Transforming School Cultures

  • Elizabeth J. MeyerEmail author
Part of the Explorations of Educational Purpose book series (EXEP, volume 10)


The final chapter of this book offers tangible suggestions for ways that readers can positively transform the culture of their school to reduce the harms and increase the positive impacts mentioned in  Chapter 6. The chapter is divided into sections that speak specifically to the following groups of stakeholders: school administrators, teachers and school counselors, and community and family members. To assist each of these groups in undertaking the suggestions offered in the chapter, an extensive list of books, curricular materials, Websites, workshops, and other resources is included.


Sexual Orientation Lesson Plan School Climate School Community School Board 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

7.1 Introduction

This book was written to help current and future educators, including school counselors and administrators to better understand issues of gender and sexual diversity in order to improve the way these issues are addressed in schools. As  Chapter 6 points out, there are many long-term negative impacts on all students and families when local schools allow persistent and systemic homophobia, sexism, heterosexism, and transphobia to pervade classrooms, hallways, gyms, and other learning environments. In order to help readers apply the concepts introduced in this volume to their specific professional contexts, this chapter presents specific approaches to transforming school cultures to be more inclusive of gender and sexual diversity.

As mentioned earlier, there are many factors that influence school culture and this chapter breaks down these multiple influences into subcategories that assist readers in assessing the needs of a specific school community and how best to address those needs. The discussion of how to read one’s school culture is followed by a series of recommendations of tangible steps to take in order to transform these environments. The third section identifies potential challenges and sites of resistance to this work in schools and offers suggestions to surmount those challenges. Finally, this chapter concludes with a list of Web resources, books, and videos that can provide support to assist readers working to transform their school’s culture.

7.2 Understanding School Cultures

In order to understand the multiple influences that shape how a school addresses and responds to issues related to sexual and gender diversity, I designed a theoretical model based on my research with teachers on these issues (Meyer, 2008a). I have developed a diagram to illustrate this model that shows the various forces that influence school cultures and educators’ roles in shaping it (Fig. 7.1).
Fig. 7.1

Factors influencing school cultures

There are four tiers to this model that demonstrate the relationship between the main factors that influence how teachers perceive and respond to gender and sexual diversity in school: external influences, internal influences, perceptions of behaviors, and responses to behaviors. As the diagram shows, there are two categories of external influences (formal and informal) that get filtered through the teachers’ internal influences (philosophy, identities, educational biography, and life experiences). This interaction of external and internal influences shapes their perceptions of and responses to student behaviors. The two categories that form the external influences are formal and informal.

7.2.1 External Influences

Formal influences are the most explicit of the external forces that help shape school cultures and include administrative structures, school policies, teacher education, and curriculum, and workload demands. These factors interact with informal influences to shape educators’ experiences of the school culture. Informal influences include the accepted norms and values in the school community and are absorbed from superiors (administration), peers (colleagues), students, and families/community members.

In my research, the informal influence of administrators was significant in impacting how and when teachers chose to intervene in incidents of gendered harassment. This administrative influence included several aspects of school leadership that went beyond policy and job description and included administrators’ style, personal values, professional priorities, and policy implementation. In other words, the way in which principals and vice-principals chose to lead their school had possibly greater impact than the stated policies and procedures of the school and school district. This was communicated through the choices principals make about how to spend professional development time, what policies to highlight and enforce, what teachers and students to recognize and reward, and how others might be singled out and informally “punished” with difficult schedules, extra surveillance, or undesirable assignments. Other aspects of the informal school culture that impact students’ and teachers’ experiences included colleagues’ approaches to teaching and enforcing rules as well as the values embraced and endorsed by the student body and the surrounding community that were prevalent in the school. The interaction between the external influences and internal influences can explain the wide variety of perceptions of and responses to gender and sexual diversity issues by educators.

Both external and internal influences present barriers and motivators to educators’ efforts to create schools that value diversity. These influences vary based on teachers’ identities and experiences in their school cultures, but in most cases in this study, the barriers outweigh the motivators to take steps toward a positive transformation of school cultures. The teachers in my research reported that every aspect of these external influences communicated to them that sexism, homophobia, and transphobia were accepted and endorsed in their school communities, and proactive responses against these forms of bias were not supported. This imbalance creates a constant struggle for the educators who are trying to reduce such harmful behaviors in their classrooms and schools but face constant institutional resistance.

7.2.2 Institutional Resistance

The data collected in my study (Meyer, 2008a, 2009) and other related projects (Goodenow, Szalacha, & Westhimer, 2006; Greytak & Kosciw, 2008; Kosciw, Diaz, & Gretytak, 2008; Macgillivray, 2004; Perrotti & Westheimer, 2001; Stader & Graca, 2007; Thonemann, 1999) support three forms of resistance Britzman (2000) identified to addressing topics related to sexuality in schools: structural, pedagogical, and psychical. Research shows that external factors create a majority of the barriers to effective intervention in cases of gendered harassment. Both formal and informal structures work together to prevent effective education and responses to bias and silence around issues of sex, gender, and sexuality. The first form of resistance identified by Britzman is structural resistance, which she defines as “the very design or organization of education” (p. 34). Sources of structural resistance include administrators’ style, policy implementation, and teacher workload demands. The second form of resistance Britzman identifies is pedagogical, which she breaks into two types: “one direction worries about Eros between students and teachers. Another direction considers sexuality as the secret of an individual’s nature” (p. 34). Examples of such barriers include teacher education and training that is silent about gender and sexual diversity and state or provincial curricula that clearly exclude discussions about non-dominant genders and sexualities or do not explicitly create expectations or pedagogical support materials to teach inclusively about these issues.

The third form of resistance is psychical, which Britzman explains as “the conflict within” (p. 34). Psychical resistance is most commonly found in administrators’ and other teachers’ personal values that are often rooted in traditional cultural or religious notions about gender roles and sexuality. These personal belief systems validate and perpetuate the status quo. Conversely, the teachers in my study, and many others like them, have internal influences that encourage them to work through resistance, such as their educational biographies, personal identities, and teaching philosophies, that motivated them to do their best to challenge gendered harassment in spite of the many formal and informal barriers in their schools (Meyer, 2008a, 2008b). Educators’ internal influences are strong factors that shape their practice in schools and can be powerful motivators to work through forms of external resistance. The next section addresses these influences.

7.2.3 Internal Influences

The teachers in my research all spoke of a deep awareness of and commitment to addressing incidents of bias in their classrooms. If teachers do not have educational biographies or teaching philosophies that help them gain an awareness of racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, and other forms of bias, they may have fewer internal motivators to induce them to intervene. Additionally, if teachers hold personal values that do not support equality rights based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression then their internal influences would act as additional barriers to confronting acts of gendered harassment and reproduction of heteronormativity when they occur. It is for this reason that teacher education and school leadership programs must work to include a deeper understanding of all kinds of diversity and equity issues; especially those related to sex, gender, and sexuality so that they may increase their awareness of and attention to these issues in schools. In addition to preparing teachers to offer instruction in their subject areas, these programs must encourage educators to think critically and reflect on their own identities and biases in order to better prepare them for working in increasingly diverse school communities.

Through the process of listening to teachers talk about their experiences with gendered harassment in schools, it became clear that it would not be possible for them to teach inclusively on issues related gender and sexual diversity until a shift in the entire school culture occurred. They spoke about anti-gay jokes by their principals, sexual harassment perpetrated by their colleagues, and a general acceptance of sexist and homophobic language throughout the school.

7.3 Engaging the Whole School Community

While overt acts of discrimination are difficult for schools to ignore, daily acts of covert discrimination persist and impact students’ lives in ways that many teachers and administrators fail to acknowledge. When bias against an identifiable social group is present throughout an institution, the entire school is implicated and the culture must shift. In order to transform ignorance of and intolerance for forms of sexual diversity, all stakeholders in the community must be involved in the process: students, families, teachers, administrators and school board personnel. The tone must be set by the leadership, but everyone must be engaged in changing the culture of the institution. In order to better identify what steps can be taken at each level, recommendations are provided for the following groups: administrators and school boards, teachers and support staff, students, parents, and community members.

For each one of these groups, change must first begin at the personal level. Before anyone can begin working collectively to improve school climates, all individuals must take responsibility for confronting their own biases and blind spots by actively educating themselves around issues that they may be under-informed or uncomfortable with. Such education can include reading books, searching information on the Internet, viewing films, or attending public lectures and workshops. It can also be extended to participating in interactive activities such as online discussion groups, graduate coursework, or joining or initiating a community group or task force to focus on these issues. Beyond the personal level, there are several institutional and community actions that also can be taken.

7.3.1 Administrators and School Boards

At the school leadership level, important changes must be made in three areas to set the tone for a positive and supportive school environment. These are policy, education, and resources and support. Without the institutional support provided by the following examples, the isolated efforts of overworked teachers, frustrated parents, and targeted young people will only have a small, short-term impact on the experiences of the students in the school community. In order to have a larger, more lasting effect on the school culture, systemic changes must be made.

Policy When drafting policies that address issues of discrimination and harassment in schools, a whole-school policy that includes clear, definite guidelines on actions that are bias-motivated, including response protocols and implementation strategies, is essential (Arora, 1994; Cartwright, 1995; Sharp & Smith, 1991; Whitney & Smith, 1993). Language must also be clear and consistent and include specific protections against harassment, violence, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression (Goldstein, Collins, & Halder, 2005).

Education A policy will not be effective unless those expected to enforce it are made aware of their obligations, and community members are informed of the changes. Examples of such efforts include discussing the new policy in staff meetings, inviting a law expert to present a workshop on definitions of harassment and the school’s duty in preventing it, creating study circles within the staff to examine the new policy and discuss implementation strategies, publishing information in school newsletters, Websites, and distributing brochures that include information about the new policy.

Resources and support The school district needs to allocate resources like time, money, and materials to ensure that these shifts in school climate can occur. Instead of hiring a one-time invited speaker, some school boards have created full-time positions in order to ensure that they have the expertise and knowledge readily available to support efforts in individual schools. In the state of Massachusetts (Perrotti & Westheimer, 2001) and the Toronto District School Board, several positions were created that were integral to the success of their programs, such as human sexuality program workers, equity department instructional leaders and student program workers (Goldstein et al., 2005). The institutional support offered by these various initiatives gives credibility and value to the daily efforts of individuals on the front lines.

7.3.2 Teachers and Support Staff

Teachers and support staff, such as bus drivers, cafeteria personnel, and lunchroom monitors, have the greatest opportunity to observe and intervene in incidents of discrimination and harassment in schools. Teachers and support staff can focus their development in the following areas: understanding of school policies, sharing and practicing tools for intervening in incidents of discrimination and harassment, and finding and using appropriate curricular materials and programs that are inclusive of gender and sexual diversity. These expectations mean that teachers and support staff will need to attend workshops and courses, and take some responsibility for their own professional development in addition to participating in the educational opportunities provided by the school administration. There are many resources available for these pursuits, some of which are listed in the reference list at the end of this chapter. Examples of curricular and extracurricular lessons and activities are presented in detail in  Chapter 4. Some examples that can address some of the underlying issues of homophobia and heteronormativity include the following:
  1. (1)

    A campaign against name-calling that includes education about what words mean and why certain insults are inappropriate and discriminatory.

  2. (2)

    Curricular inclusion of contributions by gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people to history, art, science, literature, politics, and sport.

  3. (3)

    Providing inclusive and diverse information about sex, gender, and sexuality in biology, health, and sexual education classes.

  4. (4)

    Conducting critical media literacy activities that analyze stereotypes related to heteronormativity, homophobia, sexism, and transphobia in popular culture.


Although teachers and support staff have a significant impact on school climate, without the participation of the student body, a true shift in culture and behavior cannot take place.

7.3.3 Students

Students comprise the largest percentage of a school community and are the trend-setters for what is valued in school. Without the support and investment of student leaders, there will continue to be student-only spaces where incidents of discrimination and harassment take place such as locker areas, washrooms, and areas in playgrounds and athletics fields. Schools that successfully engage student leaders, such as athletics team captains, student council members, peer mediators and others, can have a much broader and deeper impact on the lives of all students in school. Ways that this can be done include conducting summer leadership retreats, student discussion groups or weekend workshops that educate students about sexual diversity and solicit their help and support in challenging homophobia, heterosexism, and other forms of bias in the school. In addition to engaging prominent students in the school population, all students should be informed of the school’s policies on harassment and discrimination by posting a code of conduct in each classroom, having students sign a behavior contract, and/or by having home-room discussions about the policy, what it means, and how it might affect them.

7.3.4 Families and Community Members

Finally, no school community is complete without the input and influence of families and community members. The parents’ association and other community groups should be invited and encouraged to become actively involved in developing the school policy and educational strategies. By developing these partnerships early on, schools can anticipate any resistance or potential backlash and work through these issues before they grow into negative publicity for the school. To be a supportive and inclusive school, it is important to reach out to same-sex parented families to let them know that their input and involvement is welcomed. Gay and lesbian parents may stay closeted or separate from the school community if they have not been given any positive indicators that their family will be valued and included in that community. Most families are deeply invested in the education and development of their children and therefore should be included in such initiatives. Although there might be some resistance to addressing gender and sexual diversity in schools, by building strong ties with parent groups and other community organizations, schools can create a lasting network that will potentially expand their efforts to reduce such bias in the community at large.

Gender and sexual diversity are all around us. By ignoring it, schools cannot make the controversies surrounding it disappear. In many of the legal cases mentioned earlier, ignoring the issues exacerbated and escalated the problems. As educators who are responsible for supporting and teaching the next generation, it is our responsibility to create schools and classrooms that value and teach about the diversity that is already present in our communities. By unlearning the harmful messages from old stereotypes and misinformation, educators have the potential to create and teach more contemporary messages of equality, inclusiveness, and diversity.

7.4 Challenges and Solutions

Although there are many challenges to creating schools that value gender and sexual diversity, great progress has been made and this work must continue. The efforts of parents, teachers, administrators and community groups to effect change in their local schools and school districts are the reasons for the proliferation of gay–straight alliances in high schools across the United States and Canada. Grassroots mobilization and the building of local alliances have helped reform school policies and in-service teacher training programs. The leadership of youth confronting extreme instances of sexual and homophobic harassment in their schools has led to important legal precedents that have broad, long-term impacts. For every challenge that you can anticipate or have experienced, there are strong, wise, and passionate educators who have successfully navigated similar obstacles. Four key steps to take in working to address the challenges one might face in working to created schools that value gender and sexual diversity are
  1. (1)

    Create coalitions

  2. (2)

    Build foundations for long-term, sustainable change

  3. (3)

    Identify priorities and strategies

  4. (4)

    Sustain your spirit


The rest of this chapter explores these topics and provides specific advice on how to successfully take each of these steps.

7.4.1 Create Coalitions

An important first step in working to create schools that value gender and sexual diversity is to identify and build relationships with key allies in your school and community. Before engaging in potentially controversial projects, developing the support and building on the wisdom of experienced teachers, administrators, and community groups is essential for long-term success. These allies and coalition members can provide much needed institutional knowledge, experience, insights, and personal and professional support. If you are a teacher, particularly if you are early in your career, it is very important to identify at least one administrator who is supportive of your efforts. This will allow you to understand any concerns that the administration might have and gives them the opportunity to provide you with support in case a controversy or complaint may arise.

In addition to keeping close contact with an ally in your school’s administration and by creating a strong network of individuals and organizations who share your vision and goals, you not only gain from their knowledge and their networks, but you are also laying the foundation for long-term and sustainable changes. Building a coalition may seem to create unnecessary delays in taking steps to address these issues; however, it is an important step that can provide personal and professional support throughout the change process. Although it is difficult, it is important to be patient and continue working with others. If you forge ahead alone you may find yourself exhausted and out on a limb without any support. Additionally, although having an inspired and charismatic leader at the core of any coalition is valuable and helpful, it is important to share leadership and cultivate commitment and ownership in the goals of the coalition with others. Many good initiatives have folded when the driving force behind them moves or changes schools; so it is important to share responsibility and ownership of any change effort in order to ensure its long-term success.

7.4.2 Lay Foundations for Long-Term Change

Laying the foundation for long-term change is a second important step in ensuring that your efforts are sustainable. Creating this foundation requires patience as it can be a time-consuming process. For example, if you’d like to see tangible actions follow the addition of “sexual orientation and gender identity/expression” to school harassment and non-discrimination policies, you must work with that long-term solution in mind. One strategy is to quietly add the wording at the last minute of a rewriting of the policy to avoid a protracted public debate of the issue, and then once the policy has passed use that as leverage for adding an education/implementation program. Conversely, it may benefit your community to engage in a more extended debate and reformulation of policy language in order to build more support for the issue and the initiatives that are to follow. For those who are anxious to see immediate change, it can be quite a struggle to balance the need to build public support and a strong coalition along with the desire to see tangible progress toward the main projects of the coalition. Identifying priorities and strategies among members of the coalition can also be a lengthy and difficult process since members come to the process with different perspectives, leadership styles, and immediate needs. This brings us to the third item to consider when identifying challenges and solutions: identifying priorities and strategies.

7.4.3 Identify Priorities and Strategies

When working to transform school cultures, one must have a deep understanding of the realities and issues unique to each school community. Members of a coalition must be well informed about
  1. (1)

    members of the school board and their political affiliations

  2. (2)

    existing school and district policies

  3. (3)

    current curricular guidelines and expectations,

  4. (4)

    available local resources for presentations, workshops and in-service activities on gender and sexual diversity

  5. (5)

    recent efforts and outcomes of related reform efforts in your state or province.


A working understanding of these issues will allow you and your allies to identify the priorities that are most pressing and relevant to your local community. There are a few helpful case studies available of local groups working to reform their school policies and how they were able to succeed in their efforts (see Faulkner & Lindsey, 2004; Goldstein et al., 2005; Macgillivray, 2004; Perrotti & Westheimer, 2001). These case studies offer in-depth road maps of the lengthy processes of implementing a local policy change and initiating a statewide educational initiative. These reports offer helpful strategies and insights about how to work creatively through obstacles as well as how to generate public support for a potentially “controversial” policy change. Finally, the most important element of engaging in work to transform school cultures is to sustain your spirit so you can engage in these projects in the long term.

7.4.4 Sustain Your Spirit

Sustaining your spirit can be a challenge if you are faced with resistance from colleagues, employers, community members and even family and friends. If you have made a decision to work to create schools that value gender and sexual diversity it probably means that you are deeply committed to and passionate about these issues. Most activists and educators who choose to work in the area of gender and sexual diversity do so out of necessity: to ensure the safety of a loved one or to protect one’s current job. As you may already know, working against the current of established practices and institutional norms can be extremely time-consuming and emotionally draining. Therefore, it is important that you give yourself permission to take a break every now and then and allow yourself to make mistakes and let small issues slide.

In my first teaching job I was counseled to “pick my battles” when I was starting to advocate for issues related to gender equity and homophobia in my school community. I didn’t like this advice since I thought that each of these “battles” was important and needed to be addressed. What I learned was that I was doing myself and my students a disservice by tackling every perceived injustice, and it reduced my credibility with my colleagues and administration. I had a hard time prioritizing, and strategizing and letting some issues move to the back burner. What I also learned, and was able to apply in another school, is that I was then able to conserve my energy and focus it more clearly on the issues that I thought would have more far-reaching and long-term impacts. Another way I learned to sustain my spirit was through connecting with like-minded individuals by attending conferences and social gatherings that allowed me to get ideas from others, as well as to feel understood, valued, and supported. Finding and creating these spaces for yourself is important if you want to ensure that you will not burn out and you will be able to continue engaging in such reform efforts beyond a short 1- or 2-year sprint. Lasting change takes time and during that time you need to be sure that you keep your own batteries fully charged so you can stay healthy, focused, and fulfilled as you face the daily challenges of supporting youth through grassroots activism and education reform.

7.5 Conclusion

Addressing issues of gender and sexual diversity in schools is challenging but important work. This book was written to provide current and future educators as well as committed youth workers a deeper and clearer understanding of the multiple interrelated issues that emerge in schools related to gender and sexual diversity. These issues touch very sensitive cultural nerves related to notions of relationships, identity, community, family, and religion. In order to more effectively work to create schools that value gender and sexual diversity, we must inform ourselves and take carefully planned and strategic steps. I hope that the information and resources provided in this book will provide you with the support and information you need to begin or continue working to make schools places where all students feel valued and included, where all families feel recognized and supported, and all professionals can fully express their whole selves. Schools will continue to be places where students, teachers, and families are hurt, isolated, and excluded from learning and fully engaging in their communities until all of these objectives are achieved.

Although the focus of this book has been on gender and sexual diversity it is important to acknowledge that there are many levels of diversity that impact individual’s lives and experiences in schools: gender and sexuality are only two. When building coalitions and engaging in further education on diversity issues, it is important to recognize the multiple identities and oppressions that influence our experiences. Schools continue to marginalize individuals on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, language, disability, and class to name just a few other variables. In order to apply the educational philosophies of democratic education, critical pedagogy, critical multiculturalism, feminist pedagogy, social justice education, anti-oppressive education, and queer pedagogy, these multiple factors must also be addressed. Please keep your mind open and your coalitions strong by working together to make schools better for all. I conclude this book with a list of resources to assist you on this journey. Best of luck and bon courage!

7.6 Resources

The following section provides a list of resources that may be helpful to educators looking to expand their own knowledge of these issues and/or to incorporate issues related to gender and sexual diversity in their classroom teaching. Each resource is given a cost rating (see below) since many of them are free or low in cost. I also provide a brief summary of the resource so you can more readily identify which will be of most help to you and your own school community.

Cost ratings
  • $ = $50 or less

  • $$ = $50−$150

  • $$$ = $150−500

  • $$$$ = $500 and above

7.6.1 School-Wide Interventions Ally Week (Free)

This event organized by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network is held every October to end anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in K–12 schools by building ties with “allies.” Allies are identified as people who advocate for the equality of a marginalized group, but do not identify as a member of that group. In the case of this event, most allies identify as heterosexual or normatively gendered. The goal of this event is to get students to sign an ally pledge to intervene in incidents of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. Challenge Day ($$$$)

This non-profit community building initiative can be a valuable way to jumpstart anti-bullying and harassment work in a school. It can be somewhat costly for a school community as they require pre-program coaching for student leaders and staff as well as multiple days of workshops with the larger school community if you are over an hour from their base in Concord, CA. However, it has proven to be a powerful and healing experience that has positive impacts on the culture of the school as well as the students who participate. Some of the activities during the day explicitly address issues of systemic oppression including gender and sexual orientation. The goal of this event is “to build connection and empathy, and to fulfill our vision that every child lives in a world where they feel safe, loved, and celebrated.” Day of Silence (Free)

This somewhat controversial event began in 1996 at the University of Virginia when a group of students chose to remain silent for one day to call attention to the anti-LGBT name-calling and harassment at their school. In 2007 over 5,000 middle and high schools registered to participate. There has been backlash in some communities against this event, but students and teachers who have participated indicate that it is a non-confrontational, yet empowering way to highlight these issues in a school community. This Website provides guidance and free resources to help student groups organize this event in their school community. The International Day Against Homophobia (Free)

This annual educational campaign was started in 2003 in Quebec, Canada to increase public awareness about homophobia. This Website provides informational posters and publications for schools and other organizations to participate in the activities on May 17 and year round. Mix It up at Lunch (Free)

This annual event encourages students to break out of their cliques and cross divisions in their school’s social culture at lunchtime. Sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program. No Name Calling Week (Free/$$)

Inspired by James Howe’s novel The Misfits, this event has grown into a nationwide phenomenon since its first organized instance in March of 2004. There are free downloadable resources on the Website, as well as a kit that can be purchased online. This is targeted toward students in Grades 5–8 and explicitly addresses biased forms of name-calling and harassment that happens between students, including homophobia. Many school-wide organizing ideas as well as classroom activities are available. Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (Guide $$; Training $$$$)

This school-wide intervention kit provides all the information necessary to conduct a school-wide survey and interventions for a school community. This program offers school-, classroom-, and individual-level components for training and community involvement. They highly recommend using their trainers when implementing their program. Although it offers one of the most widely studied bullying intervention programs with a documented record of reducing incidents of overt bullying, its focus on behavioral interventions and lack of attention to issues of sex, gender, sexual orientation, and other forms of bias indicates that it may not be as effective in reducing forms of gendered harassment. Ugly Ducklings (Free to Schools in Maine/$$)

This film and educational kit was designed to promote dialogue around issues connected to teen suicide and homophobia. The film follows a group of young women at a summer retreat and allows the viewer to share their powerful emotional experiences as the participants learn and talk about these issues.

7.6.2 Staff Development Challenging Silence, Challenging Censorship ($)

This resource is a valuable guide for librarians as well as other educators interested in providing resources and support for GLBT youth, families, and their allies. It provides an annotated bibliography of books and materials for students of all ages. GLSEN Lunchbox ($$)

This training toolkit provides many interactive activities, videos, and fact sheets on GLBT issues in schools. This kit is valuable for consultants, resource centers, and organizations that provide in-service training and support on issues related to sex, gender, and sexual orientation for educators. GLSEN also provides training institutes on using the toolkit effectively and developing facilitators’ skills. It Takes a Team (Free/$) Video and Resources

This kit specifically addresses how gender and sexual orientation stereotypes can harm athletes, coaches, and the team environment. The kit includes a video, action guides, posters, stickers, and additional resources that can be helpful for coaches and athletes at the secondary and university level. It’s Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in Schools ($$) Video & Discussion Guide

This now-classic documentary is one of the best teaching resources that models age-appropriate ways to talk about gay and lesbian issues with elementary age students. A particular strength of this film is that it has footage from actual classroom activities and discussions. It also does an excellent job including the experiences of students from different regions of the United States and of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. A follow-up film, Its STILL Elementary, that follows up with students from the original film is now available as well. Just Call Me Kade ($$) Video

This award-winning documentary traces the transition of an adolescent FTM (female-to-male) transgendered person. This resource provides a valuable first person narrative for those who are new to learning about transgender issues. Lessons Learned ($)

This short publication put out by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation provides a brief introduction to terminology and studies as well as collection of stories and experiences from educators working in anti-homophobia education to better understand the cultural and political contexts for addressing GLBT issues in Canadian schools. Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity–SEED ($$$$)

The National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum, a staff-development equity project for educators, is in its 22nd year of establishing teacher-led faculty development seminars in public and private schools throughout the United States and in English-speaking international schools. A week-long SEED summer New Leaders’ Workshop prepares school teachers to hold year-long reading groups with other teachers to discuss making school climates and curricula more gender-fair and multiculturally equitable. Straitlaced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up! ($$) Video

This film interviews 50 teens from all backgrounds and explores how the heteronormative ideals of masculinity and femininity impact everyone. Presented by the filmmakers who made It’s Elementary and That’s a Family, this film is a valuable instructional tool for any school staff that is looking to address how gender roles play out in their own school communities. This can also be effectively used with older secondary school students. Teaching Respect for All ($) Video

This training video captures a compelling talk given to an audience of teachers, administrators, and counselors by GLSEN Executive Director, author, and former high school teacher, Kevin Jennings. He is a dynamic and compelling speaker and this video captures the key points for educators to understand when addressing homophobia and GLBT issues in schools.

7.6.3 K–12 Classroom Dealing With Differences ($) Video & Teacher Guide

This lesson kit is available to order from GLSEN and provides a 20-min video and discussion guides for teachers to introduce conversations about respect and anti-LGBT harassment in the secondary classroom (grades 7–12). Gender Doesn’t Limit You! (Free)

This series of six lesson plans combines information on reducing gender stereotypes in early grades (K–4) with bullying intervention strategies. Researchers working on this project found that this curriculum successfully increased students’ willingness to take a stand to counteract bullying. GLSEN (Free/$) Lesson Plans and Resource Lists

This non-profit organization has a Website that is full of free downloadable lesson plans (K–12) and reading lists (sorted by age) to assist teachers interested in integrating information about sex, gender, and sexual orientation as well as related forms of diversity education into their classes. Let’s Get Real! ($$) Video and Curriculum Guide

This film addresses multiple forms of bias and harassment that happens in schools. It provides first-hand narratives from students who have been targeted as well as from students who have taken a stand on behalf of others. The wide variety of issues covered in this film provides a valuable starting point for talking about bias and harassment with students in grades 6–12. Media Awareness Network (Free) Lesson Plans and Resources

This bilingual site (French and English) provides a rich variety of lessons on gender and stereotypes using media texts. Teachers can search by grade level (K–12) or topic for classroom activities and resources. Tough Guise ($$) Video

This educational video is geared toward high school students to help them examine the relationships between popular culture images and the construction of masculinity. This entertaining and well-researched film provides an engaging approach to understanding how gender and violence are related and the pressure on boys to put on a “tough guise.” The Media Education Foundation has a wealth of other resources on gender, sexual orientation, and the media on their Website. Welcoming Schools (Free)

This curriculum guide for K–5 schools was developed by the Human Rights Campaign to help provide resources to elementary schools that are actively working to be more inclusive of all forms of diversity in their communities. This resource goes beyond offering lesson plans and includes a checklist to evaluate the climate of a school community as well as sample policy wording. It is an excellent comprehensive resource for elementary schools that addresses multiple layers of diversity and prominently includes BGLQT topics and concerns.


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Additional Reading

  1. Bochenek, M., & Brown, A. W. (2001). Hatred in the hallways: Violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students in U.S. schools: Human Rights Watch.Google Scholar
  2. This important study summarizes the often painful and difficult experiences of GLBT students in schools around the United States and provides a concise summary of legal protections that exist for GLBT students in U.S. schools.Google Scholar
  3. Bornstein, K. (1998). My gender workbook. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. This "workbook" was written by a transgender performer and activists and includes reflective activities on gender and society and is written in an engaging and accessible voice. It is a great introduction for anyone learning about how gender shapes us and our relationships with others.Google Scholar
  5. Brown, L. M. (2003). Girlfighting: Betrayal and rejection among girls. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  6. This book by respected gender scholar Lyn Mikel Brown synthesizes the voices of over 400 interviews with girls in the United States and provides an insightful analysis of the gender issues involved in relationships among girls.Google Scholar
  7. Duncan, N. (1999). Sexual bullying: Gender conflict and pupil culture in secondary schools. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. This book summarizes the findings of an ethnographic study of a secondary school in England and provides detailed analyses of the role of gender, sex, and sexual orientation in influencing peer relations in the school community.Google Scholar
  9. Killoran, I., & Jimenez, K. P. (Eds.). (2007). "Unleashing the unpopular": Talking about sexual orientation and gender diversity in education. Olney, MD: Association for Childhood Education International.Google Scholar
  10. This is an edited collection of stories from students, teachers, and researchers about their experiences with gender and sexual diversity in their lives and schools.Google Scholar
  11. Kissen, R. (Ed.). (2002). Getting ready for Benjamin: Preparing teachers for sexual diversity in the classroom. Oxford: Rowman Littlefield.Google Scholar
  12. This edited collection includes a series of essays by teachers and teacher educators on the issues of pre-service teacher education. This is a valuable text as it provides first-person narratives about the personal struggles as well and the pedagogical choices made when working to teach about sexual diversity in teacher education programs.Google Scholar
  13. Lipkin, A. (1999). Understanding homosexuality, changing schools. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  14. This is one of the earliest and most comprehensive texts that address issues related to homophobia and schools. Lipkin's book is detailed and addresses a wide variety of issues including: history, identity, counseling, families, and curriculum. Although some of its information is now somewhat dated, it is still an invaluable reference.Google Scholar
  15. Mac an Ghaill, M. (1995). The making of men: Masculinities, sexualities, and schooling. Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  16. This is one of the first books that explore the connections between masculinity, homophobia, bullying and social relations in school. A very rich and nuanced analysis of varying forms of masculinity in school.Google Scholar
  17. Macgillivray, I. K. (2007). Gay-straight alliances: A handbook for students, educators, and parents. New York: Harrington Park Press.Google Scholar
  18. A concise and easy-to-read guide that provides practical advice and detailed resources for students, teachers, administrators, and parents engaged in creating or working with Gay–Straight Alliances.Google Scholar
  19. Meyer, E. (2009). Gender, bullying, and harassment: Strategies to end sexism and homophobia in schools. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  20. This book specifically addresses issues of bullying, harassment, and school violence that are related to homophobia, sexism and transphobia. It provides an overview of my research project and a checklist of steps to take to reduce gendered harassment in schools.Google Scholar
  21. Pascoe, C.J. (2007) Dude you're a fag: Masculinity and sexuality in high school. University of California Press.Google Scholar
  22. This book provides an incisive view of how masculinity and sexualities are regulated and negotiated based on an in-depth study in one California high school.Google Scholar
  23. Perrotti, J., & Westheimer, K. (2001). When the drama club is not enough: Lessons from the safe schools program for Gay and Lesbian students. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  24. This is a practical and informative guide based on the work and experiences of educators working in Massachusetts with the first statewide program aimed at supporting GLBT youth in schools.Google Scholar
  25. Steinberg, S. (Ed.). (2009). Diversity and multiculturalism: A reader. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  26. This is one of the few texts on diversity and multiculturalism in education that has several chapters that address issues of gender and sexual diversity. I highly recommend this text for use in courses that deal with a wide variety of diversity issues.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dept. of EducationConcordia UniversityMontrealCanada

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