Title

Creating Safe and Welcoming Schools for LGBTQ Youth

Focused Area

Improving School Climate for Youth-At-Risk

Relevance to Focused Area

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender youth are two and three times as likely to be bullied, use tobacco, drugs and alcohol, skip school, harm themselves and experience other health disparities. Transgender youth experience the greatest risks of all, yet school systems are unsure of how to work with and support these young people. Creating a safe and welcoming school climate is critical to the success of all students, including LGBT youth who report feeling like they don't belong.

Primary Strand

Safety & Violence Prevention

Relevance to Primary Strand

While this proposal relates well to primary strands #2, 3, 4 and 5, the closest connection is to strand #3 “HANDS”: SAFETY & VIOLENCE PREVENTION.

Content will explore how to create a safe school environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, with an emphasis on how to work with those at greatest risk-- including transgender and gender nonconforming young people.

Brief Program Description

Participants will understand the disproportionate risk factors facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, learn concrete strategies and steps to take to create a safe and welcoming environment, and explore implications of data collection, policy creation and staff training which addresses the unique needs of LGBTQ youth. This session will provide teachers, administrators, counselors and other school staff with practical steps to address the needs of LGBTQ youth. Emphasis will be placed on supporting transgender and gender nonconforming youth.

Summary

Our schools are frequently viewed as a safe harbor by many kids, yet some populations face hardships at home, in school, in their peer groups and in society, making their school experiences challenging at best. Our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students are at much greater risk for a variety of health disparities, including being bullied, missing school due to feeling unsafe, using tobacco, drugs and alcohol at higher rates, and engaging in self-harm behaviors including suicide.

The 2013 National School Climate Survey report from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, considers the in-school resources that support LGBT students’ well-being, the extent of the challenges that they face at school, and insights into many other aspects of LGBT students’ experiences. The survey has consistently indicated that a safer school climate directly relates to the availability of LGBT school-based resources and support, including Gay-Straight Alliances, inclusive curriculum, supportive school staff, and comprehensive anti-bullying policies.

School climate is something staff and administrators can influence. While State and City policies and laws vary as to LGBT protections, schools must consider the overall safety of their students. Throughout the session, participants will discover how data collection, school/family/community partnerships, policies and procedures, and programs in schools can contribute to a safer and more welcoming environment for ALL students. Explore current readiness at your work place, view model policies, discuss practical strategies for implementing inclusive policy, and learn about supportive classroom interventions and training techniques.

Schools can and should play a significant role in supporting LGBTQ students as they navigate the academic, social and emotional hurdles throughout their education. Over the past two decades schools have made significant strides in understanding and supporting LGB youth, yet remain unprepared and uncertain about serving transgender and gender nonconforming youth. Session content will touch on all populations, with an emphasis on transgender and gender nonconforming youth.

Evidence

A large body of research has been developed over the past ten years as it relates to assessing risk factors facing LGBTQ youth. In addition, research supports the notion that there are effective interventions that positively impact the health and well-being of these young people.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) National School Climate Survey points to the need for visible supports of LGBTQ students by providing Gay/Straight Alliance groups in schools as well as offering professional development to school staff.

Other scholarly research also heavily supports the notion that schools have work to do and have influence over the safety and well-being of the LGBTQ youth it serves. The research is cupported in relevant articles such as:

Article title: ""They Were Only Joking:" Efforts to Decrease GLBTQ Bullying and Harassment in Seattle Public Schools" Journal of School Health - JOSH12120

In addition, the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites the research and makes reccommendations such as:

What Schools Can Do

For youth to thrive in their schools and communities, they need to feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe and supported. A positive school climate has been associated with decreased depression, suicidal feelings, substance use, and unexcused school absences among LGBQ students.9

Schools can implement clear policies, procedures, and activities designed to promote a healthy environment for all youth. For example, research has shown that in schools with LGB support groups (such as gay-straight alliances), LGB students were less likely to experience threats of violence, miss school because they felt unsafe, or attempt suicide than those students in schools without LGB support groups.10 A recent study found that LGB students had fewer suicidal thoughts and attempts when schools had gay-straight alliances and policies prohibiting expression of homophobia in place for 3 or more years.11

To help promote health and safety among LGBTQ youth, schools can implement the following policies and practices:

  • Encourage respect for all students and prohibit bullying, harassment, and violence against all students.
  • Identify “safe spaces,” such as counselors’ offices, designated classrooms, or student organizations, where LGBTQ youth can receive support from administrators, teachers, or other school staff.
  • Encourage student-led and student-organized school clubs that promote a safe, welcoming, and accepting school environment (e.g., gay-straight alliances, which are school clubs open to youth of all sexual orientations).
  • Ensure that health curricula or educational materials include HIV, other STD, or pregnancy prevention information that is relevant to LGBTQ youth (such as, ensuring that curricula or materials use inclusive language or terminology).
  • Encourage school district and school staff to develop and publicize trainings on how to create safe and supportive school environments for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and encourage staff to attend these trainings.
  • Facilitate access to community-based providers who have experience providing health services, including HIV/STD testing and counseling, to LGBTQ youth.
  • Facilitate access to community-based providers who have experience in providing social and psychological services to LGBTQ youth.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Lisa Love, M.Ed., is Manager of Health Education for Seattle Public Schools. She oversees k-12 health, manages the District LGBTQ programs, including providing professional development and support for LGBTQ students, staff and families. Lisa formerly acted as co-chair of the LGBTQ Joint working group for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For the past 15 years, Lisa has continuously moved Seattle Schools forward in its work with LGBTQ students, staff and families. Seattle leads the way with inclusive policies for transgender and gender non-conforming youth, and has supported staff who are openly gay or have transitioned in the workplace.

Start Date

11-6-2015 11:45 AM

End Date

11-6-2015 1:00 PM

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Nov 6th, 11:45 AM Nov 6th, 1:00 PM

Creating Safe and Welcoming Schools for LGBTQ Youth

Participants will understand the disproportionate risk factors facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, learn concrete strategies and steps to take to create a safe and welcoming environment, and explore implications of data collection, policy creation and staff training which addresses the unique needs of LGBTQ youth. This session will provide teachers, administrators, counselors and other school staff with practical steps to address the needs of LGBTQ youth. Emphasis will be placed on supporting transgender and gender nonconforming youth.