In 2019, LCPS included gender identity and sexual orientation into their Equal Opportunity (1040) policy. This requires that all schools provide an equitable and safe working and learning environment for LGBTQ+ faculty, staff, and students. Affirming LGBTQ+ students is an important part of this policy, as well as stopping and preventing anti-LGBTQ+ speech and bullying. Affirming LGBTQ+ students and adults is a practice in suicide prevention. These students are at a higher risk for suicidal ideation than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. How do we do this important job?
One way is for PTAs to be aware of and encourage the implementation of LGBTQ+ affirming policies (i.e. using a student's chosen pronouns in class) and training for faculty and staff that support LGBTQ+ students. For example, right now LCPS requires parent permission for a student to use pronouns other than those listed on registration documentations. Requiring parental consent for only gender-diverse students is contrary to the 1040 policy LCPS has adopted.
Model policies for transgender youth are expected to be adopted for the 2021-2022 school year. Equality VA shared the following guidance for schools related to pronoun use:
PTA's should play a role in advocating for and supporting the implementation of these policies at the local level. According to the 2019 Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSN) VA Climate Survey, we learned that most secondary schools are not safe (i.e. affirming or free from bias and bullying) for LGBTQ+ students. This should matter to all parents, teachers, and students.
Schools should be safe for all. Contribute to improving the climate of your school by speaking out and advocating for protections for all LGBTQ+ faculty, staff, and students at your local school(s).
For more information please visit the Equity VA website or NOVA Resources for Parents for more information and ways to get involved.