One of the main points of focus for every school community should be ensuring that all families are welcome and valued. Every individual child should believe that their parents and teachers are working together, and every student should believe that they and their families are respected.
Conveying this becomes even more important when a family differs from the traditional model. Children from single parent homes, those being raised by grandparents or other relatives and ethnic minorities are at-risk for being marginalized in the school system. This is especially true of children from lesbian, gay and transgendered -LGBT families.
There are several ways to increase the comfort and involvement of LGBT families and gay parents in the elementary school.
Teach Tolerance to Teachers and School Employees
The classroom teachers, assistants, nurses and secretaries are the ones most often in direct contact with parents. All employees of the school community should understand that all families, including LGBT families, are valued and must be made welcome. This should begin at school district orientations for new teachers and continue at the local school. This may be more difficult for older members of the school community who are used to thinking of a family in set terms, so frequent reminders to all employees may be needed.
Use Learning Materials that Recognize Diversity
Using books and other materials in the classroom that recognize diversity are important ways to teach children that there is not one single model of family that is correct. Books are a valuable resource to allow students to experience life from the point-of-view of another. They can significantly increase the normalcy of nontraditional and LGBT families. At the same time, it is important to not appear to try to diminish the value of one type of family to increase acceptance of another.
Encourage Active Volunteering by All Parents
Gay and lesbian parents need to understand the role they may play as a role model. Being in the classroom and at school activities and field trips is an invaluable way to increase their own child’s well-being at school. The interactions that will occur with their child’s classmates can serve to increase the acceptance of their own child, but they will also positively influence the opinion that young students will have of lesbian and gay individuals as they grow up. A child may always remember the positive experiences they had with the class room mother or the parents interacting with them on field trips. This will combat any disparaging comments they may hear about lesbian or gay couples as teenagers or adults.
Avoid Segregating According to Gender When Possible
In the classroom, avoid dividing teams into boys against girls. Provide transgendered students the option of using a separate restroom or changing area.
Recognize Same Sex Couples
At the high school level, many gay teens struggle with the idea of revealing their orientation for fear of being stigmatized. Their fear is usually not unfounded. High school continue to recognize only one type of accepted couple, and students are often simply not allowed to participate in the prom or other social activities as part of a gay couple. Allowing students to bring the guest of their choice to recreational events is a simple but necessary step that will go far towards increasing equality.
Increasing the involvement of LGBT families in the school begins at the elementary or preschool level. The elementary school must create an environment where all families are welcome. In most cases, acceptance will come through interactions with real parents, so parents must put forth effort to be involved regardless of comfort level. Increasing familiarity with gay, lesbian and transgendered lifestyles at a young age will go a long way to helping the high school students those children will become.
The Education of Children raised By Gay Parents
Ways to Include Gay and Lesbian Families in the School
Studies Say Yes to Gay Parents Raising Children
Does Having Gay Parents Influence the School Curriculum?