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How To Support LGBTQ+ Youth

By India Foster, Communications Strategist, School Mental Health Initiative, New England Mental Health Technology Transfer Center

Pride Month honors the LGBTQ+ community's history, struggles, and achievements. For educators, it's an opportunity to foster an inclusive and supportive environment for all students, including those who identify as LGBTQ+. Here are some practical ways to support and celebrate LGBTQ+ kids in schools.

Creating an Inclusive Classroom Environment

  1. Educate Yourself and Your Students: Familiarizing yourself with LGBTQ+ history and issues helps your students feel accepted and connected to their educators in the classroom. Finding an age-appropriate curriculum to incorporate into lessons will teach students about diversity, acceptance, and the significance of Pride Month and those apart of the community.

  2. Use Inclusive Language: Make sure you ask your students their names and pronouns to avoid misgendering someone. It's best to avoid assumptions about a student's gender or sexual orientation to display an understanding and acceptance of all identities.

  3. Visible Support: Displaying symbols of support around the classroom or meeting spots can signal that students are safe and supported. Using representation like Pride flags or stickers can help create community.

Supporting LGBTQ+ Students

  1. Establish and Enforce Anti-Bullying Policies: Ensure your school has clear policies against bullying and harassment and enforce them from day one. Encourage all students to report bullying, take any reports seriously, and address them promptly.

  2. Provide Resources: Make resources and education available for LGBTQ+ students and allies. This can include information about local LGBTQ+ organizations, support groups, education about the community, and mental health resources.

  3. Listen and Affirm: Create a space where students feel comfortable sharing their experiences and concerns. Create a safe corner in your classroom or a "safe" word students can use when they need to speak in confidence to a teacher. This would be the best time for students to practice active listening and validate their emotions and identities to ensure they feel appreciated and respected.

Involving the Community

  1. Engage Parents and Guardians: Educate parents and guardians about the importance of supporting LGBTQ+ kids. It would be great to provide them with resources and information on how to be allies and how you are also enforcing a safe community within the classroom.

  2. Partner with LGBTQ+ Organizations: Ask your leadership to collaborate with local or national LGBTQ+ organizations to provide staff training, student workshops, and family resources. Working with outside resources guarantees that the entire school is on the same page about how to support students in the best way possible.

  3. Celebrate Diversity: Host events that celebrate diversity and inclusion during Pride Month. Celebrating diversity can be a great time to hold assemblies, art projects, or guest speaker sessions focused on LGBTQ+ topics that will make students feel accepted and excited and empower self-love.

Supporting LGBTQ+ students, regardless of personal beliefs, is crucial within the classroom. Students have the right to feel safe and accepted in their learning environment. When educators and peers provide this support, it helps to reduce feelings of isolation and mental health challenges that LGBTQ+ students often face. Ignoring or dismissing the needs of LGBTQ+ students perpetuates discrimination and harm, contrary to the core educational values of equity and justice. This commitment to inclusivity strengthens the entire school community, promoting a positive and productive learning environment for everyone.

Educators can help create a school environment where students feel safe, valued, and empowered to be themselves. Building love and safety in our schools requires committing to ongoing education, advocacy, support, and fostering a culture of acceptance. This Pride Month and beyond, let's celebrate diversity and commit to fostering a culture of acceptance and love in our schools. 


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