No two families are alike. Even if you have many siblings, each of your siblings will grow up and lead their own lifestyle. Gay and lesbian parents want the same things for their children that the rest of the families in any given school want. A good education and acceptance. As more schools begin to recognize this there will be more information on the topic. It’s vital to accept these families as well as diverse backgrounds and cultures.
The ultimate goal of any school system should be to provide a good education to the children and families that it serves. It’s never the school’s responsibility to judge those of a different culture, background or belief system.
All prejudice must be set aside and the focus must be placed on incorporating the differences into our education system so that everyone has a great opportunity to gain a good education. This is often a struggle for those who are older and have more tenure in the school systems, but, it’s tantamount to the success of welcoming these families with different backgrounds.
How To Welcome Families Into The School System
According to Dr. Patricia Fioriello in her article “How To Support LGBT Families In Elementary School”, all families should feel welcomed and valued in the school system. This becomes especially important to those families that are from an LGBT background.
Dr. Fioriello has over 30 years of experience in working with diverse education and she works collaboratively with learning communities professionally in order to help establish and build up a capacity at the site level. She is the publisher of a monthly newsletter and has many great articles that address the challenges that are daily confronted by LGBT families and by the educators that teach their children. Dr. Fioriello received her doctorate in Educational Leadership and published her dissertation, “Special Needs of Students with Gay and Lesbian Parents in the Elementary School” in 1998 and contains valuable information and insights on welcoming such families to the schools where these children attend.
There are five basic ways to help these families feel welcomed into the schools. By opening our eyes to these steps we’ll learn how to help these families and make them feel welcome in a world that is often unwelcoming.
1. Teach Tolerance
All school district employees need to be taught tolerance. This should start at the hiring level and trickle down to the individual schools where children are being educated. Teachers, administrators, nurses, para-educators, other students, other parents and anyone else who comes into contact with these families need to understand tolerance. Often, tolerance is learned, it’s not a natural feeling. However, it’s a vital part of the education for everyone and should be taught from the very beginning.
This is often more challenging for those who have been involved in the school system for longer periods of time. Tolerance for something that they often don’t fully understand may be more challenging for them. Every effort should be made to teach tolerance from the corporate level all the way down to the classroom. Anyone who can’t seem to grasp this concept should have limited (if any) contact with LGBT families. During orientation for the teachers, the employee’s of the school district and anyone else who comes into contact with the kids this should be fully discussed and dissected. Tolerance is the first step to successfully welcoming such families to the educational system.
In today’s society, there are many differences in the family structure. There are single parent households of both genders. There are grandparents raising the grandkids. There are parents who hire nannies to raise the kids. And, there are families that have either two moms or two dads. There is great diversity in today’s society and schools need to teach that there is no exact family but rather, we all have family in one way, shape, or form. The family isn’t always blood, sometimes, it’s created via adoption or other means.
It’s vital that no particular family structure be singled out. We’re all created equal and equality should begin with the youngest members of society and go all the way to the top. Teachers and administrators should be using curriculum that teaches diversity and encourages students to live diversity without prejudice.
All parents should have the opportunity to volunteer regardless of their personal beliefs. It’s vital that children understand that just because a person is gay or lesbian they’re not any different than other people. Not all children are taught this at home and it’s a lesson that will serve them well later in life.
Everyone should be encouraged to volunteer and children should feel comfortable with this. Studies show that parents who volunteer have children who do better in school and are more well adjusted. Children have a sense of pride when mom or dad volunteer in the classroom. This gives children a feeling of security in larger groups and other social situations when they’ve been exposed to diversity at a young age.
4. Avoiding Segregation
All teachers should refrain from segregating students on the basis of gender. This means no “boys against the girls” and provides an opportunity for all genders to interact together. Every effort should be made to incorporate gender equality in the classroom.
When required, separate changing areas should be arranged for those children who are transgender. Restroom accommodations should also be offered for such situations. This can easily be done via a single stall restroom in the school facility, even if it does mean some revamping of the school to accomplish this task. Segregation is damaging to everyone and only further separates them from working together to understand diversity. The only thing that should ever be segregated should be bathrooms and then it should be done in such a fashion that there are individualized units for privacy purposes.
5. Recognize Same-Sex Couples
In the elementary years, many children write about mom and dad and what they like to do with them. Encourage children of same-sex families that their experiences are just as important as other families. Share stories and pictures and allow the children the freedom of sharing their parents.
Children should be allowed to bring their parents to parents night and other special events regardless of their parent’s lifestyle choices. Allowing interactions between such groups will go far in creating diversity for the entire school system. These children should never feel self-conscious because they have two moms or two dads.
How To Include The Family In The School System
According to Souto-Manning & Hermann-Wilmarth, 2008, and Duke & McCarthy, 2009, and Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010, families have long remained silent on the fact that they are a mom/mom or dad/dad household in an effort to prevent their children from feeling like they stand out, Research has shown that these children are just as emotionally healthy as their counterparts and there is no stigma that should ever exist for such children.
Including these families in the classroom by allowing the parents to volunteer in a variety of ways is tantamount to full acceptance in the school system. Parents should be allowed to come in on career day and explain their career. Volunteer in the classroom regardless of the age bracket of the children. As long as these parents are conducting themselves as adults working with children, there is no reason that they should ever be excluded from participating in the school functions that take place in any school.
This includes all classroom activities, extra-curricular activities, sporting events, music events, drama events and anything else that takes place in the school. Families should all feel like they are included and valued in their child’s education and schools.
Resources, Support, And Services For Gay And Lesbian Parents And Their Children In The School System
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in 1999, adoption placements should all be done for the best interest of the child. In short, if two same-sex parents are the best fit for any child, then this is where the child needs to be placed for adoption regardless of public outcry. The welfare and well-being of the child should always come first.
Recently, The American Academy of Family Physicians chose to adopt the position of being in support of the LGBT community. Doctors are often the first line of defense for Gay and Lesbian parents and their children in the school system.
The American Bar Association in several instances has been supportive of the educational rightsof the children of Gay and Lesbian parents. They’ve gone to court on more than one occasion to stand behind such families and ensure that they have equal educational rights.
Gay-Parent magazine (readily available online under “gayparentmag.com”) lists a comprehensive support group list for parentsin all 50 states as well as The District Of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Australia, Canada, Finland, and the United Kingdom. These support groups range from educational to medical and everything in between.
Gay-Parent magazine offers support from families undergoing the same issues as well as professionals that can offer their assistance in helping such families find solutions to everyday problems as well as unusual instances where a problem isn’t being properly dealt with.
Specialized Inclusive Curriculum For Gay And Lesbian Families
According to NAEYC organization, education today must include teaching students diversity. This includes diversity in the structure of the family as it’s formally known and understood. These children need to be given plenty of support in school and in their communities and taught that there are many different types of family structures that exist in the world today.
One way this is accomplished, according to NAEYC, is to have pre-schoolers work in books called, “All About Me” where they fill in the blanks with their own individual family dynamics. The website goes on to offer over 14 recommended pre-school books regarding such diversity in families. There is a variety of help on their website and they encourage all families that “Communication is the key to success”.
A list of helpful websites is included that includes the following sites for more valuable tips and tricks to integrate controversial topics in education including LGBT families. Be sure to read over the NAEYC organization’s website for further resourcesand their list of valuable information that will help these families to work with classrooms for a more positive result.
The ultimate goal is for families that are LGBT and the schools that their children attend to work together to find solutions to the diversity issue.
For these families to feel safe and secure within the school system and for the children to receive an unbiased education that embraces their cultural and belief systems without compromising others belief systems.
By opening dialogue and communication between these families and the school districts that these families place their children in, we’re working together to form a more united front, a more accepting atmosphere and a healthier environment for all of these children.
Finding solutions together and heightening the awareness of such biased opinions in the educational society today, LGBT families can readily work with their local school systems to ensure that they are treated with equal respect and equality and that their children are receiving the education that they deserve.
Equality is taught, it’s not a given. By encouraging the youth of today to treat each other equally and work with a diverse group, we’re preparing the youth of today to embrace a better tomorrow and be more accepting of differences in our society today.
It’s vital to address the needs of gay and lesbian parents and to integrate them into the school system smoothly and seamlessly. When they feel safe they will share enough information to give their students the ability to focus on their studies and not have to defend their parents beliefs.
Communication, development and education should all walk hhand in hand for the controversial topics that are faced on a daily basis in education today. Diversity should never be an issue, it should be a solution.
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Does Having Gay Parents Influence School Curriculum?
How to Support Transgender Children in School