Teacher Appreciation Week May 7-11
For LGBT youth, school can be an ordeal. They can be singled out, bullied, feel unsafe in an environment that’s supposed to be free of fear. In fact, they may elect to miss school as much as a day per month because they are being harassed. Compared to their heterosexual peers, they use illicit drugs disproportionally, are required to attend Sex Education Classes that focus on heterosexual -only contraception or preach abstinence. They may be scared to use the bathroom of their choice, not the ones that match their birth certificates. Daily, they may hear “that’s so gay” and other derogatory comments hurled at them.
Yet teachers do not always address the issue of homophobia in their schools. They may not be trained to do so. Afraid of losing their jobs if they are outed, some LGBT teachers may not want to be considered “political” and draw attention to themselves. However, just a few thoughtful deeds is all it takes for a teacher to ally themselves with LGBT students, he can, for example:
• Post a “safe zone” sign in school.
• Seek opportunities to include LGBT people such as Michelangelo in Science class. California is the first state to make its curriculum inclusive of LGBTQ icons and history!
• Don’t assume any student is gay.
• Organize or encourage district administration to arrange an in-service with a qualified youth advocate.
• If the school has a Gay-Straight Alliance, he can volunteer as an Advisor.
These are just a few of the ways that teachers can show support. PFLAG (Parents For Lesbians & Gays, and now Transgenders) has a “Safe Schools Program” in New York City that hopefully will be adopted by others. The mission of the “Safe Schools Program” is to promote inclusion, understanding, equality, and non-violence. To this end, its volunteer speakers help create a learning environment that respects everyone. The volunteers of all backgrounds include straight family and friends of LGBT people as well as LGBT adults and youth. They bring family perspective and personal stories to illustrate sexual orientation and gender identity.
PFLAG NYC visits schools throughout New York to work with teachers, parents, administrators, school staff and students to help make sure that discrimination is not present in the classroom. The program:
• Addresses students, teachers, counselors, and parents about LGBT issues.
• Helps LGBT students find support in understanding their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
• Helps faculty and staff to understand and approach LGBT issues respectfully and accurately.
• Helps parents understand LGBT issues as it relates to the developing sexuality of their children and their children’s friends and peers.
• Teaches straight students, faculty, and parents to be allies.
If you are fortunate enough to have a teacher who has your child’s “back,” you are blessed. Your child will feel protected. Together, you, as a parent, and your child’s teacher, will act as a team with your child’s best interests at heart so he can thrive.
Be sure to tell your teacher that you appreciate him/her, not just this week, but other times as well. They are not only influential, but spend almost as much time with your child as you do.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.