6 Tips for Educators Dealing with Harassment of LGBT Students
From Stepping Out of the Closet, Into the Light: A Report on the Status of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender People in Education
1. Take complaints seriously.
If a student comes to you with a complaint about being bullied, please don’t dismiss it as “just teasing.” Listen to the student, and tell the student you will take the appropriate action. No allegation about bullying should be ignored because the charge seems improbable or because the behavior seems unlikely to recur or is perceived as a “harmless rite of passage.”
2. Report the alleged bullying.
Keep your principal informed of all the bullying cases that you are aware. And if the bullying seems to be based on the student’s race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, immediately report the student’s complaint of bullying to the authority in your district designated for investigating such incidents (often it is the district’s Title IX grievance officer). If you don’t know who that authority is, ask your principal. In all cases where a bullied student has come to you, follow up. Check back with the student to find out whether he or she has been informed by the school system the steps it is taking.
3. Reassure, do not judge.
If a bullied student comes to you for help, reassure the student that you care about him or her and will do what you can. Do not, however, question the student about why he or she is being bullied. It is the behavior of the bully, the perpetrator that matters. If a student volunteers information about his or her sexual orientation or other personal information, do not judge that student—the student’s safety and education should be your concern—and of course keep the information confidential.
4. Get the student the appropriate professional help.
If a student seems to be in emotional or psychological distress, offer to help the student get in touch with a counselor, social worker, or school psychologist right away; be supportive. But don’t give advice beyond your expertise. And if the student seems in imminent physical danger, alert the school administration immediately.
5. Stand up and speak out for students in need.
Learn about bullying. There is now a wealth of information on the Web about bullying and how to stop it. Share what you’ve learned with your colleagues, and in your staff meetings, advocate for bullied students. Become part of the solution.
6. Do something.
If in the hallway, stairwell, or your classroom—or some other school space—you witness a student being harassed and humiliated by another student, intervene—but get additional support if necessary. Everyone involved—the victim, the perpetrator and the witnesses—needs to know this is unacceptable behavior. Research shows that creating a safe learning environment for all students requires the adults in the school working together.