Changing Social Norms in School Starts With a Conversation - Page 2
Most states have issued new anti-bullying laws to address the concerns of hostile environments toward LGBTQ kids. There is a belief that anti-bullying laws and policies are enough to create these safe spaces for LGBTQ youth. The laws take shape as consequences for the bully and a few informational assemblies on LGBTQ issues. This punitive and passive approach to school bullying polarizes a community, instead of creating a united one. Schools need to become a community in action that includes: faculty, teachers, parents, and students, not just administrators problem solving behind closed doors. If schools are looking to create a community, where every identity is celebrated and hetero-social norms are broken, then schools must create a safe space that allows for the diversity that the LGBTQ students and faculty bring. A conversation is a great place to start.
In February at the Cathedral School on the upper west side of Manhattan, members of the LGBTQ Educators Group (led by Ileana Jimenez of Little Red Elizabeth Irwin School in NYC), ISDN (Independent School Diversity Network) , Cometfire (the middle school LGBTQ youth group at the JCC in Manhattan, lead by Scott Quasha and Sharon Ostrowsky) and nearly 100 parents, teachers, administrators, school psychologists, and social workers gathered for the Creating Collaborative Conversations to engage in an open discussion around LGBTQ issues. Panelists presented stories and struggles with LGBTQ students and families in school and shared resources and best practices for creating stronger school communities. Events like the Creating Collaborative Conversations evening help bring the shared goal of creating safe schools for all our students to light.
It is essential to institutionalize the diversity work in school for it to resonate throughout the entire building. The conversations must be happening everywhere and with some planned frequency. Schools have to give language to the experiences of the LGBTQ community and breakdown the expectation of binary gender norms as well. Isolated assemblies are ephemeral; their effects do not last long. Here are some of the best practices shared at the recent meeting.
- Bring Queer issues/ activism into the classroom all year long.
- Plan a yearlong study on diversity around gender and sexuality.
- Train faculty and staff in a multitude of sessions.
- Bring in speakers and films.
- Create reading clubs around LGBTQ issues.
- Teach engagement, not just content.
- Develop a strong GSA (Gay/ Straight Alliance).
- Provide lunchtime clubs for LGBTQ students/ faculty.
- Question the perspective of a text-Who is missing in this story?
- Point out how rare it is to find LGBTQ topics or characters.
- Address LGBTQ issues as a community and plan responses to LGBTQ issues.
- Educate parents, not just the children.
- Bring in LGBTQ issues into Sex Education.
- Discuss the responsibilities of allies of LGBTQ people.