When celebrating Pride Month at The Broad Center, it is critical for us to move beyond a focus on our own professional community to connect the dots with the organization’s vision of all students graduating ready for college, career and life. Race and socioeconomic status have historically been the attributes most often referenced when addressing equity issues in education, but there’s increasing research on the challenges that sexual orientation and gender identity as well as the intersection across identities raise for students.
GLSEN, an education non-profit dedicated to ensuring all students are valued regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, publishes a bi-annual National School Climate study of 23,000 students nationwide. GLSEN’s 2017 analysis shows that 59.5% of LGBTQ+ students report feeling unsafe at school because of sexual orientation. 98.5% of LGBTQ+ students heard “gay” used in a negative way at school. LGBTQ+ students who experienced discrimination had lower GPAs (3.0 versus 3.3), were twice as likely to report that they did not plan to pursue post-secondary education (9.5% versus 5.0%) and were more likely to have missed school in the last month (63.3% versus 23.1%).
There is a lot of work to be done to ensure equity and inclusivity for all students. Human Rights Watch cites solutions that can be scaled from school to system, such as creating staff professional development to familiarize administrators with language and issues pertaining to LGBTQ+ students, recognizing contributions by LGBTQ+ community members to school curriculum, and promoting model guidelines for districts to make schools safe and inclusive through anti-bullying policies and inclusive sex education. Many of our school system partners have implemented these and other solutions, which you can read more about here.
At The Broad Center, the opportunity lies not only in fostering allyship and inclusivity in our office during Pride Month, but in challenging ourselves to do the hard work alongside our network members to truly ensure equity for all. Read more next week on the TBC blog about the need for us to make a commitment (or to stay committed) to engaging in difficult conversations on this topic and suggestions for how to approach them.