Photo by Andy Le for DCPS.
On Saturday, DC Public Schools will be one of many organizations walking in the Capital Pride parade, and they’ve invited all schools to join them. While it’s a terrific show of DCPS’ commitment to inclusive schools, this isn’t all they’re doing for LGBT students and families.
At the parade, you’ll find a family-friendly crowd who I’m convinced cheers loudest for school groups. In past years, Ross Elementary students and parents have launched water balloons. “We walk in the Pride Parade to be visible allies for our LGBTQ students, staff and families,” says Diana Bruce, director of health and wellness for DCPS, noting that “central office staff, school staff, teachers, parents, and students” participate.
According to a recent study from Gallup and the Williams Institute, 10% of adults in DC identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, the highest percentage in the nation. Another Williams Institute report finds 8.7% of same-sex couples in DC are raising children. Estimates say that LGBT students make up about 9% of DCPS high schools.
Given these numbers, it’s likely that students in DCPS will at some point interact with LGBT students or be educated by, coached by, or become friends with children raised by LGBT adults. Bruce, who received a Shero of the Movement Award from the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, is working to make schools “welcoming and inclusive of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming, and questioning students, staff and families.”
LGBT students often face unique challenges. Students who identify as LGBT report being bullied nearly twice as often as their peers who identify as heterosexual. Bullying and harrassment can translate to lower academic performance. Research from GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, found that LGBT students experiencing more harassment had lower grade point averages than other students.
In response, DCPS’ Office of Youth Engagement developed A Plan to Create an Inclusive School Community. It brings LGBTQ school liaisons together, encourages capacity building for school-based administrators and staff, calls for school-wide promotion of positive behavior, and connects school staff and youth with community resources.
These are examples of simple, yet valuable measures to develop and support safe, inclusive school communities, many of which are being used by schools around the country.
How can you support LGBT youth, families and educators in DC public schools? You can start by walking in the parade on Saturday.