Questions and Answers

Why We Address Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity in Schools

DoorSometimes, questions or concerns may arise concerning the appropriateness of taking time to address issues of sexual orientation or gender identity in a school setting. Below are some common questions that address these concerns specific to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) topics.

Q: Why are we spending time on LGBTQ topics? What does it have to do with school?

One of the most common forms of verbal violence heard at schools targets staff or students who are perceived as gay. These slurs can escalate to physical violence on school sites. By addressing and ending verbal violence, we create safer schools for all students.

By educating students about the appropriate use of terms associated with LGBTQ persons and issues, we teach respect for the diversity of the larger community.

Q: Our students are from a variety of cultures. We just don’t hear this discussed at our school!

Because we do not always hear the words used as insults regarding LGBTQ issues, does not mean that students are not using them.

Inappropriate terms about LGBTQ issues and people exist in every language and culture. By addressing name calling generally, we teach students to respect differences that also include LGBTQ persons.

Q: But this name calling is rare at our school. Besides, there are no gay kids at our school!

This is not just about LGBTQ issues! Even if name calling is rare, it still occurs. It must be addressed to encourage respect for differences — and to prevent violence.

Further, just because staff may not know of any LGBTQ students, does not exclude their existence. School sites must be safe for all students as well as LGBTQ parents, caregivers, other family members and staff.

Q: Younger children are too young to begin a discussion of LGBTQ issues!

All children deal with LGBTQ issues, possibly at home and/or at school. Children watch TV and movies that discuss, satirize, and ridicule LGBTQ people. Our obligation as educators is to confront stereotypes and address inappropriate language to make schools safe for all students and families. These discussions are not about sex, but about respect for differences.

Q: But the parents at our school aren’t ready to be confronted with LGBTQ topics.

All educational programs of SFUSD are conducted without regard to race, color, national origin, age, sex, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity (Board Policy 5163). The school community has a right to know that LGBTQ issues are being discussed in an attempt to create safe environments for all students. Further, parents/ caregivers should be encouraged to participate in the educational process that addresses all verbal violence/slurs, including those that pertain to LGBTQ persons.

This brings up the stereotype that because we are discussing LGBTQ issues we are discussing sex. We are trying to make school climates safe for all students and families, including LGBTQ persons. This discussion has nothing to do with sex.

Q: But what about the religious beliefs of our families?

There exists a separation of church and state in the United States. One of our greatest freedoms allows people to believe whatever they want, and this includes religious beliefs. We teach students to respect differences that include LGBTQ persons. This does not mean students are expected to like everyone who is different, but to respect the rights of others in our community. This does not infringe on any religious beliefs.

Q: Our students are just too young to know about their sexuality.

Children come to an awareness of their sexuality at different times. By giving students the opportunity to ask questions and seek answers, we affirm them in their search to understand their own sexual orientation, and that of their family’s and friends’.

Q: There are so few LGBTQ students. Other student issues are more pressing -- why not focus on them?

LGBTQ students and families cross all cultural, racial, and socio-economic boundaries. These young people are three to four times more likely to attempt suicide, and are nearly seven times more likely to be threatened or injured at school.

Further, insults and slurs about LGBTQ persons — or those who are perceived to be — are far more common than any other verbal attacks on school sites. It must be remembered that harassment cannot be tolerated on any level.


Quote - “Treat everyone like you love them, even if they are different.” - 12th grader, School of the Arts High School

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