Welcome to week six of the LGBTQ+ Equity Challenge! This week we will dive into the experiences and needs of LGBTQ+ youth within our education system. Please note, that this week will not be able to cover everything related to LGBTQ+ individuals in education.

Once you have completed the week, please take a minute to fill out the weekly feedback.
Week 6: Education
  • How can these experiences of LGBTQ+ youth affect their academic performance? How can they affect their mental health, sense of self-worth, and development? How can they affect these youth into adulthood? 
  • As you read about the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth, consider how these issues could be compounded for those with additional marginalized identities. 
LGBTQ+ Youth and Experiences in School
Here are some quick statistics on LGBTQ+ youth:
Children spend a significant amount of time at school and at home. For those who don’t have a supportive home, having an affirming school system, educators, and/or programs can be life-saving.

According to the 2019 National School Climate Survey, LGBTQ+ students often report hearing biased remarks, feeling unsafe, missing days of school due to safety reasons, experiencing harassment, and assault. A majority of students surveyed also reported personally experiencing LGBTQ+-related discriminatory policies or practices at their schools. 

These reports include prevention from using restrooms that align with their gender identity, disciplinary actions for public displays of affection not similarly disciplined for straight peers, prohibition from “inappropriate” clothing based on gender, prevention from creating a GSA, prohibition from bringing same-sex dates to school dances, and disciplinary actions for simply identifying as LGBTQ+. (source).
Struggling for Change 
Many educators across the United States have made efforts to include more diverse representation and stories in the books and content their students engage with. However, many schools, educators, parents, and institutions continue to serve as barriers to inclusion.
While there are new federal laws stating schools receiving federal and public funding/support must not discriminate based on sex, gender identity, OR sexual orientation, there are many schools that have yet to create policies and protections to match these expectations. Barriers to support can range from a single staff member or entire school systems and their policies.
Additionally, The US Department of Education makes it clear that students have the right to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. Despite this, some schools and individual employees are pushing back on these rights, often citing religious exemptions and/or personal beliefs about the safety and comfort of cisgender students. A common argument is that women and girls will somehow be in danger in the restroom. Opponents claim that men will fake being a woman and follow women and girls into the restroom to sexually assault them. This claim has been debunked repetitively. Learn more here and here
It’s important to understand that many of the arguments used against the LGBTQ+ community are not new. These arguments we hear about protecting women and girls in the bathroom are a repetition of similar arguments used against ending segregation, passing the equal rights amendment, and gay men.
Some parents and educators believe that addressing the topics of gender identity and sexuality may not be appropriate for youth in middle or elementary schools. Age-appropriate content is important and should always be considered, however complete erasure of these conversations can be detrimental. A 2013 Pew Research Center study shows that 12 is the average age at which lesbian, gay and bisexual adults first felt they might be something other than heterosexual. For some, it is even younger. With access to the internet becoming more prominent among younger and younger populations, ensuring affirming and intentional conversations with a trusted adult can help youth build a healthier understanding and relationship with themselves.
With the questions and information above in mind, do at least one of the following:
LGBTQ+ Youth and Schools - While reading, consider ways you can support these actions educators are taking. Example: Are you part of the school board? Do you have opportunities to interact with other parents? Are you able to access the curriculum? How can you help if you’re not a parent?

Local Listen
Elizabeth Wetzel Gracyalny is a social worker and the LGBTQ+ Coordinator for Green Bay Area Public Schools. In this audio, she talks about GSAs in Green Bay and what they mean to students. 

Brooke Unrath, the director of Social and Emotional Learning at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Green Bay, breaks down the importance of their LGBTQ+ and Allies Club. Brooke dives into why this is important for the kids attending the club, what it means to her, and more!