June 22, 2022

Supporting LGBT+ Youth

LGBT+ Students in The Classroom

LGBT+ youth experience different barriers than straight & cisgender youth, both inside and outside the classroom. LGBT+ youth are more likely to miss school due to fears about safety and bullying. Bathrooms and locker rooms pose additional challenges for students whose gender identities do not align with the gender they were assigned at birth. Unfortunately, missing school is a leading cause of higher rates of discipline amongst LGBT+ students in middle and high school. Other factors, including bias and a lack of support, also contribute to these higher rates of discipline and exclusion in the classroom. 

Schools have the power to create more supportive structures for students that they may not be find at home. A few southern states, such as Florida, have legal restrictions for educators, forbidding them to discuss LGBT+ issues and requiring a call home if a student attempts to discuss gender identity or sexuality with school staff. These bills, commonly referred to as ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bills, are becoming more commonplace and rapidly spreading across the country. Luckily, Washington state educators have the ability to have supportive conversations and connect students with groups and resources to help improve their school experience and sense of belonging. 

If you are a school staff member and want to improve your classroom culture to support LGBT+ students, check out this webinar by Learning For Justice. 

Sexual Education & LGBT+ Youth

In Washington State, the law requires comprehensive sexual health education (CSHE) to be taught to all students grades 6-12. Starting next fall, schools in WA will be required to provide comprehensive teaching, as appropriate for each age group, to all students

Across our nation, sexual health education is much less regulated. Most states require sexual health and HIV training; however, more states require abstinence to be a focal point than require medical accuracy in the curriculum. Six states in the south actually prohibit discussion of LGBTQ+ identities and relationships, preventing educators from answering questions or providing crucial health and safety information.

The need for culturally comprehensive sexual health and relationship education goes beyond the LGBTQ+ community, there are gaps in comprehensive information shared across many racial and ethnic groups as well. Comprehensive discussions specific to the population being served about healthy relationships and safety are incredibly important. 

How to Support Queer Youth in Our Community

In our area we have a organizations who are already doing the work of supporting queer youth in our community. Odyssey Youth Movement is one org that offers “youth-driven programs and community education.” They support young people in our area through a range of activities, connections to resources, and support groups. Supporting Odyssey Youth Movement through donations or volunteering is one way you can support queer youth in Spokane. 

CHECK OUT ODYSSEY

Spectrum Center Spokane is another place where queer folks in our community can find support and gender-affirming resources. Spectrum Center does a lot of outreach and education projects in our community as well, bringing training to organizations and workplaces across Spokane. 

CHECK OUT SPECTRUM

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By: Rachel Dannen

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