In a nationwide interview of LGBT students, it was discovered that:

  • 82% of transgender youth feel unsafe at school.
  • 44% have been physically abused at school.
  • 67% have been bullied online (most often through social media platforms, chat rooms, emails, or direct messages).
  • 64% have had their property stolen or damaged.

When you read statistics like these, it’s no surprise many LGBTQ students don’t like going to school. Thankfully though, teachers have the power to change that. Teachers set the tone of a classroom and can have a dramatic effect on how all of their students treat others and perceive the world around them.

1. Teach LGBTQ History in Class

Why should you be teaching LGBT history, you ask? Most simply put, because LGBT history is history. Many students, whether gay, straight, transgender, or bisexual, have learned about very few LGBT business people, politicians, and historical figures. Not only will learning about these people give students a role model to look up to, but it will also help them feel less isolated.

One way to jump-start your lesson plan is to require each student to read a book about or by someone who is a part of the LGBTQ community.

2. Understand the Warning Signs of Poor Mental Health

Bullying has a major impact on students’ lives. People who are bullied are more likely to consider and attempt suicide throughout their lifetime. Knowing the warning signs of depression or anxiety can help you identify students who may benefit from seeing a school therapist or seeking outside help.

3. Be the Faculty Advisor for a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA)

The number of GSAs in schools has exploded in recent years. Not only do these clubs foster a sense of community among students, but they help LGBTQ students understand that they’re accepted and safe at their school.

4. Allow Students to Express Themselves

Your students have a certain amount of rights the moment they step onto school grounds. Perhaps the most important rights LGBTQ students have within school are the right to free speech and the right to dress as they please. So long as they’re not distracting others or causing an immediate threat to other students, transgender students can dress however they choose to (as long as it’s within accordance with dress codes), and LGBT students can be open about their sexuality.

5. Use the Right Terminology.

It may just be a word to you, but terminology and proper pronouns can literally be a matter of life or death for transgender students. While they’re in your class, refer to transgender students by their preferred name, allow them to use that name on tests and homework, and call them by their preferred pronouns.

6. Remind Students That They Have a Bright Future Ahead of Them.

Sometimes the best thing you can do as a teacher is to have a positive outlook on life. The ‘It Gets Better Project’ was tremendously impactful and worked to teach young people, especially high schoolers, that life gets better with age. If your student expresses a fear of going to college, make them aware of LGBT-friendly colleges and universities.