Between social pressures and establishing an identity, school can already be a challenging place for students to thrive in. But for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and questioning youth, school can be the most difficult ordeal they face.
What can you do to make your school safe for LGBT students?
The statistics are astounding. Across a range of areas, LGBT youth on average are at much higher risk than their peers. Their academic performance suffers. They are subject to harassment and violence at greater rates. Substance abuse and homelessness affect LGBT youth disproportionately. Sadly, they attempt and commit suicide at much higher rates.
All students, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people, have the right to attend school free of fear. Yet school is not a safe place for New York City's LGBT middle and high school students. When anti-gay remarks are ignored by teachers and other school professionals from the early grades through high school, all students get the message that gays are not protected. In such a hostile environment, verbal abuse can quickly lead to physical attacks on students who are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
In order to address the issue of homophobia in the schools, PFLAG NYC runs the Safe Schools Program. Safe Schools is an educational speaking and outreach program that promotes inclusion, understanding, equality, and non-violence in the New York school system. PFLAG volunteer speakers help create a learning and social environment that is free of harassment, and provides, safety, dignity, and respect for all students, including those who are LGBT. Our speakers come from all backgrounds, and include straight family and friends of LGBT people, as well as LGBT adults and youth, who being a family perspective and personal stories in order to help teach about sexual orientation and gender identity and making the school environment safe and encouraging for all.
Through the Safe Schools Program, PFLAG NYC visits schools throughout New York to work with teachers, parents, administrators, school staff and students to help make sure that hate, bias, and discrimination have no place in the classroom. PFLAG NYC's Safe Schools Program:
- Addresses students, teachers, counselors, and parents about LGBT issues
- Helps LGBT students find support in understanding their sexual orientation and/or gender identity
- Helps faculty and staff to understand and approach LGBT issues respectfully and accurately
- Helps parents understand LGBT issues as it relates to the developing sexuality of their children and their children's friends and peers
- Teaches straight students, faculty, and parents to be allies