I first started posting back-to-school resources for LGBTQ parents in 2006, before my own son was even in school. He’s grown and changed, and so has this list. I hope it remains useful, whether your children are just entering school, starting a new school, or encountering new situations in their educational journeys.
To set the stage, check out this 2015 New York Times article by Roni Caryn Rabin on “Back-to-School Worries for Gay Parents.” Rabin also looks at recent research on how children with gay and lesbian parents may encounter “slights and microaggressions” in school, and how they and their parents may respond. One point stood out for me as the parent of a seventh-grader. Rabin cites Dr. Abbie Goldberg (and her extensive work on children of LGBTQ parents), who notes that compared to what we know about younger children of LGBTQ parents, “less is known about how these children are treated by their peers in middle school and high school, an age when children may become less communicative with their parents.” Clearly, there’s still work to be done to better understand this age group.
For All Ages
- Teaching Tolerance’s guide, “Best Practices: Creating an LGBT-inclusive School Climate,” is a useful compact reference for classrooms of all ages.
- The Family Equality Council’s Inclusive Schools page offers sample letters that parents can send to teachers to start a conversation about LGBT inclusion; suggestions for making school forms more inclusive, and book ideas for all ages. New and notable this year is the free, downloadable guide, Creating Transgender Inclusive Schools: Navigating the Federal Transgender Education Guidance.
- Schools In Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools, is a free guide aimed at helping administrators, teachers, and parents provide “safe and supportive school environments for transgender students.” Co-authored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gender Spectrum, the National Education Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, it discusses basic concepts, general guidelines for meeting the needs of transgender youth, specific issues impacting them, best practices, and the legal landscape.
- Gender Spectrum’s education section has classroom discussion ideas, information about teacher training, school policy suggestions, and more about gender identity and expression, in addition to many other useful resources for parents.
- Groundspark’s Messaging Toolkit for Supporting LGBT Inclusive Curriculum and Policies is a practical, helpful guide for parents, teachers, and others who want to create more inclusive schools by reaching out constructively to others in their communities.
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 twelve-year-olds talk about gays and lesbians.
- 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.
For Families with Older Children
Many resources aimed at older students focus on LGBTQ youth, but most also have applicability to children of LGBTQ 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.
- GLSEN also manages a number of programs/events 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.
- The Gay-Straight Alliance Network has great materials for starting or sustaining a GSA.
Children’s Book Recommendations
- The American Library Association’s Rainbow List offers LGBTQ-inclusive children’s and young adult books chosen by a committee of librarians for quality as well as content. (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 LGBTQ-inclusive books and media for children through grade five. (It’s a few years old at this point (2012), though still invaluable. For newer books, see the Rainbow List above or the Mombian Shop.)
Other Books on LGBTQ Topics and Schools
- The new book Safe Is Not Enough: Better Schools for LGBTQ Students, by educator Michael Sadowski, looks at how educators across the U.S. are creating LGBTQ-inclusive curricula and school climates, providing adults mentors and role models, and building family and community outreach programs. It’s a useful volume of ideas and solutions beyond just anti-bullying policies.
- Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality, Rethinking Schools’ volume of essays from a wide range of teachers and educators, covers LGBTQ topics as well as ones related to gender and sexism in general.
- Another excellent recommendation is Jennifer Bryan’s From the Dress-Up Corner to the Senior Prom: Navigating Gender and Sexuality Diversity in PreK-12 Schools.
- Groundspark’s series of LGBTQ-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.
A 2008 GLSEN study found that some students were told they should not do sports, or had their athletic abilities questioned, because they had LGBT parents. And GLSEN’s 2013 National School Climate Survey found that “Nearly one third of LGBT students also said that they avoided Physical Education (P.E.) or gym classes (31.9%), and more than one fifth avoided school athletic fields or facilities (21.2%) because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.”
- 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.
- 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.
- The National Center for Lesbian Rights’ Sports Project has long been a powerhouse of advocacy and education. It also offers legal assistance for LGBTQ athletes and coaches.
- Bullying and The Law is a free guide by attorney Adele Kimmel of Public Justice, a national impact litigation group. Kimmel describes the options parents have, including legal action, when students are bullied, and suggests things to consider when thinking about such action. She also provides information on what parents can reasonably expect from schools in those situations, and what the options are when schools don’t do enough. The guide was created for the Bully Project, an anti-bullying initiative inspired by the award-winning 2011 film Bully.
- 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.”
- 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 LGBTQ youth.
- GLAAD organizes the annual Spirit Day (October 20 this year) as a sign of support for bullied LGBTQ youth.
- Many state LGBTQ organizations’ websites also have information on state-specific anti-bullying laws.
Personally, 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.
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