Teaching respect and understanding
More and more educators recognize that LGBTQ people are enjoying greater visibility, acceptance and rights and want curricula to reflect that.
Numerous leading professional organizations support inclusion of LGBTQ supportive materials in school curricula, including:
- The American Academy of Pediatrics
- The American Association of School Administrators
- The American School Health Association
- The National Association of Social Workers
History, social studies and civics teachers can include the discussion of LGBTQ rights, activists, political figures and key events, such as the 1969 Stonewall riots, Harvey Milk’s election or assassination or Lambda Legal’s Supreme Court victory in Lawrence v. Texas, a watershed for LGBT civil rights.
English, literature or humanities teachers can include the work of LGBTQ writers and artists as well as plays, novels or films with LGBTQ characters.
Health teachers can include facts about sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, impart nonjudgmental, fact-based information about HIV transmission and prevention and combat HIV stigma by emphasizing that it affects everyone, not just LGBTQ people.
Counselors can supply and prominently display LGBTQ-friendly materials relating to mental and physical health.
Administrators and school boards can adopt standards that require inclusive, comprehensive, evidence-based curricula. These standards can provide guidance while allowing some flexibility within individual districts.
Parents and parent-teacher associations can contact school staff and school officials to lobby for the use of LGBTQ-friendly curricula.
Teachers, student group advisors and student activity administrators can structure presentations, events or discussions around annual observances such as National Freedom to Marry Day (February 12); Pride (varies, many dates in June); National Coming Out Day (October 11) and Transgender Day of Remembrance (varies, November).
Know Your Rights as Educators
The First Amendment and federal laws like the Equal Access Act generally do not restrict schools’ authority to design curricula.
When school professionals include health, tolerance and anti-bullying in their curricula, that choice is also protected by the law.
Remember though, the First Amendment protects some types of expression for teachers and staff, but employers are allowed under the law to restrict the speech of employees in certain ways. The nature and scope of allowable restrictions depend highly on the context and the jurisdiction.
For more information, contact Lambda Legal (866-542-8336 or visit www.lambdalegal.org/help)