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6 Steps for Creating Safe School Spaces for LGBTQIA+ Students

Grow Schools

June 1, 2023

6 Steps For Creating Safe School Spaces For LGBTIA Students

The Need for Safe Spaces For LGBTQIA+ Students

The numbers say it all: students who identify as LGBTQIA+ are twice as likely to experience harassment, such as name-calling and verbal and physical abuse than their non-LGBTQIA+ classmates, and according to Mental Health America, they are four times more likely to take their own lives. LGBTQIA+ students face unique challenges that negatively affect their mental health and education, which means providing them with safe spaces is essential—bullying in schools is on the rise. The landscape, too, is constantly shifting—a recent reinterpretation of the Title IX law, which protects students from sexual discrimination at federally funded schools, does not protect transgender students. The erasure of transgender students from Title IX is seen as a significant shortcoming by parents and LGBTQIA+ allies, who believe they should be able to depend on state and federal leaders and lawmakers to protect marginalized students.

What can charter schools do to help LGBTQIA+ students?

Charter schools can offer support and safety to LGBTQIA+ students in many ways, such as anti-bullying training for students and staff, school clubs for LGBTQIA+ students, and establishing clear, comprehensive bullying and harassment policies. Read on for best practices.

1. Teach Kindness

There are many great resources for teaching the value of kindness, and it’s a key component of social-emotional learning curriculums. School leaders know that making kindness an integral part of a school’s culture goes beyond putting the word on the wall—it involves weaving it into your school’s mission, continually identifying it in the school community, and being sure students are empowered and supported to enact it in and outside the classroom.

2. Implement Anti-Bullying Policies

Setting up systemic measures that address curtailing, re-channeling, and reducing bullying sets the tone. It signals to students and teachers alike that your school actively discourages bullying and creates protocols to follow when students engage in bullying. This also avoids leaving teachers to pursue ad-hoc measures.

3. Embrace Visibility & Representation

Being sure LGBTQIA+ people are visible and represented in your school means elevating their voices. Schools have done this by bringing in LGBTQIA+ guest speakers or highlighting LGBTQIA+ historical figures in the classroom. Schools have also participated in Pride Month, National Coming Out Day, Transgender Day of Visibility, and Transgender Day of Remembrance or created a GSA (Gender & Sexuality Alliance).

4. Ensure School Facilities Are Safe

Your school can ensure your LGBTQIA+ students are safe in your building. It’s a good idea to have non-gendered bathroom options for non-binary students and decisive policies that ensure LGBTQIA+ students can use school bathrooms, lockers, and changing rooms without fear or anxiety.

5. Use Language

Inclusive language includes addressing each student by their chosen name and correct pronouns. It includes saying “your parents” rather than “your mom and dad.” It’s a collection of language choices that signify “I acknowledge the diversity of human experience.”

6. Engage in Diversity

Building intentionally diverse schools take dedication. It requires constantly challenging one’s focal point and seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. Embracing diversity in charter schools allows all students to benefit from the educational programs your charter school offers, undistracted by microaggressions, bullying, or unintentional signals that make a child feel like an outsider. Embracing diversity also allows each student in your school to feel like they belong in your school. There are excellent trainers on this topic – educators with lived experience and academic and professional backgrounds in racial and gender diversity and social justice. These folks can deeply enrich your staff’s understanding and make your school a safer environment for LGBTQIA+ students.


EdSource: Gender, name changes could be required on California high school diplomas after graduation
EdSource: In California, lessons on transgender student access to facilities
EdSource: What schools and parents need to know to support transgender students
EdSource: In California, lessons on transgender student access to facilities New Jersey’s LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum a ‘mindset shift’ to help center diverse voices

LGBTQ+ Resources

ACLU: How to Start Your GSA
GLSEN: 10 Steps to Start Your GSA
GSAnetwork: 10 Steps to Start Your GSA
LGBT Network: Making School Safer
LiveOutLoud: Safe Schools
New York City Department of Education: Community-based LGBTQ Organizations
Vector Solutions: Making Schools Safe and Inclusive for LGBTQ Students

Anti-Bullying Resources

STOMP Out Bullying: Making Schools Safe for LGBTQ+ Community
The CyberSmile Foundation – preventing cyber-bullying
ParentingScience. – How to stop bullying in school: An evidence-based guide to interventions that work
Positive Action: Evidence-Based Bullying Prevention Programs & Curriculum Bullying Prevention
VeryWellFamily: 15 Ways to Prevent Bullying in Your Classroom – Stop Bullying on the Spot – Bullying and Cyberbullying
Lesley University: 6 Ways Educators Can Prevent Bullying in Schools
University of the People: Definition of Bullying How to stop bullying in schools: What works, what doesn’t
Crisis Prevention Institute: 10 Ways to Help Reduce Bullying in Schools
American Psychological Association: How parents, teachers and kids can take action to prevent bullying
University of Berkeley: What Are the Best Ways to Prevent Bullying in Schools?

Anti-Bullying Resources by State

California Department of Education: Bullying Prevention Training & Resources
Colorado Department of Education: Best Practices in Bullying Prevention and Intervention
Florida Department of Education: Bullying Prevention
Idaho Department of Education: Stop Bullying in Idaho 
Iowa Department of Education: Anti-Bullying/Anti-Harassment
Kentucky Department of Education: Bullying and Harassment
Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools:
Maine Department of Education: Bullying Prevention Massachusetts law about bullying and cyberbullying
Minnesota Department of Education: Bullying Prevention and Help
Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education: Bullying
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction: Bullying Prevention
Ohio Department of Education: Anti-Bullying: Strategies and Resources for Educators
Pennsylvania Department of Education: Bullying Prevention
South Carolina Department of Education: Bullying
Tennesee Department of Education: Bullying & Harassment
Texas Education Agency: Coordinated School Health – Bullying and Cyberbullying
Virginia Department of Education: Bullying Prevention
Washington State Governor’s Office of Education Ombuds: School’s Role in Prevention of Bullying
Wisconsin Department of Public Education: A Comprehensive Approach to Bullying Prevention

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