Post submitted by Dr. Vincent “Vinnie” Pompei, Director of the Youth Well-Being Program and Andi Salinas, Manager of the Youth Well-Being Program
LGBTQ students are facing unique challenges as they lose access to affirming peers and educators during the COVID-19 pandemic. This loss of access can create additional stress on students who are not open about their LGBTQ identity at home or who live with unsupportive family members. In response, HRC Foundation teamed up with the National Education Association to create an educator checklist to support LGBTQ students during distance learning.
While LGBTQ students may be open about their identity at school, only 21% of youth are out at home according to HRC’s 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report. Additionally, the report confirms that a majority of LGBTQ students hear their family members make negative comments about LGBTQ people. Now more than ever, LGBTQ students need affirming support. Educators play a critical role in making their virtual learning environments a safe space for LGBTQ youth.
“NEA is proud to partner with the Human Rights Campaign to promote this valuable and timely checklist to support LGBTQ students during this COVID-19 pandemic,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “School buildings are closed for now but the work of educators continues. And during these challenging times, we need to make sure that we continue to provide a safe and affirming learning experience for LGBTQ students during distance learning.”
“During this time of crisis, it is especially important for educators to have the resources they need to support and uplift our LGBTQ youth,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “We know that LGBTQ youth face many hurdles because of oppression and discrimination, hurdles which are compounded for those that hold multiple marginalized identities. We are proud to work with our partners at the NEA to help educators support and empower LGBTQ youth and all young people during these challenging times.”
By using a free HRC Zoom background or by visibly displaying LGBTQ-affirming posters when speaking on screen, educators can quickly send the message that the learning environment repects and affirms LGBTQ identities. Educators can also normalize pronoun use by adding their own pronouns to virtual platforms and allowing space for students to share their own. It is important to note that not all students will have access to private connections. This may impact the name or pronouns they use as parents/guardians could potentially listen in. Educators should also talk to their students about internet safety and suggest affirming online options where they can connect with their LGBTQ peers and can receive support from trained professionals.
LGBTQ students need to feel connected, affirmed and supported during this period of social isolation and uncertainty. By creating an affirming learning environment, LGBTQ students will be more likely to seek out support from educators and likely to learn and seek out support. Oftentimes, K-12 educators are the only affirming adult LGBTQ students can turn to for support. By creating a safe and inclusive learning environment, educators will not only model inclusivity, but send a message to their students that they support LGBTQ people. When an LGBTQ student feels safe and connected, they are more likely to learn and thrive. All students need that safety and connectivity during uncertain times, and this new resource is the guide all educators need to help make that a reality.
If educators are looking for additional resources on supporting LGBTQ students in virtual settings, consider downloading an additional new tip sheet for school counselors created by HRC and the American School Counselor Association released last week.