SOGI Story #3: Pride Foundation Director Shares Need for LGBT Conscious Education

RenUnity_chopra_topSOGI Story #3: Pride seed44444444444glsen_marchandapril2015Foundation Director Shares Need for LGBT Conscious Education

(C. Proxmire, Feb. 28, 2015)

The SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) Issues in Education Conference is hosted each year by Oakland University, with the aim of giving educators and social workers tools they need to understand how best to work with LGBTQ youth. The day-long conference was full of stories and information, which we’ll be sharing over the next couple of weeks. To learn more about SOGI, including the large Midwest Conference coming Oct 17-18, visit

The need royal_servicesfor LGBTQ sensitivity in education becomes more apparent every year. Not only do changes in laws and the media bring LGBTQ issues into everyday conversation like never before, more and more same sex couples have children in school systems, and an increasing number of youth are coming out at younger ages.

Kris Hermanns, Executive Director of The Pride Foundation, opened the SOGI conference with a speech about creating a safe and encouraging environment for LGBTQ youth.

“This isn’t about being nice. This is about life and death. This is required of us,” she said.

Hermanns spoke about Leelah Alcorn, an Ohio teenager who died by suicide after being ostracized by her family and rejected by her community. Alcorn’s note said her mother had said God does not make mistakes andIf you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell thisHowesLocation to your kids. That won’t do anything but make them hate themselves.”

“Many students face family rejection. It is the number one reason for teen homelessness, and they turn to schools for safe harbor. This is not how it should be, but that is our reality,” Hermanns said.

In addition to potential strife or rejection at home, LGBTQ youth may face hate, rejection, fear and punishment at school. The topic of bullying among students is often discussed. But there can also be messages of rejection from the staff whose job it is to nurture youth. Some is obvious, but some messages can surface subtly. Understanding the challenges and doing professional development to counter-act them can not only improve education, it can save students’ lives.

One issuelisa schmidt law is how students are punished. For all students the increased penalties for wrongdoings can have traumatic effects on students’ lives. Suspensions, expulsions and police presence in schools lead to students being booted out of school for things that are not uncommon among young people. Behavior issues are not addressed, education is denied, and an important aspect of social support is removed.

“If we treat youth like they are disposable, can we blame them if they think they are?” Hermanns said.

In particular gender nonconforming girls are three times more likely to be punished for things like fighting, disrespect, and dress code violations than stereotypically feminine girls are.

LGBTQ youth are also more likely to be punished for public displays of affection, and for fighting even when it is in response to being attacked by other students. She also said that students ferncareADwho harass or target LGBTQ youth are often punished less than others who engage in bullying behavior.

“Too many students report that when they are being targeted, friends and teachers stood on the side and did nothing,” she said.

Hermanns gave a list of ways schools could improve the outcomes for LGBTQ youth. First they can create a safe environment. Second they can find ways to include LGBTQ people in the curriculum. Third they can offer a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance). Fourth they can unblock censors on school computers that block all sites that have “gay,” “lesbian,” etc. Fifth they can implement asidebar01reader_support supportive disciplinary process. And sixth they can share stories with youth about their own experiences.

“When I came out in 1983, I was an adult. I did not rely on my family or my schools. But now that is not the case,” Hermanns said. “In 1991 the average age of coming out was 25. Now it’s 13-16… Schools cannot ignore this.”

The SOGI Conference focused on ways to make schools more supportive. To learn more about SOGI visit For more on Pride Foundation visit

For previous SOGI stories see:





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