It’s a school year like no other, so here’s my updated annual collection of back-to-school resources for LGBTQ parents, parents of LGBTQ children, and educators! I hope it remains useful, regardless of the age of your children and whether they are learning in-person, virtually, or both.
For All Ages—General
- GLSEN prides itself on “Championing LGBTQ issues in K-12 education since 1990.” They offer a wealth of resources, some of which are further detailed in the sections to follow.
- Our Family Coalition, the organization for LGBTQ families in California, offers a number of school-related resources, including training and professional development for families, teachers, administrators, and child-serving professionals; a list of schools that have had such trainings; and an annual LGBTQ-Inclusive Preschool Fair for parents looking for a school for their children. They also manage Teaching LGBTQ History, which provides lesson plans and other resources to fulfill the curricular requirements of the FAIR Education Act.
- Family Equality has several handbooks and factsheets that offer many specific suggestions for communicating with your children’s school(s).
- Teaching Tolerance’s guide, “Best Practices for Serving LGBTQ Students,” is a useful compact reference for classrooms of all ages. They also provide a number of other resources on gender and sexual identity as well as great materials for inclusion and support across many other aspects of identity.
- The Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth, offers a Model School District Policy for Suicide Prevention.
For Young Children
- The Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools site is perhaps the best single resource here, covering family diversity, gender stereotyping, and bullying. They offer teachers and administrators recommendations, ideas for building community, suggestions for productive discussions with teachers and administrators, and much more. Be sure to watch their videos for educators and parents, What Do You Know? Six- to twelve-year-olds talk about gays and lesbians and What Can We Do? Bias, Bullying & Bystanders.
- GLSEN’s Ready, Set, Respect Toolkit is a great set of tools and lesson plans for elementary school teachers covering name-calling and bullying, family diversity, gender-role diversity, and more.
- For remote learning: Queer Kid Stuff is offering an eight-week remote learning course on social justice and LGBTQ+ topics for PreK to 3rd graders.
For Older Children
Many resources aimed at older students focus on LGBTQ youth, but most also have applicability to children of LGBTQ parents, whatever the children’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
- GLSEN again is a good resource here, with materials on creating an inclusive curriculum, Gender and Sexuality Alliance tools, and research about the impact of homophobia and transphobia. Of particular note is Unheard Voices, an oral history and curriculum project done in partnership with in partnership with the Anti-Defamation League and StoryCorps, to help educators integrate LGBTQ history, people, and issues into instructional programs for grades 6-12.
- GLSEN also manages a number of programs/events to engage school communities of all grades throughout the academic year, including Ally Week, ThinkB4YouSpeak, the Day of Silence, No Name-Calling Week, and the Safe Space Kit.
- PFLAG’s Safe Schools for All: Cultivating Respect program has similar materials (in English and Spanish) for making schools safer, reducing bullying, and providing comprehensive health education. They also offer a certification program for PFLAG members who want to assist with staff training and policy creation in local schools.
- The Genders and Sexualities Alliance Network (formerly the Gay-Straight Alliance Network) has great materials for starting or sustaining a GSA.
- The 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report from the HRC Foundation and the University of Connecticut is a survey of more than 12,000 LGBTQ teenagers across the nation about their daily lives at home, at school, and in their communities.
For All Ages—Specific to Transgender and Nonbinary Students
- Schools In Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools, is a free guide aimed at helping administrators, teachers, and parents provide “safe and supportive school environments for transgender students.” Co-authored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gender Spectrum, the National Education Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, it discusses basic concepts, general guidelines for meeting the needs of transgender youth, specific issues impacting them, best practices, and the legal landscape.
- Gender Spectrum’s education section has classroom discussion ideas, information about teacher training, school policy suggestions, and more about gender identity and expression, in addition to many other useful resources for parents, teachers, health care professionals, and others.
- Trans Youth Family Allies has a page of resources for educators about trans and gender-variant youth.
- Trans Youth Equality Federation addresses school-related topics.
- The National Center for Transgender Equality offers information on the rights of trans students at school,
- Beyond the Binary: A Tool Kit for Gender Identity Activism in Schools is a collaborative project of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance Network, the Transgender Law Center, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
- Bending the Mold: An Action Kit for Transgender Students addresses similar topics.
For All Ages—Mostly for Educators
- History Unerased offers resources and training for K-12 teachers on LGBTQ-inclusive academic content.
- Teaching Tolerance has LGBTQ-related lesson plans, student texts, and many more resources.
- Queer Kid Stuff has lesson plans (including a Remote Learning Social Justice course), posters, worksheets, songs, and other resources for educators.
- The American Association of School Librarians has published “Defending Intellectual Freedom: LGBTQ+ Materials in School Libraries,” a resource guide (with a cool infographic) that “uses the AASL Standards framework as scaffolding to help users explore LGBTQ+ materials and needs in their own communities.”
- The Queering Education Research Institute (QuERI) is an independent think-tank, qualitative research, policy, and training center dedicated to bridging the gap between research and practice in the teaching of LGBTQ students and the creation of LGBTQ youth affirming school environments. They offer professional development courses and more.
- The Stonewall National Education Project, part of the Stonewall National Museum and Archives, advocates for “the safety, inclusion, and value of LGBTQ students.” They host an annual symposium for more than 150 school district leaders, federal and state agencies, not-for-profit organizations, and university offices.
Children’s/Middle Grade/YA Book Recommendations
- My own recommendations in various categories of age and topic.
- The American Library Association’s Rainbow List offers LGBTQ-inclusive children’s and young adult books chosen by a committee of librarians for quality as well as content. See also the lists from Family Equality and Welcoming Schools.
- You may also want to encourage your school library to purchase Jaime Campbell Naidoo’s Rainbow Family Collections, an annotated guide to nearly 250 LGBTQ-inclusive books and media for children through grade five. It’s a few years old at this point (2012), though still invaluable.
- Queer Books for Teens, compiled by a team of librarians and other book experts, is “a comprehensive list of all LGBTQIAP+ YA titles published between 2000 and 2017. It includes all major and indie U.S. presses and selective self-published material.” The creators note, however, that in such a comprehensive list, many of these books are “problematic in someway,” so they also offer several “Best of Lists” on various sub-topics.
- YA Pride also covers numerous LGBTQ-inclusive young adult titles.
- LGBTQAI+Books for Children and Teens, by Christina Dorr and Liz Deskins (American Library Association, 2018), is a compact guide with suggested books for young, middle grade, and teen readers, along with descriptive blurbs and discussion questions. This book is likely to be in a lot of school libraries, given its publisher, and its heart is in the right place—but there are a number of errors in it (notably one where they misgender a transgender girl character), so readers should exercise caution—I’ve detailed the errors here.
Books for Grown-Ups on LGBTQ Inclusion and Schools
- Reading the Rainbow: LGBTQ-Inclusive Literacy Instruction in the Elementary Classroom (Teachers College Press and GLSEN, 2018) by Caitlin L. Ryan and Jill M. Hermann-Wilmarth, is aimed at helping elementary school English language arts (ELA) teachers introduce or deepen classroom discussions around LGBTQ identity and gender. It’s full of practical tips and ideas backed by curricular standards and classroom experience—but even if you’re not a teacher (or teach another subject), it may provide much food for thought. Importantly, it offers tools for teachers who may have varying degrees of experience or comfort in addressing LGBTQ topics, and also shows how classrooms could become more inclusive even in schools resistant to such topics.
- Queer Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the English Language Arts Curriculum (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018), edited by by Paula Greathouse, Brooke Eisenbach, and Joan F. Kaywell, offers 6th to 12th grade ELA educators guided instructional approaches for including queer-themed young adult literature to their classroom. Each chapter, by a different leading researcher or theorist, focuses on one queer-themed YA novel and includes activities to guide students.
- Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality (2016), Rethinking Schools’ volume of essays from a wide range of teachers and educators, covers LGBTQ topics as well as ones related to gender and sexism in general.
- Safe Is Not Enough: Better Schools for LGBTQ Students (Harvard Education Press, 2016), by Michael Sadowski, looks at how educators across the U.S. are creating LGBTQ-inclusive curricula and school climates, providing adults mentors and role models, and building family and community outreach programs. It’s a useful volume of ideas and solutions beyond just anti-bullying policies.
- Celebrating Difference: A whole-school approach to LGBT+ inclusion, by Shaun Dellenty (Bloomsbury, 2019), has a U.K. focus but still offers plenty of strategies and tips for educators anywhere.
- From the Dress-Up Corner to the Senior Prom: Navigating Gender and Sexuality Diversity in PreK-12 Schools(Rowman & Littlefield, 2012), by Jennifer Bryan, while a few years older, is also excellent.
Educational Films and Videos
- Groundspark has produced a commendable series of LGBTQ-inclusive diversity-education films and curriculum guides. The Groundspark website appears defunct as of this writing; links here are to Kanopy, a film service that many people may have access to via their public libraries or universities, and to distributor New Day Films (for rental by a library/group, etc.) The films include That’s a Family (Kanopy/New Day), for elementary school students, about different family structures; Let’s Get Real (Kanopy/New Day), for middle schoolers, about name-calling and bullying; It’s STILL Elementary (Kanopy/New Day), for and about educators discussing gay issues in schools; and Straightlaced (Kanopy/New Day), for teens, about the pressure of gender stereotypes.
- Again, Welcoming Schools’ two videos for educators and parents, What Do You Know? Six- to twelve-year-olds talk about gays and lesbians and What Can We Do? Bias, Bullying & Bystanders, are both worthwhile. Both are available for free streaming.
- Queer Kid Stuff offers a plethora of online videos explaining queer and social justice topics for kids.
- See also my compilations of videos for and about LGBTQ families, especially Educational Videos for Younger Kids About LGBTQ Topics, Educational Videos for Older Kids About LGBTQ Families, and LGBTQ-Inclusive Songs for Kids.
GLSEN’s 2017 National School Climate Survey found that more than 40 percent of LGBTQ students said they avoided locker rooms, nearly the same amount avoided physical education or gym classes, and about one quarter avoided school athletic fields or facilities because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable. An older (2008) GLSEN study found that some students were told they should not do sports, or had their athletic abilities questioned, because they had LGBT parents.
- GLSEN’s Changing the Game project is backed by a coalition of athletes, journalists, and sports figures. It features resources for athletes, athletic administrators, coaches, and parents, inspirational videos about people making a difference, and the Team Respect Challenge pledge.
- Athlete Ally, founded by straight college wrestling coach Hudson Taylor (a former three-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler), runs public awareness campaigns and educational programs, and mobilizes ally Ambassadors in collegiate, professional and Olympic sports.
- The National Center for Lesbian Rights has long been a powerhouse of advocacy and education on sports and more, and offers legal assistance to LGBTQ athletes and coaches.
Anti-bullying (LGBTQ-specific and not)
- The Matthew Shepard Foundation has a number of resources for educators and others specific to anti-LGBT bullying.
- Not in Our Town offers training, films, lesson plans, resources, and more (including some materials in Spanish) to help students and teachers create “safe, accepting and inclusive school communities.” It’s not exclusive to anti-LGBTQ bullying, but they have LGBTQ-inclusive materials, including “Our Family: A Film About Family Diversity,” a free YouTube video made in partnership with Our Family Coalition.
- Stopbullying.gov has many good general resources about bullying and cyberbullying. It seems to still have Obama-era content on LGBT youth, however, so use with care, especially on legal matters, as things may have changed. (See below for some legal resources.)
- GLAAD organizes the annual Spirit Day each fall as a sign of support for bullied LGBTQ youth.
- The It Gets Better project continues to spread messages and videos of hope to bullied LGBTQ youth.
- Beyond Differences is a student-led organization that works to “inspire students at all middle schools nationwide to end social isolation and create a culture of belonging for everyone.” They organize several national days of awareness and action throughout the year.
- The Movement Advancement Project maintains a map showing which states have LGBTQ-inclusive safe-schools laws.
- Many state LGBTQ organizations’ websites also have information on state-specific anti-bullying laws.
When all else fails, several organizations offer legal assistance to LGBTQ youth and others, often in school settings. Links are to their youth-specific pages, when available.
Personally, I try to approach the new school year in a spirit of opportunity, not trepidation. Our common goal as parents, teachers, and school administrators is to educate all children in a safe, supportive, and welcoming environment. That gives us reason to unite across our differences.
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