Help, My LGBTQ+ Student is Struggling in School
Bostock Decision and LGBTQ+ Mental Health
(Adapted from “Application of Bostock decision to LGBTQ+ students may boost their mental health”)
LGBTQ+ students may experience heightened stress and anxiety in school due to a variety of factors including discrimination and bullying. It has been found that LGBTQ+ students are also at a higher risk for mental health disorders and suicide. According to Joe Kosciw, director of GSLEN Research Institute in New York City, almost 60% of LGBTQ+ students felt as though they experienced discrimination through policies or practices at school (2019 National School Climate Survey). This discrimination was related to LGBTQ+ students missing nearly three times as much school, having lower self-esteem and a lower sense of belonging, and greater depression. The mission then becomes to decrease these experiences for overall school satisfaction and psychological well being.
Title IX and Bostock
The new milestone to enforce a Supreme Court anti-discrimination decision (the Bostock Decision) to students with and without disabilities may in turn help support LGBT+ students in school and successfully contribute to this mission. The Department of Justice (DOJ) released a statement directing federal agencies to apply the decision in Bostock vs. Clayton County (“Title IX”) to students, stating that the prohibition on discrimination “on the basis of sex” also includes discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.
What This Means
Many are viewing this as an important accomplishment for LGBTQ+ students, and a milestone in supporting their mental health and learning. Not only does this send an empowering message to these students that the Department of Education is committed to ensuring equal educational opportunities for all students, it’s evidence that the government recognizes these students exist and is willing to protect them, concludes Tracy Hobbs, a trainer for the Michigan Department of Education's Safe Schools for Sexual Minority Youth Initiative and with the National Education Association's National Training Program on Safety, Bias and LGBT Issues. She also believes this will empower teachers and staff with the confidence to create safer and more supportive classrooms for LGBTQ+ students.
As a result of social media and increased advocacy, it can be assumed that students know about the Bostock decision and what it means for them. Many students have been actively following the case since it began, and can confidently say “I have rights under Title IX and Bostock applies to me”. However, rights under Title IX and Bostock are applied retroactively, meaning they can fight back if and when they feel they have suffered discrimination and harrassment due to their gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
Policies for discrimination in school districts must be clear to include protection for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, including anti-bullying and harrassment policies. Teachers and staff must be professionally trained in providing support to LGBTQ+ students, including identifying ways for LGBTQ+ students to safely and confidentially report bullying and harassment and on implementing these policies. Allowing students to participate in virtual support groups and alliances is also necessary, and making sure they are available when remote learning resides.
When it comes to the classroom, making sure it is always inclusive, ranging from the curriculum to the language, will help ensure that all students feel safe and welcomed. Using inclusive methods can be transferred into social-emotional learning and positive behavior supports by promoting empathy and encouraging acceptance of peers’ differences. Empathy and acceptance play huge roles in establishing safe spaces in schools for LGBTQ+ students and stimulating positive educational and mental outcomes.