Post submitted by Dr. Vincent “Vinnie” Pompei, Director of the Youth Well-Being Program and Andi Salinas, Manager of the Youth Well-Being Program
As schools turn to using online platforms to accommodate social distancing, a number of LGBTQ youth have lost their only outlets to fully be themselves. Face-to-face time with affirming peers and educators is critically important for these students, and many are now forced to isolate in unwelcoming and unaffirming homes.
According to HRC’s 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report, only 21% of LGBTQ youth are out to their families, and 67% of LGBTQ students hear their families make negative comments about LGBTQ people. When LGBTQ students are unable to be their authentic selves or when they are living in unsupportive environments, the effects can be overwhelming.
During this time, school counselors can play a vital role in the lives of LGBTQ students. HRC, in partnership with the American School Counseling Association, has released a tip sheet for school counselors on how they can support LGBTQ students and mitigate some of the emerging challenges they face while social distancing. This new resource provides actionable steps, recommendations and important considerations for school counselors to use when working with LGBTQ students in virtual settings.
When an LGBTQ student is feeling unsafe at home, school counselors can act as a lifeline by creating an affirming virtual space. If students can easily access a school counselor as an ally, they will be more likely to seek the support they need. When connecting with students in virtual environments, school counselors should also consider privacy as unsupportive family members or those who are unaware of their child’s LGBTQ identity could potentially listen in.
Creating an electronic meeting request form can allow school counselors to ask what name and pronouns the student wishes to use during virtual meetings. The student’s response may depend on their ability to secure privacy during virtual sessions.
School counselors can also offer self-care tips as well as connect students with affirming and potentially life-saving resources such as The Trevor Project, which offers confidential support for LGBTQ youth 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. To promote resiliency, school counselors can also help students identify LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities, locate scholarships for LGBTQ students and even find LGBTQ-inclusive places to work. These culturally relevant resources help students think beyond current challenges while allowing them to develop goals and plans for their future.
Now more than ever, school counselors have a critically important role to play in sometimes providing that one place and being that one person with whom LGBTQ students can be their true selves and get relevant resources and support. This new tip sheet is a powerful guide to help school counselors be that person and perhaps even save a life.