By Malaika Costello-Dougherty
Students in the Gay-Straight Alliance at Hanford West High School. Photo by Scott Buschman. Illustration by David Julian.
IT CAN BE AN UNCOMFORTABLE TOPIC. A student says in passing, “That’s so gay.” Another student is teased because of their perceived sexual orientation. Some teachers and principals don’t get involved. This might seem like an issue best left out of the classroom, but there’s a population of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) students who feel unsafe at school. Who are often being bullied in plain sight. Who are committing suicide at three to four times the rate of other students.
Educators have a responsibility to make schools safe for all children. They also have a legal responsibility to respond to GLBT bullying. When teachers speak up against intolerance, they model behavior that can become one of the most important lessons their students learn.
In the following stories, we examine the issue of GLBT bullying and explore four factors that create a safe culture in schools. Then we hear from students in a Gay-Straight Alliance who wrote personal accounts of what they wished teachers knew . There are tips on how to create a safe school environment as well as CTA resources and legal interpretations .
When teachers allow for the rainbow of differences in a classroom, they make schools safer for GLBT students, which in turn makes school safer for all students. And that’s when true learning happens.