This is the time of year when I look at the calendar and put a pillow over my head. The start of school can’t be just around the corner. Any parent of school-age children may feel similarly, but we LGBT parents may feel extra pressure not knowing if our children’s teachers and classmates will be welcoming to our families. Here are some resources that may help you work constructively with schools and teachers in the year ahead.
For all ages
Teaching Tolerance’s “Best Practices: Creating an LGBT-inclusive School Climate,” is a useful compact reference for classrooms of all ages; www.tolerance.org/lgbt-best-practices.
The Family Equality Council’s Inclusive Schools page offers sample letters that parents can send to teachers to start a conversation about LGBT inclusion, as well as suggestions for making school forms more inclusive and book ideas for all ages; www.familyequality.org/get_involved/inclusive_schools.
Gender Spectrum has classroom discussion ideas, information about teacher training, school-policy suggestions and more related to gender identity and expression, in addition to many other useful resources for parents; www.genderspectrum.org/education/.
For families with young children
The Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools site is perhaps the best single resource here, covering family diversity, gender stereotyping and bullying. They have a section just for parents and caregivers (as well as ones for teachers and administrators), with book recommendations, ideas for building community, suggestions for productive discussions with teachers and administrators and much more. Be sure to watch the trailer for their award-winning DVD “What Do You Know? Six- to 12-year-olds talk about gays and lesbians”; www.welcomingschools.org/parents-or-caring-adults.
GLSEN’s Ready, Set, Respect Toolkit is a great set of tools and lesson plans for elementary-school teachers, covering name-calling and bullying, family diversity, gender-role diversity and more; www.glsen.org/readysetrespect.
For families with older children
Many resources aimed at older students focus on LGBT youth, but most also have applicability to children of LGBT parents, whatever the children’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
GLSEN again is a good resource here, with extensive safe-schools materials for both educators and students, including information on its educator-training program and starting gay-straight alliances, as well as research about the impact of homophobia and transphobia; www.glsen.org.
GLSEN also manages a number of programs to engage school communities of all grades throughout the academic year, including Ally Week, ThinkB4YouSpeak, the Day of Silence, No Name-Calling Week and the Safe Space Kit.
PFLAG’s Safe Schools for All: Cultivating Respect program has similar materials (in English and Spanish) for making schools safer, reducing bullying and providing comprehensive health education. They also offer a certification program for PFLAG members who want to assist with staff training and policy creation in local schools; www.community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=1011.
The Gay-Straight Alliance Network also has great materials for starting or sustaining a GSA; www.gsanetwork.org.
The American Library Association’s Rainbow List offers LGBT-inclusive children’s and young-adult books chosen by a committee of librarians for quality as well as content; www.rainbowlist.wordpress.com. (See also the lists from Family Equality and Welcoming Schools mentioned above.)
You may also want to encourage your school library to purchase Jaime Campbell Naidoo’s Rainbow Family Collections, an annotated guide to nearly 250 LGBT-inclusive books and media for children.
Groundspark’s series of LGBT-inclusive diversity-education films and curriculum guides include “That’s a Family,” for elementary-school students, about different family structures; “Let’s Get Real,” for middle-schoolers, about name-calling and bullying; “It’s STILL Elementary,” for and about educators discussing gay issues in schools; and “Straightlaced,” for teens, about the pressure of gender stereotypes. The films are also available for individual screening online; www.groundspark.org.
A 2008 GLSEN study found that some students were told they should not participate in sports, or had their athletic abilities questioned, because they had LGBT parents. And GLSEN’s 2011 National School Climate Survey found that “more than half of LGBT students were bullied or harassed in their P.E. class.”
GLSEN’s Changing the Game project is backed by a coalition of athletes, journalists and sports figures. It features resources for athletes, athletic administrators, coaches and parents, inspirational videos about people making a difference, and the Team Respect Challenge pledge; www.sports.glsen.org.
Athlete Ally, founded by straight college wrestling coach Hudson Taylor (a former three-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler), offers individuals an online pledge to reduce homophobia in sports, runs public-awareness campaigns and educational programs, and mobilizes ally Ambassadors in collegiate, professional and Olympic sports; www.athleteally.org.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights’ Sports Project has long been a powerhouse of advocacy and education. It also offers legal assistance for LGBT athletes and coaches; www.nclrights.org/explore-the-issues/sports/.
The Matthew Shepard Foundation has a number of resources for educators and others specific to anti-LGBT bullying, including Matthew’s Place, “an online village for LGBTQ youth and allies”; www.matthewshepard.org.
Stopbullying.gov has many good general resources about bullying and cyberbullying.
The It Gets Better project continues to spread messages and videos of hope to bullied LGBT youth; www.itgetsbetter.org.
GLAAD organizes the annual Spirit Day (Oct. 16 this year) as a sign of support for bullied LGBT youth; www.glaad.org/spiritday.
Many state LGBT organizations’ websites also have information on state-specific anti-bullying laws.
Personally, despite my “I need to buy my son new sneakers and five notebooks by Monday” panic, I try to approach the new school year not in a spirit of trepidation, but one of opportunity. Our common goal as parents and teachers is to educate our children in a safe and welcoming environment. That gives us reason to unite across our differences.