Course Introduction
Unit 1: Enumerated Policies
Unit 2: GSAs
Unit 3: Supportive Adults
Unit 4: Inclusive Curriculum
Course Conclusion

Why Study this Topic?

Why Study this Topic?

There are many reasons to learn about the school experiences of LGBTQ students. Decades of research reveal ongoing mental and physical health challenges for stigmatized minority youth. LGBTQ students in particular suffer more frequent violence, harassment, and bullying than other groups of students, leading to higher risk of substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and suicidality. Additionally, and of particular concern to education professionals, LGBTQ students’ academic paths are frequently interrupted due to fear, isolation, and loss of school connectedness in school environments where they do not feel affirmed, included, or even safe.

Consider these findings from GLSEN’s 2019 survey of LGBTQ students:

  • 59.1% of LGBTQ students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation
  • 98.8% have heard students or staff at their school use the word “gay” in a negative way
  • 91.8% felt distressed because of such language and the way in which it is used
  • 86.3% of surveyed students “experienced harassment or assault based on personal characteristics.”

Fortunately, there are evidence-backed practices that can be applied to any school setting. A remarkable result of the research on these supportive practices is that when a school prioritizes an inclusive environment that protects and affirms its most vulnerable students, it creates a more positive school climate for ALL students.

Yet many pre-service teacher education programs don’t include instruction about stigmatized students’ needs. And even fewer K-12 schools provide professional development on ways to support LGBTQ students.

You may be enrolled in this course because your school’s administration or accreditor has required it, or you may feel that it aligns with your goals as a teacher. You may be part of the LGBTQ community, or have a friend or family member who is. You may have students who aren’t achieving academically and suspect bullying or mental health is the cause. Perhaps you have witnessed bias-based harassment or homophobic language in your school, and you would like to feel better prepared to respond to it and help build the resilience of victimized students. Or maybe you are the one at your school whom LGBTQ students feel most affirmed by.

We’re excited to share more details about the research and best practices for supporting LGBTQ students at your school now and in the future!

Because schools do more than teach basic subjects and also teach students how to become members of communities and part of the progress of the nation and the world, teachers, school leaders, school staff, and counselors all need to be prepared to work with diverse learners, community members, and parents, and to advocate for the equitable learning of all students.

Cris Mayo, PhD

University of Vermont