In response to recent proposed legislation, particularly that which seeks to limit the supports available to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students in their school communities, the AMLE Board of Trustees seeks to reaffirm and emphasize what we have known for decades to be best practice in educating young adolescents.
While proposed legislation and local mandates vary, they have included restricting educators’ ability to affirm students’ gender and sexual identities limiting the rights of LGBTQ students and their educators; removing library and curricular materials that discuss topics like race, gender and sexual identity; and placing restrictions on educators’ ability to tackle complex topics and teach factual history. Not exposing every student to a truthful and inclusive curriculum that encourages them to explore diverse perspectives is simply not an option.
Such legislation is directly antithetical to what we know to be best for young adolescent students. We know many things about our students: We know that during early adolescence, students are experiencing the most rapid and significant growth outside of birth to age 3. They are in the midst of profound personal change and identity development and are thinking more deeply about who they are in relation to their race, ethnicity, social class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and other identities. We know that students are positively impacted when educators are able to create socially accepting and nurturing learning environments. Not providing support for every student to develop a deeper understanding of who they are is simply not an option.
We know that educators who value young adolescents acknowledge their multiple and intersecting identities and seek to cultivate relationships, design curriculum, and establish learning environments that support, affirm, and honor youth holistically. We know that youth thrive in learning environments that are responsive to their various identities and social and emotional needs. Not allowing educators to build relationships that their students deem to be safe, caring, and trusting is simply not an option.
We know that students benefit when educators purposefully foster a culture that sustains the dignity of all members within the school community and that it benefits students when educators integrate trauma-informed practices that mitigate in and out of school stressors and triggers that can hinder student learning. We know that LGBTQ students already face challenges in their school environments that can negatively impact their mental and physical well-being, including having less access to resources and support, being at a higher risk of victimization than their non-LGBTQ peers, and facing inequitable disciplinary practices. Alternatively, we also know that in schools with Gay-Straight Alliances, both youth in general and LGBTQ students in particular report less victimization and greater overall well-being. Not providing a learning environment where all students, but in particular LGBTQ students, feel safe and supported is simply not an option.
In short, we strongly reject and denounce any legislation that limits the ability of educators to do what they should do, and that is to provide an education for young adolescents that is responsive, challenging, empowering, equitable, and engaging. The health and well-being of our LGBTQ students demands that we speak out against actions that would cause them harm and prevent schools from providing the support and educational experience they deserve. We know that this is a collaborative effort and AMLE is committed to supporting our educators with the knowledge and resources they need to be trusted advocates for their students.
AMLE is committed to supporting our educators with the knowledge and resources they need to be trusted advocates for their students. Toward that aim, please also join us for a free webinar where we’ll discuss how to create supportive learning environments for LGBTQ+ Students.