Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 4/4.7.2
By: Ellen Grau
1.) Understand what sexual orientation is, and how it is decided.
2.) Be able to identitfy some issues LGBT students are more likely to suffer from.
3.) Be able to list some possible ways to make these students feel more accepted in school, ways to connect with these students in order to better their learning, and ways to make these students feel safer while in school.
Identifying Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Students
"Sexual orientation subsumes sexual attractions, sexual behavior, psychological and emotional attachments, self-identification, and affiliations with a particular community" (Madson, 2001).
The term "sexual orientation" lacks a universally accepted definition. One's sexual orienation can be "decided" based on sexual attraction, sexual arousal, emotional attachment, and several other determining factors ("Definition of Terms", 2007).
Sexual orientation is, more than anything, based upon how an individual defines themself, or the a group with which they affiliate. Gestures, vocal characteristics, clothing, and other physical characteristics cannot determine a person's sexual orienation ("Definition of Terms", 2007).
Lesbian, Gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) students are found in, virtually, every school and they often faces hardships that the students who identify themselves as hetersexual do not experience. There are steps that educators may take in order to help easy the burden that school may have on these students.
LGBT Issues in School
LGBT students are subject to far more incidences of physical and verbal attacks while in school. This abuse is caused by the presence of prejudice, and homophobia. Webster's Online Dictionary defines homophobia as the "irrational fear of, aversion to, or disrimination against homosexuality and homosexuals" (Homophobia, 2009).
"Students hear anti-gay epithets 25 times a day, and teachers fail to respond to these comments 97% of the time. -Gay Lesbian Straight Educatorâs Network" ("LGBT Bullying Statistics", 2008)).
According to the 2007 National School Climate survey, done by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, close to 90% of students that identify themselves as LGBT experienced harassment, based on their sexual orientation, in the last year. 31-32% of LGBT students reported missing class or a full day of school within a month of the survey because they felt unsafe at school. The students that reported being harassed had a lower grade average due to frquently missing class because of fear (Presgraves, 2008).
Low grades and name-callin are not the worst problems that LGBT students must endure. They are at a greater of suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts. Gay and Lesbian youths are up to three times more likely to commit suiced than heterosexual students ("LGBT Bullying Statistics", 2008; Munzo-Plaza, Quinn, & Rounds 2002).
Depression and suicide often come from feelings of alienation. Homosexuality and other forms of sexual orientation that are not considered "normal" can be worse than other characteristics for which people are discriminated because unlike skin color, or some other physical characteristics, the student often does not share this preference with family members or all of their friends. This leads to a lack of emotional and mental support throughout their ordeals. When an individual reveals that they are LGBT, it can lead to the loss of important relationships with relatives, friends, and others in which they confide. The loss of these relationships along with the daily hardships, LGBT students are often overwhelmed (Ginsberg, 1998; "Creating Safe Schools", 1997).
There are several ways educators can try to make LGBT students feel safer, and more accepted while they get their education.
How to Help These Students
Linda and Laurel Lamme describe important steps to creating safer schools for LGBT students in their article "Welcoming Children from Sexual Minoirty Families into Our Schools" (2003). The authors explain the most important step is to ensure that educators are knowlegable about LGBT students and their lifestyles. An educator must feel comfortable around LGBT individuals, and others that are different from themselves, if they intend to effectively teach all different types of children (Lamme, 2003).
The second step is to look closely at the school environment. The staff must discover ways to erase the negativity towards students. It is imperitive that schools specify sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policies so bullies and abusers can be held responsible specifically for comments towards gender expression.
In the third step, the authors suggest that people of sexual minority be discussed when referring to history. Their achievements should be examined and praised. Finally, school staff should be aware of resources that may be helpful for LGBT students that may need support, and be able to help them find the support that will benefit them (Lamme, 2003).
Some educators and parents believe the best way to counter the negativity towards LGBT sudents is to incorporate the lifestyle of homosexuals into the schools sex education. This is a controversial topic because on the United States, abstinence is the focus of sex educatio in public schools. Parents and politicians may argue that educating the students about the sexual lifestyles of homosexuals, bisexuals and transgendered individuals counter the attempt to promote abstinence.
LGBT students are in classrooms across the country. Their trials and tribulations may or may not be of personal interest to an educator, but it is the duty of the teacher and the school to provide a student with a safe enviornment in which to obtain their education. Steps should be taken to ensure this is avialable to all students regardless of physical, mental, or emotional differences.
|Ten Suggestions to Reduce Homophobia in Your Environment|
As a future educator, I believe it is imperitive that the curriculumn include material that will teach racial, cultural, and sexual tolerance, beginning as early as possible. I think that homophobia, and other discrimination, stems from a lack of exposure to differences when children are young. If students go through school learning about and being exposed to people that are different them, for any reason, they are much more likely to feel comfortable around diversity as a young adult. Many parents are opposed to their children learning about homosexuality, so it can be difficult to incorporate these teachings without upsetting parents, but at least introducing the facts about homosexuality may create more understanding among students.
Educators should do everything in their power to create a safe enviornment for their students and should not tolerate any for of abuse among students. It is appalling to know that there are so many cases of verbal and physical attacks against LGBT students that are ifnored by schools and its employees.
Gay/Straight Alliances seem to help improve understanding and reduce abuse. These clubs are a solution that is inexpensive, and easy.
1.) Individual's sexual orientation is identified by...
a. A scientist
b. Their teachers
c. Their parents
2.) LGBT students are more likely to suffer from...
b. verbal and physical abuse
c. suicidal thoughts
d. all of the above
3.) Ms. Rose is a eacher at Thomas Jefferson High School. She often witnesses verbal abuse against LGBT students. What can Ms. Rose do to help prevent this abuse?
a. ignore the abuse
b. ignore the LGBT students if they complain
c. try to get sexual orienation added to the non-discrimination policies
d. make sure her LGBT students act different so they won't get bullied
Creating Safe Schools for Lesbian and Gay Students: A Resource Guide for School Staff. (1997, Spring). Retrieved February 8, 2009 from http://members.tripod.com/~twood/guide.html
Definition of Terms and Concepts Related to Sex, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. (2007). Retrieved February 8, 2009 from http://www.bouldercounty.org/health/commhlth/safezone/ LGBTIQ/definitions.htm explore
Ginsberg, R. (1998, Winter). Silenced voices inside our schools. Initiatives, 58(3), 1-15. Retrieved February 9, 2009, from Gender Studies Database database.
Homophobia. (2009). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved February 8, 2009, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/homophobia
Lamme, L. L., et al., Welcoming Children from Sexual-Minority Families into Our Schools. Phi Delta Kappa Fastbacks no. 507 (2003) p. 7-49
LGBT bullying statistics. (2008). In Queers United. Retrieved February 8, 2009, from http://www.queersunited.blogspot.com/2008/12/lgbt-bullying-statistics.html
Madson, L. (2001, Winter). A classroom activity exploring the complexity of sexual orientation. Teaching of Psychology, 28(1), 32-35. Retrieved February 8, 2009, from Gender Studies Database database.
Munoz-Plaza, C., Quinn, S. C., & Rounds, K. A. (2002). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students: Perceived Social Support in the High School Environment. High School Journal, 85(4), 52-63. Retrieved February 9, 2009, from Gender Studies Database database.
Presgraves, D. (2008, Fall). 2007 national school climate survey: nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students harassed. Retrieved February 8, 2009, from