LGBTQ+ School Resources

The Maine Department of Education supports all LGBTQ+ identifying, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender-expansive and questioning students, families, and school staff as part of the school community, the teachers and staff, and the student body. 
The Department of Education prioritizes safety and equity for all students, so that each young person has the opportunity to access the full benefits of their education and be prepared to thrive as adults in their Maine communities. All staff should also be safe and supported in their school environments in order to fully engage with students, their coworkers, and the community in fulfilling this mission.
The Department understands schools are a unique learning community, whose members are drawn from the community at large who inevitably have different values and perspectives.   In order to ensure that every person has a chance to grow and succeed, the imperatives of safety and equal opportunity must predominate in terms of behavior at school even as individuals hold varying beliefs.  Currently, Maine data show us that negative cultural stigmas, including those about people who are LGBTQ+, are negatively affecting our school environments and learning. As addressed in its website sections on school safety, school and student supports, social-emotional learning and school climate, the Maine DOE seeks to build positive school environments that help every child succeed.
To address these concerns and support safe and equitable school environments for all Maine’s youth, the Department of Education is providing best practice approaches to promote positive school climates on campus and in school programs.
Organizations and resources are for reference and information only and do not imply endorsement by the Maine Department of Education.


Foundational Practices to Support LGBTQ+ Students: 

1. Have a Clear, Comprehensive, Non-Discrimination Policy
Develop or update your non-discrimination policy to specifically address supporting LGBTQ+ students and staff. The policy should be made public and openly discussed at least annually to ensure that the entire community understands the value the school places on equitable treatment for all of its students and staff, regardless of any number of personal characteristics, including: identified sex or gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, and characteristics identified under Maine law.
It is important to ensure that who people are, is not a basis for discrimination at school, in school-connected or sponsored courses, programs or activities. While members of the school community may hold varying values and beliefs, in school-connected settings, the law clarifies what is common sense - for everyone to have a chance to succeed, the key values must be inclusion, equity and safety.
These policies should also be included in every Student Handbook.
Staff/students/community should be aware of the Title IX coordinator or other person assigned with the responsibility for complaints, as well as the process for filing and follow-up.
Existing Maine School Examples:
2. Provide Professional Development and Student Learning Opportunities
As discussed above, LGBTQ+ youth are a significant minority of students in Maine schools. Schools have an obligation to provide accurate information about these young people and their particular needs. Regularly scheduled learning opportunities should be provided at least annually for administrators, teachers, support staff and volunteers. Training should  provide accurate information about these young people and their particular needs in order to ensure they, like all others, enjoy equal opportunity in all aspects of their school life.
School personnel should feel informed and confident in their understanding of the basics of engaging with the experiences and backgrounds of all students, including LGBTQ+ students. They should understand supportive ways to engage, and terminology to use when educating LGBTQ+ youth, and how law, school policy, and best practices factor into that support.
Adults are trained to address bullying and/or harassment when they witness or are informed of harassment or bullying in any form. School staff are trained annually about how to address these issues effectively. Best practice indicates that students feel supported when they see the administrators, teachers and support staff representing the values behind the policy. A non-discrimination policy by itself is not enough.
Appropriate learning opportunities also should be put in place as a MTSS tier 1 support for all students. The goal is to help all students learn about equity and understand what is expected of them in the school’s efforts to ensure opportunity for and acceptance of all students.
Schools should discuss with the local credentialing committee the inclusion of LGBTQ+ -informed training as part of the district’s contact hours towards re-certification.

Learning Resources — Webinars in LGBTQIA+ Children and Youth from the National LGBTQIA Education Center

3. Provide and Display Materials That Represent All Students
Research has consistently shown that bullying and school violence decrease and schools report higher academic success, when students feel safe and welcome, and their schools promote a culture of working together and respecting one another in the school environment. 
It is important to acknowledge that students, like all of us, are multidimensional, and that there are educational and mental health benefits of acknowledging students as they are in the school community.  Displaying age-appropriate materials in school areas where students can see them validates the student’s sense of belonging and amplifies inclusion in the school community.  These, in turn, connect the students to school and to each other, and ultimately help all succeed.  

OUT Maine School Resources

GSLEN Safe Space Kit

4. Include LGBTQ+ Experiences In Curricula
School curricula, from health education through social studies and history classes, should include age- and pedagogically-appropriate materials related to  LGBTQ+ people and issues.  The absence of acknowledgement, or materials about LGBTQ+ people disserves all students and can itself become a statement that LGBTQ+ are not valued parts of the school community. 
There are significant curriculum 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 complement, and even include, the full racial, indigenous, tribal and immigrant diversity of our state and our nation. 
The school’s health curriculum - particularly a high-quality Human Growth and Development curriculum - is critical for all students’  health and well-being. This curriculum should be LGBTQ+-inclusive, age-appropriate, medically accurate and non-stigmatizing. The Maine DOE webpage includes the Maine Family Planning Puberty Happens curriculum as an excellent framework for including LGBTQ+ content into health modules. OUT Maine also has produced a series of curriculum activities correlated with the Maine Learning Standards that provide quality content and projects.
Maine data shows that approximately 1 in 7 students identify within the LGBTQ+ spectrum. It would be a disservice in education to not acknowledge that LGBTQ+ people are part of our country’s history, culture and communities. Incorporating this information into our curriculum, as well as teachings about all of our diverse students, better prepares students to interact with an increasingly diverse world.
5. Establish Clear Privacy and Confidentiality Policies
Even as experiences can be much better for some young people than in years past, stigma and hostility remain due to longstanding discrimination and stigma of LGBTQ+ people. These can place students at higher risk for bullying, harassment, physical violence and homelessness. These risk factors also can lead to higher rates of substance use, trauma, anxiety, depression and suicide for this group of young people compared to their non-LGBTQ+ peers.
Strong confidentiality policies and procedures play a significant role in making it safe for young people to seek mental health support without fear of exposure to the school community and beyond. 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 is kept properly confidential across staff, students and the community, in accordance with all applicable state and federal laws. Critical confidential information includes, but is not limited to, medical information, transgender status, and birth name or sex assigned at birth.
This review, and any updating of privacy and confidentiality policies and laws 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. They cannot share this information 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 the youth is 18 or older.
It also is important that school administrators and staff understand additional confidentiality provided to students who are accessing school-based counseling and mental health supports.  Maine's Law on Consent of Minors for Health Services 
6. Use The Name and Gender Identity the Student Wishes to Use
As discussed above, research consistently shows that bullying and school violence decrease and schools report higher academic success when students feel safe and welcome and their schools promote a culture of working together and respecting one another in the school environment.  If students want to be known by their middle name, or by their initials at school, or a childhood nickname, then schools can and often do accommodate that.  Likewise, if a student seeks to use a name, gender or pronoun different from what it had been, then students and staff who engage with them should use these chosen terms. These actions create a base of respect and inclusion that supports the student and their learning environment throughout the school day.    
The Maine Human Rights Commission Memo (2016) recommends that a student give clear notice to their school, in writing, that they are requesting school personnel 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.  Local policy may be relevant in this context.
Consistent with the imperatives for equal educational opportunity, a welcoming learning environment, and non-discrimination, the Human Rights Commission states:
  •  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 student’s request, the school also should “instruct its students to address the student by the student’s chosen name and use pronouns consistent with the student’s gender identity”; and
  • 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. Update Student Information Management Systems 
    A school’s student information management system plays a vital role in supporting all students, including LGBTQ+ students.
    The school environment and systems have to be administered so as to support LGBTQ+ students. One of the more visible aspects of supporting young people is respecting them as they are while at school by using the names and pronouns they prefer, and treating them in accord with their gender identity.  This may be unfamiliar or seem strange, but the accommodation is in line with best practices in creating a safer and more inclusive school environment for all students.  While individuals may have different beliefs, values and experiences, the touchstone for everyone in school-related matters is to include and to treat people with respect as part of a larger school community.  The administration is responsible for creating this as a baseline in the school environment.
    One common issue concerns the school’s student information system, which typically uses the student’s name and gender as reflected on their birth certificate. As a result, when a student uses a different name, pronoun or has a different gender identity from that assigned at birth, but their family has not yet gone through the process of updating their legal name or birth certificate, the student’s original name or assigned sex may inadvertently appear on documents generated by those systems, causing distress or embarrassment, or even violating a young person’s privacy in the sharing of their personal information.
    Example: when a substitute teacher calls out names from the attendance sheet, which typically lists each student’s legal name, that person may inadvertently disclose the student’s transgender or gender-expansive identity to their peers. This problem also arises with after-school programs, school photos, school email addresses, 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, it takes effort to avoid these simple bureaucratic oversights.
    Creating Supportive Administrative Systems
    Schools across Maine are finding ways to meet their official reporting requirements while simultaneously meeting their obligation to provide a positive and safe system for their students. As a baseline, Maine requires that school administrative units use student’s legal information when filing certain reports to state or federal officials. All other school recordkeeping and reporting requirements, however,  should be consistent with the obligations to safeguard student privacy and create an inclusive, safe and supportive environment.
    The MDOE supports the innovations by schools to address these issues, which have adapted their record-keeping systems and local policies, and reinforced overlapping supportive systems.
    This list of solutions and approaches below are just a few that the MDOE has seen in operation at many Maine schools.
    • Maintain and safeguard a copy of the student’s birth certificate or other identity document that reflect the student’s name and sex as assigned at birth under lock and key in the principal’s office.
    • Create a uniform and public procedure at the district level that connects all electronic student databases and allows a parent or student to fill out one form that indicates the name, pronoun and gender the student is using. Establishing such procedures streamlines the process and reduces common bureaucratic barriers.
    • Work with the student information system provider to develop a field or screen that would allow the district to maintain the student’s legal name, but choose the name in use to populate attendance sheets, report cards, and other school-related documents. Most major learning systems have established methods built into their software to allow for using the name in use and gender as the primary identifiers while maintaining varied levels of access to legal information that would be automatically included for state reporting.  Reach out to your assigned support person or use the links below to get more information.
    • If a school’s student information system does not have a built-in way to include both chosen and legal names, schools can switch to the student’s legal name and gender when sharing information to the Department of Education’s database. Schools that choose this approach typically pull the student’s testing booklet before it is distributed, correcting the name and gender marker on the label to respect the student’s privacy and identity.
    • Allow the student to re-enroll in the school using an updated legal name change, birth certificate and/or updated passport with the corrected chosen name and gender marker, or change the name and gender marker in the student information system to be consistent with the updated birth certificate or passport.  There are Maine and U.S. specific resources available for families who want to make these changes, and also for free legal assistance when a lawyer is necessary.  See the GLAD Id Project at: 
    8. Ensure Student Access to Sex-Segregated and Single-Use Facilities and Programs Consistent with their Gender Identity
    For health and well-being, all students need privacy and safety when using restrooms, locker rooms, and other school facilities. Accordingly, students must be permitted to use the bathroom and other sex-separated facilities in accordance with or corresponding most closely to their gender identity. They should not be pressured or forced to use alternative facilities. Any existing school facilities designed to be used by only one student at a time must be made available to all students. Students who seek more privacy than that afforded by these facilities should be accommodated. 
    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, in accordance with the Maine Law Court ruling in Doe v. Reg’l Sch. Unit 26, 86 A.3d 600 (Me. 2014)
    9.Keep Policies, Handbooks and Other Written Materials are Up-to-Date
    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. As policies and procedures are changed, make sure that previous ones are removed from websites and any school resources.

    US CDC LGBTQ Inclusivity in Schools: A Self-Assessment Tool

    10. Implement Efforts and Programs that Prioritize Positive School Culture
    Last but certainly not least, and as stated many times already, school climate  is an important baseline for student safety, inclusion and success.  It is a broad, multifaceted concept that involves many aspects of the student’s educational experience. The National Center for Safe, Supportive Learning Environments describes a positive school climate as 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 to flourish through the many supports afforded by positive adult and peer interaction. 
    School success is critically related to a positive school climate. Research shows that a positive school climate can improve attendance, achievement, retention and rates of graduation. These resources outline a variety of approaches to creating a positive school climate.
    Best Practice Programs:


    LGBTQ+ Support Contact: