LGBT parents more involved in kids’ K-12 education
Report finds bias from schools, other parents, students
by Wanda Pico . Contributing Writer
Compared to the general parent population, LGBT parents are more likely to have attended a parent-teacher conference in the past year and more likely to volunteer.
NEW YORK, N.Y. — The first comprehensive report on LGBT families’ experiences in education reveals that LGBT parents are more likely to be involved in their children’s K-12 instruction than the general parent population. LGBT parents are more involved in school activities and more likely to report consistent communication with school personnel.
The study, “Involved, Invisible, Ignored: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Parents and Their Children in Our Nation’s K-12 Schools,” also shows that LGBT parents and their children are often harassed because of their family structure.
The report — released by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), in partnership with the Family Equality Council and Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE), was compiled with results from surveys of LGBT parents of children in K-12 schools and of secondary students who have LGBT parents.
Current estimates indicate there are more than seven million LGBT parents with school-age children in the U.S.
“Family and education are two of the most important aspects of children’s lives,” said GLSEN Executive Director Kevin Jennings. “This report casts doubt on schools’ inclusion of different kinds of families in our education system. LGBT parents are actively engaged in their children’s education yet are often not accepted by school communities.
“Further, their children are often harassed in school simply because of the makeup of their families. All families in a school community should be valued and respected as equals.”
Key findings - Parents:
• LGBT parents are more likely to be involved in their children’s education than the general parent population. Compared to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), LGBT parents are more likely to have attended a parent-teacher conference in the past year (94 percent to 77 percent) and more likely to volunteer (67 percent to 42 percent).
• More than half (53 percent) of parents described various forms of exclusion from their school communities. These included being excluded or prevented from fully participating in school activities and events, being excluded by school policies and procedures, and being ignored and feeling invisible.
• Twenty-six percent of LGBT parents reported mistreatment from other parents in the school community. Twenty-one percent reported hearing negative comments about being LGBT from students.
• Parents with children in a school with a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy that protects students from bullying and harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression/identity reported the lowest level of mistreatment. There was no statistical difference between the no-policy and generic-policy groups.
“I want my sons’ school environment to give them the opportunity to learn without harassment, and I want to be a welcomed and integral part of their educational experience as they grow,” said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council.
“This report shows when schools have anti-bullying policies that are inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, the rates of harassment are lowered dramatically. These policies and comprehensive diversity curricula are tools that can curb mistreatment and bolster participation from all families. Knowing what works is a start, but schools have a long way to go and much left to do in putting them to the best and fullest use for our kids.”
Key findings - Students:
• Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of students felt unsafe around other students at school due to others’ negative attitudes toward people with LGBT parents.
• Forty-two percent of students said they had been verbally harassed at school in the past year because their parents were LGBT. Over a third (37 percent) of students reported that they had been verbally harassed because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and nearly a third had experienced verbal harassment because of the way in which they expressed their gender (32 percent).
• Nearly a quarter (22 percent) of students said that a teacher, principal or other school staff person had discouraged them from talking about their family at school, and more than a third (36 percent) had felt that school personnel did not acknowledge their LGBT family (e.g., not permitting one parent to sign a student’s form because s/he was not the legal parent/guardian). Furthermore, 28 percent said they heard teachers or other school staff make negative comments about LGBT families.
“Students with lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender parents face isolation, invisibility and alienation due to harassment, name-calling and bullying in their schools,” said COLAGE Executive Director Beth Teper, who has a lesbian mother.
“On behalf of the millions of people who have one or more LGBT parents, COLAGE urges students, schools and communities to learn about this important issue as the first step in building safe school environments for all. We also applaud youth with LGBT parents who act as educators and leaders every day when they navigate often unwelcoming schools.”