Whether or not you know their identity, you can be certain that you are teaching LGBT students. Visible support and small acts of kindness go a long way in helping these youth feel safer and find harmony at school. Not only does fulfilling the role of ally let them know they are not alone, it models for other students that gay and transgender classmates are their peers, worthy of respect and acceptance. More often than not, bullies operate with the tacit approval of the school community.
Here are six LGBT-friendly actions teachers and school staff can take to turn their classroom and hallways into Safe Zones.
1. Post a “Safe Zone” sign in your classroom and office. It signals to LGBT youth that you’ve got their backs.
2. Confront homophobic remarks, including slights and slurs that you overhear. Many students use terms like “fag,” “dyke” and “that’s so gay” without thinking. Let them know in no uncertain terms that such speech is unacceptable.
3. Seek opportunities to incorporate the contributions of LGBT people in science, history, athletics and the arts into your curriculum.
4. Don’t assume any student is gay—or not gay. If LGBT students do confide in you, thank them for their trust. Follow the student’s lead about what else you should do. Perhaps sharing this information is enough at this point. But if the student needs additional support, you can provide invaluable help by being versed in the LGBT-competent resources available in your school, district and community.
5. Organize or encourage district administrators to arrange an in-service with a qualified youth advocate about how to create a safer school for LGBT students.
6. If your school has a Gay-Straight Alliance, volunteer to act as its faculty advisor, or contribute in other ways.