With increased attention on the harassment and bullying faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) students, many educators have struggled with how to address the controversial topics of sexual orientation and gender identity in school settings. Fredman, Schulz, and Hoffman conducted a study to examine the ways in which educators incorporate LGBTQ topics in their curriculum and create inclusive environments for students.
They interviewed public school educators to explore the inclusion of LGBTQ issues in curricular contexts, including educator training, policies and challenges, as well as student, community, parent, and administrator reactions.
Teachers reported that, in determining whether to address LGBTQ curriculum in the classroom, they evaluate two risks: 1) their own energy and capacity to address the issue and 2) professional repercussions. Teachers questioned their energy to deal with the tensions that might arise from students, families, and administrators if they attended to this controversial issue. Additionally, they worried about losing their jobs, especially in locations where teacher unions were weaker. Nonetheless, teachers noted the importance of taking risks to incorporate LGBTQ issues in the curriculum because they viewed it as essential for cultivating a safer environment for all students.
By focusing on safety as a core value, educators felt they could get everyone on board to transform schools into a safe environment for all. To do this, they advocated working within the system to make curricular and policy changes and seeking additional educator training on LGBTQ issues.
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Fredman, A. J., Schultz, N. J., & Hoffman, M. F. (2015). “You’re Moving a Frickin’Big Ship” The Challenges of Addressing LGBTQ Topics in Public Schools. Education and Urban Society, 47(1), 56-85.
Colleen Rost-Banik is a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota who studies race, gender, and sexuality in education.