As there is growing attention to gender-based issues in schools such as gender-based bullying, victimization, and harassment, the solutions to address these issues are also being more concentrated than before. The Human Right Campaign Foundation (HRC), the first gay and lesbian political action committee in the United States, is also paying attention to these issues. Among their actions, “welcoming schools” project is significantly focusing on the gender-based issues in school. “Welcoming Schools” project is the nation’s premier professional development project providing training and resources to elementary school educators to welcome diverse families, create LGBTQ and gender inclusive schools, prevent bias-based bullying, and support transgender and non-binary students (“Welcoming Schools” n.d.). Among several programs of this project, “Developing a Gender Inclusive School” program1 will be the main focus in this text. The aim of the program is to create schools that nurture academic achievement, provide physical and emotional safety and welcome all students by reducing gender role stereotyping and allowing them to express their interests and find confidence in their strengths.
The target population for this program is the LGBTQ students, gender nonconforming students and sexual minority students, especially in the US schools. In order to implement this program, HRC has three form of approaches which are structural approaches, relational approaches, and instructional approaches. In this text, the crucial of those approaches in implementing the program will be widely criticized based on the scholars’ researches and recommendations. After that, the testing of the programs, its outcomes and its limitations will be discussed.
1) Structural Approaches
Structural approaches contain professional development for staff, policies or administrative regulations, student records and student information systems. Professional development for staff is the key point to developing a gender-inclusive school. Teachers and administrators must learn how to develop and maintain a safe learning atmosphere that openly welcomes sexual diversity and foster student comfort in discussing sensitive topics by assessing students’ relevant needs, designing activities that meet these needs and delivering content consistent with community values (Barr et al., 2014; Stufft & Graff, 2011). In addition, it is the responsibility of school administrators to provide the training for school’s staffs that is crucial for teacher preparation and ongoing professional development (Russell, S., et al.rrr(2010)). Teachers may be better prepared to approach the topics of LGBT individual and their families if they received more training that reflects their own experience with diversity(Bishop & Atlas, (2015)). The comprehensive professional development training can lead to reduce the gender role stereotyping and allow the students to express their interests and find confidence in their strengths. Therefore, the comprehensive professional development training is an important approach to create a gender inclusive school that provide safe school climates for every student.
The first step to challenge gender and sexuality norms and promote safe school climates is to enumerated anti-harassment policies and implement policies and procedures to prevent harassment due to LGBT status and gender nonconformity (Russell & McGuire, 2008; Toomey, Ryan, Diaz, Card, & Russell, 2013). For instance, the school policies such as providing gender-neutral bathroom options for students, staff, and teachers and avoiding the use of gendered segregation in practices such as school uniforms, school dances, and extracurricular activities are structural ways to provide safer school environments for gender minority students. (Toomey et al., 2013). So, the policies or the administrative regulations of the schools is also an effective approach in promoting the gender inclusive schools as it can reduce gender role stereotyping in schools.
The other structural approach is student records and information systems. For example, reviewing parent or guardian forms and allowing them to specify their relationship to the child regardless of gender. Many students come from single parent homes, usually without a father present, or more recently where the guardians are either lesbian or gay. Not knowing your students can have very negative effects on students and can put them in situations that are very uncomfortable (Stufft & Graff, 2011). Moreover, school should ensure privacy for transgender students. This approach can help students express themselves based on their gender identities and feel safer about their parents and families gender status. Therefore, it can also increase the gender inclusiveness level of the school. Therefore, it is clear that HRC has the comprehensive structural approaches to implement the program.
2) Relational approaches
The relational approach has four components which are inclusive messages, Individualized attention, stopping gender-based bullying and teasing, and ensuring good communication with parents and caregivers. Inclusive messages mean using the gender inclusive terms, gender-neutral terms, grouping students the ways that do not rely on the genders in the classroom. Moreover, students also need to exposure to literature that is not only based on heterosexual characters but also based on the world of alternative styles. The schools should also help them to understand that the home, the place where students go after school, may not consist of a mother and a father but could have just one parent or two guardians that are of the same sex. (Stufft & Graff, 2011) Using such kinds of the gender neutral terms and gender inclusive messages can make children understand about the diversities of gender and accept these diversities. In this way, the gender-based stigma, victimization, bullying and discrimination can be reduced and the school will be more inclusive.
Individualized attention means let students know that schools see their strengths and appreciate their unique qualities. Schools should also encourage students to find the activities that they enjoy and that respect their interests. This helps children develop social connections and also help them in their academic achievements. When people feels that school
Stopping gender-based bullying and teasing is the very crucial approach to provide safe schools for every student. A lack of intervention by school authorities, teachers, and staffs when hearing homophobic remarks in the schools, can lead students to consider that such language is tolerated and the intolerance towards LGBTQ people is acceptable in the school (Russell, S., et al.(2010)). Students feel safer when their teachers intervene to stop harassment (O’Shaughnessy et al., 2004). So, interrupting student comments based on gender stereotypes, and stopping hurtful teasing and bullying based on gender put-downs is a way to reduce the gender role stereotyping in school and it is also essential in implementing safe school climates.
Ensuring good communication with parents and caregivers is also important for the teachers to promote the gender inclusive schools.
3) Instructional Approach
Instructional Approach includes lesson plans and classroom activities. One of the school safety strategies is integrating LGBTQ topics into the school curricula (Russell, S., et al. (2010)). A strategy that can contribute to a safe and supportive school climate for LGBTQ students is a curriculum that gives attention to LGBTQ people and issues (Russell et al. 2006). Especially the curriculum should be also be the supportive LGBTQ inclusive curricula. The implementing supportive LGBTQ-inclusive curricula has broader implications for school climate that may ride out the negative effects from individual students (Snapp, McGuire, Sinclair, Gabrion, & Russell, 2015). Therefore, the inclusion of the LGBTQ topics in the schools lesson plans is also important in implementing the gender inclusive school.
Moreover, the classroom activities such as reading the books that are challenging gender that encourage discussion of gender assumptions and that challenge gender stere Read books that encourage discussion of gender assumptions and that challenge gender stereotypes and limits.
Provide role models through books – biographies or fictional – that show a wide range of occupations and achievements for all genders.Invite guest speakers who expand the vision of ways to achieve and thrive that are gender-expansive.
This program is already evaluated and conducted by some scholars. Dr. Laura Szalacha from the University of Illinois at Chicago coordinated the evaluation and conducted the quantitative components. Qualitative evaluation was conducted by a team headed by Dr. Peter Goldblum at the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology, a team headed by Dr. Suzanne Pasch from Wheelock College, and Sheila Moriarty, M.A. Ultimately, the evaluation provided compelling evidence that this program is making a difference in children’s lives and the lives of their families and communities. This program could improve educator knowledge, reduce the teachers’ fears of parent/guardian dissatisfaction, change attitudes surrounding important of discussing LGBT topics, and increase the commitment to address topics of diversity. These are the key significant outcomes of this program base on the evaluations of the scholars as mentioned above.
Russell, S. T., J. K. McGuire, C. Laub, and E. Manke. 2006. LGBT Student Safety: Steps Schools Can Take. California Safe Schools Coalition Research Brief No. 3. San Francisco, CA: California Safe Schools Coalition
Toomey, R. B., Ryan, C., Diaz, R. M., Card, N. A., & Russell, S. T. (2013). Gender-nonconforming lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth: School victimization and young adult psychosocial adjustment. Psychology Of Sexual Orientation And Gender Diversity, 1(S), 71-80. doi:10.1037/2329-0382.1.S.71
Don’t forget to insert the reference for Social Policy Report, safe schools policy for LGBTQ students. And also a safe place to learn…….