In an ideal world, our students would be safe to openly be who they are at all times. Since the world we live in is far from ideal, we must support our students’ rights to privacy and trust them to make the decision to reveal their sexuality when they feel the time is right.
Unfortunately, many people, especially children, are made to feel that their sexuality, their very identity, puts them in harm’s way. Violence still occurs in varying forms against the LGBT community all over the globe.
As educators, there are a few things we can do to help support LGBT students. Here is a checklist to help keep your students safe on National Coming Out Day on Thursday, and every day of the year.
- Make it clear that your classroom is a safe zone. Tell your students that bullying and harm against anyone for his or her sexual orientation (or any other reason) are simply not acceptable. You might even create a safe zone ritual, such as putting the chairs in a circle, making a “Safe Zone” poster to hang up, or crafting a talking stick to pass around.
- Let your students know that you, yourself, are a safe zone as well. Students can come to you in confidence and unload. It helps to have one person to trust. Be sure to explain about your role as a mandatory reporter of abuse to ensure your students are aware that there are some things you cannot keep secret. Consider teaming up with the school counselor or any other faculty to create a safety circle or a school Gay-Straight Alliance.
- Be a straight ally. The Human Rights Campaign has issued this guide to help you become aware of not just the issues, but how you can help personally.
- Provide resources for your students who might need help. Some students may wish to come out on this holiday but do not know where to start. Resources such as “Coming Out at Work,” “Living Openly at Your Place of Worship,” and others can be downloaded from the Human Rights Campaign. You can download the literature, make a list of helpful websites to post in your classroom, or pass the information on to the school counselor to pass onto students who may need it.
There are many ideas to help support students. Need more? Visit GLSEN: The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.
Schmidt is a writer and editor based in Missouri.