While June marks Pride month, our support for the LGBTQI+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning/Queer, Intersex, and Asexual and/or Ally) community shouldn’t be limited to that month only. One of the most valuable places to spread kindness and inclusivity is at school, where the minds of children and young adults are being shaped as they decide whom they want to be and what they stand for. Supporting this community is crucial as the trauma LGBTQ+ students go through might affect them for the rest of their lives.
In 2019 in the UK, 45% of LGBTQ students were facing bullying. In 2021, Forbes found that in Europe, more than a half (54%) of LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning/Queer, Intersex) students and young adults experience bullying in school because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. In the US, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine noted in a study that 91% of LGBTQ young people reported they had experienced bias-based bullying at least once.
Many countries have now placed laws and guides on supporting LGBTQ+ students at school. However, it’s far from being enough. Students often lean on teachers for advice and support, and we believe educators are vital to providing LGBTQ+ pupils with the support and understanding they need.
Here are 8 ways you can help LGBTQ+ students feel safe and accepted in school.
Focus on teaching students about different families. Schools should help prepare students for the world around them. By including lessons in the curriculum about the LGBTQ+ community and different families, you will help students become more aware, inclusive, and understanding.
Turn your classroom into a ‘safe zone’. This is a great method to make sure students know you support them and will not tolerate hate language or bullying in the classroom. You can do this by adding a sticker or a label to your door. This indicates that you are supportive and open to discussions, and ready to challenge anti-LGBTQ language and harassment.
Create class rules with your students. Engage pupils to propose rules and ideas, vote on which ones they like and why. Doing this will empower students to have a say in what will happen in their learning environment, making them more likely to follow these rules and behave. Also, give them the power to hold each other accountable when they break them.
Listen to students’ needs and be open to feedback. LGBTQ+ students are more prone to experience anxiety, depression, bullying and harassment than their peers. Apart from all the changes you make and the effort you put into making your classroom a safe space for LGBTQ+ children, always spend time talking to them and listening to their struggles and be ready to make a change or implement a new rule as it comes.
Establish an LGBTQ+ organisation in your school. If there isn’t an organisation or society for LGBTQ+ students yet, now is the time to make one. Not only will it create a safe space for these students, but it will offer them a platform from where they can make their voices heard when it comes to decisions such as school curriculum, plans, and policies. Importantly, it will also be a medium through which they can communicate the challenges they face.
Introduce inclusivity into lessons. Start by mentioning the names of leaders or celebrities who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community and use the correct pronouns. This can help in numerous ways. Students will see that there are LGBTQ+ leaders out there and that success and happiness is for everyone. Mentioning pronouns can also help teach respect and understanding.
Intervene early. Students are spending an increasing amount of time online, which consequently results in more cyber-bullying. A child could be struggling behind closed doors, leaving teachers unaware of the issue. Our team at Impero is dedicated to keeping students safe at all times, no matter the learning environment. Impero Wellbeing was developed with the help of charitable organisations and non-profits from around the globe to create a real-time keyword detection tool that allows teachers to intervene early whenever a child is in danger. The words our keyword detector looks for include bullying, suicide and self-harm, mental health, eating disorders, illegal content, and radicalisation.
Be a role model. While this might be the last tip on the list, it’s undoubtedly the most important one. Students often will see you as a role model, and you need to show them your values and never let any bullying or harassment occur in the classroom on your watch. The change starts with you.
If you want to learn more about Wellbeing and how it can help you keep students safe, book a demonstration here.