We believe school administrations bear the responsibility of actively supporting their LGBTQ+ students. Urgent change is needed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students, and here are tangible steps which schools should take to promote a culture of inclusivity inside and outside the classroom:
- Work with staff and students to start an LGBTQ+ support group. The widespread Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) network across United States schools is a great model. InsideOUT has a Schools Network for queer straight alliances through New Zealand schools with free resources, support and training. A fantastic example of a Wellington school with such a group was also recently in the news.
- Hold workshops for staff on supporting LGBTQ+ students. Rainbow Youth offers in-house diversity education workshops in the Auckland area, as well as online video-based resources, for staff to facilitate LGBTQ+ related discussions and create inclusive learning environments. The PPTA Rainbow Taskforce and InsideOUT offer similar workshops throughout the rest of the country.
- Integrate LGBTQ+ curriculum in sexual education classes for students. In 2015, the Ministry of Education’s Health and Physical Education (HPE) released revised guidelines on sexuality and gender identity education geared towards school administrators. Rainbow Youth also has workshops geared towards students, and a recent study commissioned by the Ministry of Education found that three quarters of participants believe these workshops help to reduce bullying in schools.
- Display LGBTQ+ supportive materials around school grounds
. Rainbow Youth’s ImLocal project have free posters and comics available for download or order. The United States’ GLSEN has had tremendous success in promoting supportive materials and have a number of resources on their website about how to encourage such a culture.
- Register with Wellbeing@School to independently evaluate the culture for LGBTQ+ students. The New Zealand government supports this review process, and there are many possible agencies which can help to evaluate the wellbeing of LGBTQ students from an external and objective perspective.
- Make schools safe for trans and gender diverse youth. For example, offer self-contained individual bathrooms that can be used as unisex toilets. The Ministry of Education has support to help schools provide such facilities. InsideOUT provides a special resource for creating inclusive environments for trans and gender diverse folks.
- Encourage government officials to introduce minimum LGBTQ+ guidelines across all New Zealand schools. InsideOut is advocating for this type of change, but the Ministry of Education has been hesitant to do so.