Source: Issues in Teacher Education, Volume 19, Number 2 ,(Fall, 2010), p. 11-36.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article explores the ways in which the participants in the Reduction of Stigma in Schools (RSIS) program addressed the workshop objectives in their feedback about the program. Furthermore, the article also investigates the participants' evaluation of the program’s overall effectiveness in helping them feel more knowledgeable about and confident in the work of creating more affirming environments for LGBTQ students.
The Reduction of Stigma in Schools (RSIS) program is an unfunded exploratory effort which began working in the Central New York area in fall 2006 to bring increased awareness of the LGBTQ youth experience into area schools.
RSIS focuses on three objectives:
(a) to establish an understanding of the operation of stigma in schools and the relationship between stigma and risk for LGBTQ youth;
(b) to provide education and tools for creating more positive learning environments for all students; and
(c) to actively create opportunities for dialogue and change in support of LGBTQ students.
This innovative professional development model aims to provide school personnel with information and resources that will empower them to advocate for LGBTQ students and to disrupt institutional practices that limit these youths’ access to social power in the school environment (Payne & Smith, 2010).
The data presented here are part of a larger evaluation study of the first three years (fall 2006 to early fall 2009) of RSIS. The entire dataset includes data from semi-structured interviews with 13 educators, written evaluations completed at the end of each workshop, follow-up questionnaires completed by 11 key participants, field notes recounting all meetings with school personnel, phone and email exchange records for all school contacts, and the content delivered for each RSIS presentation.
Participant feedback on the effectiveness of RSIS workshops has been overwhelmingly positive. Evaluation data also indicated that participants believed that the workshop effectively raised awareness (both their own and their colleagues’) about LGBTQ student issues as educational issues.
However, the analysis of the RSIS evaluation data reveals that educators’ focus on issues of bullying, safety, and tolerance places the “blame” for unsafe school environments on students who are intolerant or lack empathy. Furthermore, the educators understand the source and cause of these students’ beliefs as outside the school, believing that students are emulating their parents’ belief systems and/or reflecting values pervasive in the larger culture.
Eliminating visible harassment does not, therefore, eliminate stigma because the systems of power that marginalize and threaten the safety of LGBTQ students, as well as their peers who do not conform to hegemonic gender expectations, remain undisturbed.
Payne, E. C., & Smith, M. J. (2010). The reduction of stigma in schools: A new professional development model for empowering educators to support LGBTQ students. Unpublished work.