LGBTQ+ School Resources

 

Foundational Practices to Support LGBTQ+ Students: 

1. Provide a Clear, Non-Discrimination Policy

Develop a non-discrimination policy that specifically includes supporting LGBTQ+ students. The policy should be made public and openly discussed at least annually so that the entire community understands the value the school places on equitable treatment for all of its students regardless of sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, race, religion or national origin.

This policy should also be included in every Student Handbook.

Staff/Students/Community should be aware of the Title Nine coordinator or other person assigned to be responsible for complaints as well as the process for filing and follow through 

Maine School Examples:

2. Ensure Opportunities for Education and Professional Development

Regularly scheduled learning opportunities should be provided at least annually for administrators, teachers, support staff and volunteers to build their understanding, awareness and ability to help LGBTQ+ students attain and enjoy equal opportunity in all aspects of their school life.

School personnel are informed, feel confident and understand the proper terminology to use when talking with LGBTQ+ youth who are trying to understand their gender, openly discuss their sexual orientation or request use of a name that aligns with their gender identity.

Adults are trained to act when they see harassment or are informed of harassment or bullying in any form. A non-discrimination policy isn’t enough alone if students cannot see the administrators, teachers and support staff living the values behind the policy.

Appropriate learning opportunities should also be put in place as a MTSS tier 1 support for all students so they can learn about equity and understand what is expected of them in the school’s efforts to ensure opportunity for all of its students.

Discussion  with local credentialing committee about including LGBTQ+ informed training to be part of contact hours for certification

3. Provide and Display Materials That Include Representation of All Students

Research has consistently shown that when students feel safe and welcome and their schools promote a culture of working together and respecting one another in the school environment, bullying and school violence decrease and schools report higher academic success. 

It is important to acknowledge that students have different identities based on race and national origin, as well as religion, gender and sexual orientation and gender identity.  Displaying age-appropriate materials in school areas where students can see them acknowledges the students, which in turn connects the students to school and helps them succeed.  

4. Make Curricula Inclusive of LGBTQ+ Experiences

School curricula, from health education through social studies and history classes, should include and reflect LGBTQ+ individuals and their achievements, failures and life experiences in age- and pedagogically-appropriate ways. There are significant curricula resources in Maine and across the country that can contribute to making our school curricula more inclusive and prepare our students for life in an increasingly diverse state and country. These efforts should include the full racial, Indigenous and cultural diversity of our state and our nation. 

The school’s health curriculum is particularly critical. All students should have access to a high-quality Human Growth and Development curriculum that is LGBTQ+-inclusive, age-appropriate, medically accurate and non-stigmatizing. The Maine DOE webpage currently includes the Maine Family Planning Puberty Happens curriculum as an excellent framework for including LGBTQ+ content into these educational modules.

Resources

5. Ensure Clear Privacy and Confidentiality Policies

Due to negative stigma and a long history of prejudice, LGBTQ+ students are at higher risk for bullying, harassment, physical violence and being homeless which can result in higher rates of substance use, trauma, anxiety, depression and suicide than their peers. Due to this, confidentiality policies and procedures play a significant role in providing physical and emotional safety for LGBTQ+ students!

Administrators and staff should know and understand the school’s privacy and confidentiality policies to ensure that all personally identifiable information related to LGBTQ+ students, including but not limited to: medical information, transgender status, and birth name or sex assigned at birth, is kept properly confidential in accordance with all applicable state and federal laws.

This review also should apply to specific privacy policies applicable to IEPs and 504 plans. Staff who have access to any of this information must follow FERPA guidelines and not share it with anyone else unless that person has a legitimate educational reason or they are permitted to do so with written parental consent or the consent of the student if they are 18 or older.

It is important for school administrators and staff to understand additional confidentiality provided to students who are accessing school based counseling and mental health supports as well as discuss when minor consent to treatment would pertain to students who are seeking supports without parent or guardian consent. 

Another area in consideration of confidentiality for LGBTQ+ students would be during hybrid or remote education settings.  

6. Use Student’s Preferred Name and Gender Identity

Research has consistently shown that when students feel safe and welcome and their schools promote a culture of working together and respecting one another in the school environment, bullying and school violence decrease and schools report higher academic success. For students that identify with a name or gender different than their birth certificate or identify using a Gender Expansive pronoun, having students and staff engage with them using these preferred terms creates a base of respect and  

The Maine Human Rights Commission Memo suggests that a student gives clear notice to their school, in writing, that they are requesting school personnel to use the student’s chosen name and pronouns. Going forward, the school and all school staff “shall use the student’s preferred name and pronouns consistent with their gender identity” on all documents and in all communications. The only exception to this rule is the student’s official record, which must bear the student’s legal name unless changed by a court order.

  • This also means that all school employees “should be required to address the student by the student’s chosen name and use pronouns consistent with the student’s gender identity.”
  • At the students’ request, the school should also “instruct its students to address the student by the student’s chosen name and use pronouns consistent with the student’s gender identity.”
  • A school’s “pattern of refusal to acknowledge a student’s gender identity by using their chosen name and pronouns” may constitute a violation of the Maine Human Rights Act as well as Maine's bullying law.
    7. Learning Systems and Supporting Trans and Gender Expansive Identifying Students

    A School’s administration systems are another important part of supporting LGBTQ+ identifying students to ensure that the school environment remains a safe and supportive place to learn. Ultimately, the school environment must be intentionally set up so that transgender students as well as those who use preferred names or gender expansive pronouns (GE), are treated like all other students. For many people, particularly adults, that notion challenges societal assumptions about the immutability of gender, so implementing these structures can seem daunting. Experience has shown that supporting these students is not only possible, but also creates a safer and more inclusive environment for all students.

    A school’s student information system typically uses the student’s name and gender as reflected on their birth certificate. As a result, when a student chooses to use a preferred name or gender identification at school, there are a great many ways in which a student’s incorrect name or sex assigned at birth may inadvertently appear on documents generated by those systems.

    For example, a substitute teacher simply calling out names from the attendance sheet, which typically lists each student’s legal name, can inadvertently disclose the student’s transgender or GE identity to their peers. Other typical stumbling points include after-school programs, school photos, outside professionals providing a service on campus, yearbooks, ID cards, posted lists, library cards, lunch cards, distribution of texts or other school supplies and standardized tests. Even in the most supportive of school settings, simple bureaucratic oversights can cause real anxiety and even trauma for Trans and GE students.

    Ways Schools can Intentionally Create Supportive Administrative Systems

    Although a schools’ recordkeeping and reporting requirements are often seen as a barrier to preventing those oversights, many school districts have found solutions that allow them comply with those requirements while meeting their obligations to safeguard Transgender and GE student’s privacy and right to learn in a safe and supportive school environment.

    The state of Maine requires that school administrative units use student’s legal information when filing reports. However, a school’s recordkeeping and reporting requirements do not exempt it from its obligations to safeguard student privacy and create a safe and supportive environment. Schools across Maine are finding ways to meet their reporting requirements while simultaneously meeting their obligation to provide a positive and safe system for their students.

    The list of solutions employed by schools below is far from exhaustive and their viability depends on a variety of factors including each school’s record keeping system, local policies and the reinforcement of overlapping supportive systems.

    • Maintain a copy of the student’s birth certificate or other identity document that reflects the student’s name and sex as assigned at birth under lock and key in the principal’s office, while working with the student information system provider to develop a field or screen that would allow the district to maintain the student’s legal and chosen name, but that would use the chosen name to populate attendance sheets, report cards, and other school-related documents. Most major learning systems already have a way to specifically make this possible, including using preferred name and gender as the primary identifier while maintaining varied levels of access to legal information that would be automatically included for state reporting.

     

     

    • Create a uniform and public procedure at the district level that connects all electronic student databases and allows a student or their parent to fill out one form indicating the name and pronoun the student wishes to use. Some school districts have established such procedures to streamline the process and reduce the common bureaucratic barriers.
    • If a school’s student information system does not have built in ways to have both preferred and legal names, schools switch to the student’s legal name and gender when sharing information to the state department of education’s database. Schools that choose this approach pull that student’s testing booklet before it is distributed and correct the name and gender marker on the label to ensure that the student’s privacy and identity are respected.
    • Allow the student to re-enroll in the school using a passport with the correct name and gender marker, or change the name and gender marker in the student information system to be consistent with the passport. If a student is a U.S. citizen and their family can afford the passport application fees, obtaining a passport that reflects the student’s gender identity is usually easier than changing that information on their birth certificate.
    8. Ensure Student Access to Sex-Segregated and Single-Use Programs and Facilities are Consistent with Gender Identity

    All students need privacy and safety when using restrooms and other school facilities. Safety and privacy are essential to student health and well-being. Students must be permitted to use the bathroom and other separated facilities in accordance with or corresponding most closely to their gender identity and should not be forced or pressured to use alternative facilities. Any existing school facilities designed to be used by only one person at a time must be made available to all students.

    All other school-related rules, programs and activities must ensure that students can comply with a rule, or participate in a program or activity, consistent with their gender identity.

    This is consistent with the Maine Law Court ruling in Doe v. Reg’l Sch. Unit 26, 86 A.3d 600 (Me. 2014).

    9. Ensure All Policies, Handbooks and Other Written Materials are Up-to-Date

    As polices and supports are changed, ensure that previous ones are removed from websites and any school resources. Handbooks and other written materials should include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in conformity with the state non-discrimination law, the school’s non-discrimination policy and all other applicable state and federal laws.

    10. Employ Programs that Build Intentional Positive School Culture

    School climate is a broad, multifaceted concept that involves many aspects of the student’s educational experience. A positive school climate is the product of a school’s attention to fostering safety; promoting a supportive academic, disciplinary, and physical environment; and encouraging and maintaining respectful, trusting, and caring relationships throughout the school community no matter the setting.

    For LGBTQ+ students, a safe and positive school culture allows them not only to access their education, but flourish through the many supports afforded by having positive adult and peer interaction. 

    A positive school climate is critically related to school success. For example, it can improve attendance, achievement, and retention and even rates of graduation, according to research. School climate has many aspects. Defining a framework for understanding school climate can help educators identify key areas to focus on to create safe and supportive climates in their schools.

    Best Practice Programs: