Core Values and the Identity-Supportive Classroom: Setting LGBTQ Issues within Wider Frameworks for Preservice Educators

Fall, 2010

Source: Issues in Teacher Education, (Fall, 2010), p. 53-63.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the author discusses how to introduce a new group of teacher education students or other preservice educators to the research about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth and schooling-related issues.

The author, first, ask the students to write privately for a few minutes and then to share some of their ideas aloud.
Then, the author uses a list of rights serves (literally) as a backdrop for a presentation and discussion of current data about the school experiences of LGBTQ students and about the risks that these youth face both in and out of school.

The author discusses issues that the GLSEN survey addresses, including anti-LGBTQ language; verbal harassment; physical attacks; the responses of teachers to anti-LGBTQ language and harassment; LGBTQ representation (or lack thereof) in school curricula; the relationship between victimization and school performance; and the specific experiences of lesbian and bisexual girls, transgender youth, and LGBTQ youth of color.

Another central focus of the discussion involves the responses of teachers to homophobic language, harassment, and violence.

Finally, the discussion focuses on some of the risks, both academic and otherwise, that LGBTQ youth face as a result of being victimized or attending hostile school climates.

The author ends with data from the most recent Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey (MYRBS).

The discussion then continues when the author asks the students, “Which of the rights that we articulated as belonging to all students are violated or compromised for LGBTQ students, assuming that the GLSEN and MYRBS data accurately reflect their experiences?”
The students' insights vary from class to class, but in recent sessions, participants have focused on the rights of students in at least four areas.

The first area is the right to develop their own unique skills as learners, a right that is compromised if LGBTQ students skip classes or school because they feel unsafe or silenced in classes in which the central aspects of their identities are not represented.

The second is the right to be supported and encouraged by teachers, some of whom, the data show, fail to address the needs of LGBTQ youth.

The third area is the right to participate in extracurricular activities that expand their horizons.

The fourth area is the right to adequate nutrition, which some of the author's students have convincingly argued could be jeopardized if LGBTQ students feel unsafe in the school cafeteria, which, along with hallways, are among the most common locations for anti-LGBTQ harassment to occur (Bochenek & Brown, 2001).

Some Caveats

Since the author has begun teaching about LGBTQ issues, he has heard from numerous of students, sometimes years later, who were seeking additional advice on starting a gay-straight alliance or incorporating LGBTQ issues into their curricula.

The author believes that educators empowered with strong arguments about the needs of LGBTQ students are best prepared to articulate to their colleagues why the inclusion of LGBTQ issues is a fundamental obligation as educators and is in keeping with the broader mission of any school community.

Bochenek, M., & Brown, A. W. (2001). Hatred in the hallways: Violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students in U.S. schools. New York: Human Rights Watch.

Updated: Jul. 23, 2012