Have you ever thought about the education of children raised by gay parents?
Studies share that 1 to 9 million children in the United States have at least one parent who is gay or lesbian. It is difficult to obtain a more accurate count because many same sex parent families are hesitant to be open because of fears of discrimination.
The number of children raised by gay parents increases every day.
It can be assumed however, that there is a growing number of kids raised by gay parents entering the elementary school system which may or may not provide support, protection and inclusion in the school culture. The rise in same-sex parenting, whether through foster care, surrogacy or adoption means that educators need to address how the school will handle explaining relationship status and family makeup, in a culture where societal norms are still being defined.
Although times have changed, discrimination still exists today.
Prejudice and stereotyping are still flourishing in the popular culture and media and homophobic attitudes and beliefs are still pervasive in many cultures and religions. In her 1998 dissertation about children raised by gay parents in the elementary school system, Dr Patricia Fioriello concluded that little was being done to provide a supportive, protective or positive learning environment for these kids.
Times are changing since the publication in 1998 of Special Needs of Students with Gay and Lesbian Parents in the Elementary School, but there is still a long way to go. In Boulder, CO for example, in March 2010, the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School refused to readmit a preschooler because the child has two lesbian mothers. Private religious schools can get away with this but the public elementary school system cannot.
Children of same sex parents are often raised in a safe, happy and healthy home environment.
One of the more pervasive attitudes that schools need to counter is that having same sex parents may affect a child’s social adjustment, school success or sexual orientation. Unfortunately many people are not aware of three decades of research that shows that children of same sex parents are just as mentally healthy as kids with heterosexual parents. Good parenting, not a parent’s sexual orientation is a better indication of a child’s mental health and social development. Children with warm relationships with their parents have the fewest problems in school, and children of same sex parents seem to be thriving even though they live in a world that often does not accept their parents.
In spite of being vulnerable to teasing, kids with same sex parents have a resilience given them by their parents’ efforts to protect them from homophobia, based on their total commitment to parenting because of the special demands of being a gay parent. Because their children are more likely to experience discrimination and stigmatization as a result of their family circumstances, gay parents are more likely to broach complicated topics, such as sexuality and diversity and tolerance, with their children early on. Having this type of foundation will help give these children the confidence and maturity to deal with social differences and prejudices as they get older.
Schools need to establish a comprehensive safe school policy that protects students from bullying and harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression/identity.
Students, schools and communities are urged to learn about this important issue as the first step in building safe school environments for everyone.
Understanding the Special Needs of Students with Same-Sex Parents by Dr Patricia Fioriello is a valuable guide book that addresses the needs of students who come from diverse family backgrounds. It emphasizes that students with same-sex parents have the same goals as other children. Readers can discover how to determine the educational needs of students with gay and lesbian parents to help all students thrive in the classroom. This eBook represents their needs. Youth with gay parents are to be commended for their strength and courage as they act as educators and leaders every day when they navigate often unwelcoming schools.