTQ Students?”  You can follow Craig on Twitter as well, [...]

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