About a month ago Michigan public school teachers attended mandatory professional development sessions on providing safe learning environments for LGBTQ students. The program caused enough discussion that school districts reached out to the State Board of Education for help.
The State Board of Education and the Michigan Department of Education developed the guidance at the request of schools and educators asking for recommendations of best practices in creating more supportive learning environments for LGBTQ students, who are at greater risk of suicide, and are not succeeding academically absent a supportive school environment.
School districts across the state found their policies concerning bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students horribly inadequate. Most school staff and teachers are unaware of how out of touch they are with the reality of the problems LGBTQ students face every day in school. At the beginning of the workshop last month, every staff member had to introduce who they were and what pronouns they use. “Pronouns? Why would I need to tell people my pronouns,” was a question many of the attendees asked. They had never heard of such a thing. The levels of confusion from the staff indicate how unprepared our public schools are for making them safe for everyone.