Queering Schools for Everyone

 

Swartzie & Jake Sierra ⟰ 2018  

      

 

Source: https://queeringyourlens.wordpress.com/tag/queer-sexual-education/

 

 

Topic 

      Essential / Guiding Question: “How can the apathetic school environment be changed to create a climate that is more accessible for Queer individuals?”        

Background 

The Problem in Schools:

Schools have traditionally marginalized Queer individuals and have a history of systematic oppression / discrimination against them; schools are not always the welcoming environments for these individuals that they need to be. It is not just students who face this problematic reality - educators do as well. It is not justifiable for Queer individuals to exist within an apathetic space that is not willing to openly discuss their culture and their livelihood. Additionally, schools often do not circumvent the potential problems that these individuals face within the school itself as well as within the surrounding community.

The Solution to the Problem:

current research states that schools can be queer-friendly and that this is possible through the enactment of numerous cost-friendly policies that do not place a great burden on administrations and their surrounding communities. All classrooms should provide ample time for the discussion of identity - a discussion that every individual within the classroom needs access to actively participate in, including the teacher(s). These classrooms should also use diverse texts that discuss Queer issues. These Queer texts do not necessarily diverge from the standards and are still relevant to the rest of the curricula within which they are found. Nationwide policies should be more inclusive to create a welcoming environment for every individual.

Marginalization results in an unequal education for everyone. It creates a disruptive, unsafe, and unaccommodating environment that does not support the growth of the learning community. Thus, to counteract against the current unwelcoming and apathetic climate of schools, three aforementioned nationwide changes will be enacted.

 

Research    

Three Needed Changes to the School Environment: 

  1. Inclusive Classroom Management Practices
  2. Diverse Curricula Involving Queer Texts
  3. Queering Nationwide Educational Policies

 

Procedures for Changes:

A. Inclusive Classroom Management Practices

  1. Practices of inclusivity are cost-free and and simple.
  2. They create a meaningful and accessible learning environment for everyone.
  3. Examples: using gender non-specific language, using notecards with preferred names and pronouns, and using ‘identity sheets’ within which students identify themselves and their cultures.

 

B. Diverse Curricula Involving Queer Texts

  1. Texts that involve issues associated with the Queer community blend seamlessly into curricula and apply to standards that address the learning of other cultures.
  2. Examples: James Baldwin's Giovanni’s Room, Walt Whitman’s Calamus, Robin Stevenson’s Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community, and Esteban Bravo and Beth David’s “In a Heartbeat.”
  3. Additionally, traditional texts can be viewed through a modern queer lens, such as Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and Scott F. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

 

C. Queering Nationwide Educational Policies

  1. National policies for schools should reflect the need for every individual within the learning community to have resource and support systems available for them.
  2. Examples: the availability of inclusive counselors, gender non-specific restroom laws, the annulment of first-year probationary laws for teachers (and by extension discriminatory laws that similarly apply,) and the implementation of support programs and clubs within every school (such as “Spectrum,” “Gay-Straight Alliances,” and self-help sessions).

 

Examples

Scotland’s New Educational Policy

Scotland announced on November 8, 2018 that the country will embed LGBTI inclusive education into their curriculum. This is not just a first for European countries, but for all countries globally.

 

Background  

In April 2017, the Scottish Government created the LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group to work with LGBT organizations, including the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) Campaign. The LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group submitted 33 recommendations to the Scottish Ministers for approval, all of which were approved in November 2018. Work towards the implementation of these recommendations has started.

 

Recommendations

The 33 recommendations are divided into multiple categories:

  1. Implementing Recommendations
  2. General Recommendations
  3. Professional Learning
  4. Practice and Guidance
  5. Monitoring and School Inspections
  6. Recording of Bullying

Altogether, these aim to make education inclusive for LGBTI students; promote awareness of LGBTI history, movements, and equalities; and prevent discrimination against LGBTI students. Some recommendations include:

  1. "That the Scottish Government lead and resource a new basic awareness LGBTI inclusion training course that will be suitable for all schools in Scotland. That this provision be developed in partnership with organisations currently represented on the LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group."
  2. "That the Scottish Government commits to ongoing evaluation of new resources to improve LGBTI inclusive education in schools across Scotland."
  3. "That Education Scotland collaborate with members of the Implementation Group by 2021 to co‑develop specific LGBTI prompt questions for use during all standard school inspections."

 

The "Why"

Even if a teacher does not idenitfy as LGBTI, it is still vital for classrooms to be inclusive for those who identify as such. On the adoption of these recommendations, the Deputy First Minister of Scotland, John Swinney, had this to say:

“The recommendations I have accepted will not only improve the learning experience of our LGBTI young people, they will also support all learners to celebrate their differences, promote understanding and encourage inclusion.”

 

 

The Arts & College Preparatory Academy

One charter school, known as the Arts & College Preparatory Academy (abbreviated: ACPA) in Columbus, Ohio provides some of the groundwork for the policies within the previous sections.

ACPA’s mission statement is as follows: “Our mission—our passion—is to actively maintain a climate and culture that is based on a trailblazing arts and college prep curriculum in an environment that is safe, inclusive, and progressive for all our students and staff” (source: http://www.artcollegeprep.org/about/mission-vision-story). ACPA also abides by a schoolwide no-bullying policy, as opposed to schools that seemingly tolerate it.

With its mission statement and no-bullying policy in mind, it’s clear that APCA is committed to creating a school climate that is sensitive to the needs of every student, including those who identify as LGBTQ+. Additionally, “45.1% [of] our students identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, questioning, or asexual...”, and “16.1% [of] our kids identify as transgender or genderfluid” (source: http://www.artcollegeprep.org/documents/ACPAannualreport2017.pdf). These demographics provide evidence that LGBTQ+ feel welcomed at ACPA, that the have a place to go in which they belong.

 

360 Tour of ACPA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvVGByn8dfE

The link above is to a video that offers a brief 360° tour of ACPA that provides insight into how the school is structured / organized. As seen, numerous classrooms are structured differently, perhaps to reflect the needs of each classroom and the students within them. Student work is also displayed on the walls of the hallways. The classrooms are structured to involve experiential learning and student-choice.

 

ACPA's VOICE Project

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Pz7YUE-GWE

The link above is to a video that gives a brief introduction to ACPA’s VOICE project, a Grant initiative to provide “...a place for educators, administrators and school board members to use for access to resources and information regarding our model and the impact that it is having on our students. The best practices and techniques that ACPA staff use to create an inclusive and high performing environment can be implemented in any school to help overcome bullying, marginalization of diverse groups of students, and maintain a more positive and safe environment” (source: http://acpavoice.org/index.html). The VOICE project is thus directly tied to ACPA’s mission statement and commitment to student achievement.

 

Resources

Works Consulted / Cited

ACPA. 2014. “VOICE: Empower a Positive Climate.” Source: http://acpavoice.org/index.html

 

ACPA. 2016-2017. “Annual Report.” Source: http://www.artcollegeprep.org/documents/ACPAannualreport2017.pdf

 

ACPA. 2018. “Mission, Vision, and Story.” Source: http://www.artcollegeprep.org/about/mission-vision-story

 

ACPAvision. 2014. “VOICE: Empowering a Positive Climate.” Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Pz7YUE-GWE

 

James, G. TedxTalks. 2016. “Ignorance isn’t bliss-- Why we need LGBQT Education”. Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWieTvjkj0k

 

Klein, R. 2018. “These 'No Promo Homo' Laws Are Hurting LGBTQ Students Across America.” Source:https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/no-promo-homo-laws-states_us_5a6f9178e4b05836a255ae94

 

LGBTI education. (2018, November 8). Retrieved December 3, 2018, from https://www.gov.scot/news/lgbti-education/

 

LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group: Report to the Scottish Ministers. (2018, November 8). Retrieved December 3, 2018, from https://www.gov.scot/publications/lgbti-inclusive-education-working-group-report/pages/3/

 

PanoRam 360. 2015. “The Arts and College Preparatory Academy: 360° Virtual Tour. Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvVGByn8dfE

 

Pat Marcum. 2016. “Gay marriage taught in the classroom.” Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-FwRdaU5I4

 

Sanders, A. M., & Mathis, J. B. (2012). Gay and Lesbian Literature in the Classroom: Can Gay Themes Overcome Heteronormativity?. Journal Of Praxis In Multicultural Education, 7(1), 1-18. doi:10.9741/2161-2978.1067