This year, the Teaching Tolerance Educator Grants program is pleased to celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month with a look back at a few inspiring projects happening in schools across the country. These endeavors validate and lift up the experiences of LGBTQ students. They honor the rich diversity of student identities, educate school staff about LGBTQ competencies and, above all, support students’ safety in bringing their authentic selves with them to school every day.
While this work is far from over, we applaud the many educators who have stood up for the rights of LGBTQ students—from crafting curriculum and policies that include all identities and gender expressions, to respecting students’ pronouns, to teaching the history of LGBTQ activism, to helping queer students build safer communities at school.
We hope these projects will serve as inspiration in your own practice, whether that means reading up on best practices for serving LGBTQ students, educating yourself about LGBTQ history or applying for a grant of your own.
GSA Pride Initiative
When elementary-aged students asked to start a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at their school, their educators sprang into action. Their grant project focused on building a space where students felt safe enough to share their experiences and teaching the prerequisite social emotional skills for young people to know how to make use of that space. To this end, they created an “activity button” program, where students could earn buttons for participating in various training activities. The buttons—to be placed on rainbow lanyards that served as hall passes for GSA meetings—scaffolded students’ leadership and empathy training and functioned as entry passes for increasingly in-depth activities.
GSA Zine to Promote Tolerance and Education
The Gay-Straight Alliance at this Virginia school sought to build on its advocacy efforts to integrate LGBTQ history into the curriculum and include LGBTQ identities in sexual education classes. With support from a TT grant, students created a GSA zine to distribute to the entire student body. The homemade, miniature magazine included features like coloring pages to help students learn the different Pride flags and suggestions for promoting respect at school. With their personalized project, the GSA took another step to promote a respectful and inclusive school climate.
Newark Connects LGBTQ Students
This district-wide initiative worked to create a welcoming school environment for LGBTQ students, beginning with professional development training on LGBTQ issues in education for all high school staff. Each school distributed a climate survey to determine the needs of LGBTQ students in their school communities. They each created a planning committee to host events fostering a welcoming environment for all. Finally, the district hosted a Spring Ball for LGBTQ students and allies. Working together, these educators interrupted stereotypes, countered fear, reduced bullying and bolstered positive identity development for LGBTQ students.
Gender Spectrum Alliance Forum
This GSA forum brought together LGBTQ students, educators, district administrators, board members, allies and community support organizations from across the San Ramon Valley. Forum participants met with community organizations to learn about available resources and support systems, share their ideas for LGBTQ community growth and discuss concerns at a roundtable discussion. Building a community of LGBTQ students and allies, the forum countered isolation and empowered young people to advocate for themselves and others.
Ehrenhalt is the Teaching Tolerance grants manager and Mix it Up coordinator.