by: Meaghan Trewin, Communications Coordinator and David Rust, Director of Community Partnerships
The Society for Safe and Caring Schools & Communities believes in the vision that all children and youth deserve to grow and develop in safe, caring and inclusive environments. LGBTQ children and youth face unique vulnerabilities as they realize their sexuality or gender identity is different from those around them, and Safe and Caring has prioritized helping to reduce the risks they face and to increase protective factors in their schools and communities.
Recent findings from the Youth Chances survey of LGBTQ youth in England have found that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning ideation and activity started as early as 13 years of age within their sample group. This same survey has found that LGBTQ youth experience significantly higher levels of verbal, physical and sexual abuse than their heterosexual and non-trans peers, and that they feel substantially less accepted in their local communities.
These concerning results are consistent with findings from research in the Canadian context by Egale Canada. Their report Every Class in Every School: First National Climate Survey on Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia in Canadian Schools (2011) found that 74% of trans students and 55% of sexual minority students have been verbally harassed about their gender expression, and that 21% of LGBTQ students reported being physically harassed or assaulted due to their sexual orientation. With such high rates of harassment, it does not come as a surprise that almost two-thirds of LGBTQ students and students with LGBTQ parents reported that they feel unsafe at school.
The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada (2011) also identified the need for building and maintaining supportive and caring environments for all Canadian youth as a priority area for action.
This report advised that “interventions need to create environments that support and recognize the unique needs of all youth and young adults… In addition, interventions must offer appropriate services to meet specific needs (e.g. those that are culturally, LGBTQ and gender appropriate). Supportive environments help create assets that enable individuals to overcome adversity (e.g. discrimination and bullying) often faced by those who are marginalized.”
So what can teachers, school administrators and other stakeholders do in their own personal approach to improve all students’ experiences of their school climate?
The most important thing to know is that you are not alone in your efforts. As Mark Ramsankar, President of the ATA shared in his interview with us for his Champion Profile, organizations like “the ATA and Safe and Caring are here to support the work you do, we have the tools, the opportunities are there.”
Andrea Berg talks about some of the available tools and resources offered through the ATA in her Guest Perspective article, including the Guide for Teachers: Gay-Straight Student Alliances in Alberta Schools and the PRISM Toolkit for Safe and Caring Discussions About Sexual and Gender Minorities, as well as the Safe Spaces materials offered in partnership with Safe and Caring.
In addition, the enclosed inserts What Can I Do? 7 Things Adults Can Do To Support LGBTQ Youth and 10 Steps to Creating a GSA in Your School (reprinted with permission from SOS Safety Magazine) offer some straightforward and practical strategies and things to consider so that you can continue working towards building the safe, caring and inclusive culture where all LGBTQ individuals feel welcome.
Take the time to explore these resources and share them within your community. Reach out to the ATA or Safe and Caring to learn more about how we or our partners can support you in your work!
And remember, if you or anyone you know is experiencing homophobic or transphobic bullying, call the Bullying Helpline at 1-888-456-2323 or visit Bully Free Alberta at www.bullyfreealberta.ca to access Government of Alberta supports.
This article appeared in our January 2015 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!
Egale Canada Human Rights Trust. (2011). Every Class in Every School: The First National Climate Survey on Homophobio, Biphobia, and Transphobia in Canadian Schools. Final Report. Toronto, ON: Taylor, C., T. Peter, T.L. McMinn, T. Elliott, S. Beldom, A. Ferry, Z. Gross, S. Paquin, and K. Schachter.
Public Health Agency of Canada. (2011). The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada, 2011: Youth and Young Adults — Life in Transition. Ottawa, ON: Butler-Jones, D., Chief Public Health Officer of Canada.
METRO Youth Chances. (2014). Youth Chances Summary of First Findings: The Experiences of LGBTQ Young People in England. London: METRO