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March 3, 2008

How do schools treat gay and lesbian parents?

Not well, according to a new report by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and two other advocacy groups. The study looks at the experiences that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families have in K-12 education. Its title: "Involved, Invisible, Ignored."

The study's authors received completed surveys from 588 gay and lesbian parents nationwide and from 154 of their middle and high school-aged children. Compared with a national sample of all parents, the gay and lesbian parents were more involved: 94 percent had attended an event such as a back-to-school night or a parent-teacher conference in the past year, compared with 77 percent in the general parent population. They were also more likely to have volunteered in their children's school and, in high schools, more likely to be a member of the PTA.

Yet more than half of the parents reported being excluded from their school community in some way, and more than a quarter said they had been mistreated by other parents. Among students, 42 percent said they had been harassed in the past year because of their parents' sexual orientation. Twenty-two percent said that a teacher, principal or other school staff member had discouraged them from talking about their family at school.

What steps can schools take to make all families feel welcome? In this case, the report recommends anti-bullying policies and legislation; training school staff to intervene in cases of bullying and harassment; supporting of clubs such as gay-straight student alliances; and increasing student exposure to information about gay and lesbian people, history and events.

Comments

I don't understand. How could gay/lesbian couples be more involved when two parent heterosexual families are the best environment to raise a child in?

Corey, thank you for illustrating part of the problem - ignorance.

I have always been thrilled when any parent becomes involved. It boggles my mind that educators would not be welcoming of all parents.

I believe we need to do a better job supporting our LGBT and questioning students. We need to embrace and support through education and other services. Perhaps through those efforts a more welcoming environment would be created for parents, as well.

Avalon, that all sounds nice, make it happen!

I've actually been surprised this year with my work in various schools at the prevalence of homosexual students. The unscientific study that is the sum of my personal experiences concludes that open homosexuality amongst students is generally higher and better accepted than in the past.

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