• Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed., and Michelle Martínez Vega • IDRA Newsletter • February 2018 •

Teachers inspire and protect LGBTQ students by acknowledging their assets and taking courageous action. Students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer face singular trials (educational, psychological, and health). By both supporting the intelligence and uniqueness of each student while clearly blocking and deterring harm, a teacher is more than a pedagogue. The teacher becomes mentor, counselor, advocate and cheerleader for each student’s academic and social success.

Students who face daunting challenges also are strong survivors, and with the support of the educators, they can excel in school and beyond. Even as policy and practice becomes more equitable for this population, much must still be done by schools and educators. Hate-related violence against LGBTQ individuals resulting in death jumped 86 percent in 2017 over the previous year in the United States (Wilson, 2018). Schools must be safe places for all children – with respect for individual identification. Teachers are pivotal.

Teacher Actions

Without over-simplifying, we recommend critical equitable classroom actions.

  • Interrupt, compassionately but firmly, any clear expression of bigotry. Question anyone who states that “these” students are outside of their social and religious norms.
  • Identify and bring to light all the talents, strengths and potential in each student. Let each student know that you see this in him or her and let others know. Do this naturally as with any other child and without exaggeration or artificiality.
  • Facilitate conversations and dialogues about student identification, respecting individual expressions, and furthering respectful dialogue among peers and educators.


LGBTQ identification intersects with race, class, homelessness and other critical issues. Generalizations are damaging in the face of each unique situation, especially when several vectors of discrimination and exclusion intersect. One student may not fit any of the labels applied and yet equally needs understanding, support and caring.

Reflective Questions

As identification becomes more sensitive and nuanced to how children themselves identify and what “label” each accepts, teachers must listen carefully and read the body language.

  • Is my understanding evident to this child?
  • Is he or she feeling safe and ready to learn with me in my class?

Further Exploration

Education researchers identify space and categorization as areas that need further rigorous exploration. Children come to the school as a place (space) where not only can they learn, but where they can be safe and have other social needs met. The school needs policy and practice that delivers this, and teachers need the skills and support to respond to those needs. The December 2017 special issue of Education Researcher, “LGBTQ Issues in Education: A Multimethod Research Collection” includes feature articles and a book review that focus rigorously on these issues (AERA).

See a list of resources on sex and gender equity in schools


IDRA’s EAC-South carries out an important mandate for justice and equity in all our schools, including technical assistance and training for Title IX, an act that includes protections and support for LGBTQ students. Our recent project with a small school district in Georgia illustrates some of our services, as outlined below.

Sample IDRA EAC-South Assistance: Title IX Overview and Key Areas


  • Review Title IX basic information.
  • Highlight the key areas of concern to K-12 school districts.
  • Identify areas of concern and challenges for those responsible for overseeing Title IX and protecting all students from these forms of discrimination.

Key Title IX Areas for K-12 Staff

  • Academic access and success
  • Gender identification and transgender bullying and harassment
  • Sexual harassment
  • Sports athletics access

Resources – Sample List

  • Bullying Prevention and School Safety – Bullying presents one of the greatest health risks to children, youth, and young adults in U.S. society today. School safety, including the prevention of bullying, is both a priority and a key area of academic research. This list compiled by AERA provides resources, some academic and others practical, for K-12 schools.
  • Considerations for School District Sexual Misconduct Policies – The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault is committed to supporting school districts in preventing sexual misconduct, encouraging reports of such misconduct, improving responses to reports of such misconduct, and complying with applicable federal laws. This document highlights issues that districts can consider when drafting sexual misconduct policies.
  • LGBTQ Issues in Education: Advancing a Research Agenda – This eBook examines the current state of the knowledge on LGBTQ issues in education and addresses future research directions. The editor and authors draw on existing literature, theories, and data as they synthesize key areas of research. Readers studying LGBTQ issues or working on adjacent topics will find the book to be an invaluable tool as it sets forth major findings and recommendations for additional research.

The IDRA EAC-South provided this highly participatory session with central office and school administrators at their request. We can provide this training or similar also as professional development for teachers.

Experienced teachers know that no matter how tracked or specially selected students in any class are, each is still a unique learner. If a student happens to fall in the LGBTQ sphere, that’s just another aspect of their uniqueness. Teach accordingly.

For IDRA EAC-South assistance please contact us through http://www.idraeacsouth.org/ or call 210-444-1710.

Guidance the IDRA EAC-South May Provide on Transgender Issues

  • The IDRA EAC-South doesn’t provide legal advice and school districts should seek legal advice from their own lawyer on certain issues involved in the courts (e.g., whether they should construct unisex bathrooms or separate changing facilities or accommodations for transgender students).
  • The IDRA EAC-South can provide technical assistance to districts on transgender issues. The term transgender is included in the definition of sex desegregation in the new federal regulations for federally-funded equity assistance centers, which were created under Title IV of the Civil Rights Acts that explicitly addresses sex.
  • We can provide information on providing safe places and schools free of harassment and discrimination against transgender students.
  • The U.S. Department of Education also has nonregulatory guidance for implementing subpart 1 of Title IV, Part A of ESSA regarding the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants. That guidance explicitly identifies gender as one of the potential barriers impeding access.

For IDRA EAC-South assistance please contact us through http://www.idraeacsouth.org/ or call 210-444-1710.


AERA. (2018). Bullying Prevention and School Safety, web page (Washington, D.C.: American Educational Research Association).

Cimpian, J.R., & Herrington, C.D. (December 5, 2017). “Editors’ Introduction: Introducing a Methodological Research Collection on Pressing Issues for LGBTQ Students,” Education Researcher.

Shaffer, S., & Lerner, P. (October 2017). “Supporting LGBTQ Students Faced with Sexual & Gender Harassment,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association).

U.S. Department of Education. (May 2016). Examples of Policies and Emerging Practices for Supporting Transgender Students (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Healthy Students).

White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault (September 2016). Considerations for School District Sexual Misconduct Policies (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice).

Wilson, T. (January 29, 2018). “Texas Is at the Epicenter of an ‘Epidemic of Violence’ Against LGBTQ People,” Rewire.

Wimberly, G. (2015). LGBTQ Issues in Education: Advancing a Research Agenda (Washington, D.C.: American Educational Research Association).

Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed., is an IDRA senior education associate. Comments and questions may be directed to him via email at aurelio.montemayor@idra.org. Michelle Martínez Vega is IDRA’s technology coordinator. Comments and questions may be directed to her via email at michelle.vega@idra.org.

[©2018, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the February 2018 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]