Slurs common to LGBTQ students
Survey results about the conditions LGBTQ students face in Indiana schools didn’t surprise Gayle Topp.
Nearly 90 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (or questioning) middle and high school students reported regularly hearing homophobic remarks in school. Verbal harassment based on sexual orientation (74 percent) and anti-LGBTQ discrimination (73 percent) were also common.
Those were among the 2017 state-level findings released Wednesday by GLSEN, a national education organization working to create safe schools for all students.
GLSEN, which stands for the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, has polled students through its biennial National School Climate Survey since 1999.
Topp, who chairs GLSEN Greater Fort Wayne, said nothing about Indiana’s results stood out because the statistics were expected.
“We have a lot of work to do in Indiana, ...” said Topp, a teacher in Allen County. “It’s morally and ethically our responsibility as educators to make sure all our students, including LGBTQ, feel safe and accepted at school.”
GLSEN Greater Fort Wayne : the first such chapter in Indiana : would like every area high school to have a gay-straight alliance, Topp said. He noted about half of public high schools in Allen County have a GSA.
In Indiana, about 44 percent of students surveyed reported having access to a GSA or similar club.
Late last year, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit against East Allen County Schools, alleging the district unfairly put limits on its GSA at Leo High School. The ACLU asserted the limits : insisting the Leo Pride Alliance not use GSA in its name and requiring organizers to send a list of all club members to all faculty : violates students’ free speech.
The GLSEN survey found Indiana schools generally lack another aspect Topp said is important: an inclusive curriculum, or one that includes positive representations of LGBTQ people, history or events. Only 13 percent of students statewide were taught inclusive material, the survey found.
Topp understands teachers can be reluctant to bring up such issues but said there are simple things educators can do, including identifying classrooms as safe spaces with a pride flag or sticker or changing their vocabulary. For example, he said, say “spouse” instead of “husband” or “wife.”
GLSEN provided these recommendations to make learning environments better for all students: implement supportive and inclusive school policies, such as comprehensive anti-bullying policies; support GSAs; provide professional development on LGBTQ student issues; and increase student access to LGBTQ-inclusive curricular resources.
“These actions can move us toward a future in which all students in Indiana will have the opportunity to learn and succeed in school, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” according to GLSEN.
Educators shouldn’t underestimate the impact they could have on a student, Topp said.
“For many LGBTQ students,” he said, “it just takes that one teacher to make an enormous difference in their life.”
Contact info@GreaterFortWayne.glsen.org for more information about GLSEN Greater Fort Wayne.