Post submitted by Kimmie Fink, Welcoming Schools consultant
As educators head back to school, it’s important to remember they will be serving not just a classroom full of new students, but also families. The Family Equality Council estimates that between 2 million and 3.7 million children under the age of 18 have an LGBTQ parent -- a group that has typically been underserved, if not sometimes ignored, in school settings.
The positive impact of making schools inclusive places for all families can’t be underestimated. When students have their unique family structures represented in school curriculum -- through books, images and lessons -- it leads to a feeling of connectedness in school, improves academic performance and creates an environment of emotional safety.
To assist educators in making their classrooms and schools inclusive of LGBTQ families as they prepare for students who will soon be heading back to school, HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools is suggesting these seven positive steps to implement this fall:
1. Use inclusive language on all forms. As educators prepare folders to go home the first day, they should ensure that handbooks, forms and other pieces of communication are inclusive of all family structures by using language such as “families and caring adults” instead of “moms and dads.”
2. Invite families to fill out a profile. Welcoming Schools recommends as teachers are gathering information at the beginning of the school year, they ask questions about which, if any, pronouns family members use, as well as the language they use to talk about their families (e.g. in a two-mom family, a child may call one parent “Mom” and the other “Mama”).
3. Add books that celebrate diverse families to your classroom library. Books such as Todd Parr’s “The Family Book” and Mary Hoffman’s “The Great Big Book of Families” highlight many different kinds of families. Check out this list from Welcoming Schools for picture books featuring two moms and two dads.
4. Create a families bulletin board. Why not include families in your “Who’s In Our Room” display? Invite each child to bring in a photograph of their family and post all the pictures under the words “Love Makes a Family.”
5. Incorporate a family lesson plan. Welcoming Schools’ family lesson plans are ideal to kick off the school year. Primary students will enjoy drawing their families in “What is a Family?” while intermediate students can channel their inner poets with “Where I’m From.”
6. Practice responding to questions and comments about families. It’s important that educators are prepared for conversations with their students about diverse family structures, including answering questions that may arise such as, “Who is their real parent?” These sample questions and answers will help when that “teachable moment” arises.
7.Host a family night. Early on in the school year, educators should plan to bring families together for an evening of learning and fun. Welcoming Schools has guides for six types of events to open dialogue and discussion with families.
Families play a critical role in school success. A positive teacher-family relationship can make all the difference in ensuring that children can reach their full potential. The foundation of trust and mutual respect is built from the very beginning of the school year by welcoming all families, especially those who have traditionally been left out.
HRC Foundation's Welcoming Schools is the nation's premier professional development program providing training and resources to elementary school educators to:
- Welcome diverse families;
- Create LGBTQ- and gender-inclusive schools;
- Prevent bias-based bullying;
- Support transgender and non-binary students.