With anti-2SLGBTQI hate on the rise, and homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia remaining rampant in schools, it’s more important than ever that we all come together to create safe and inclusive schools for 2SLGBTQI students. Egale Canada’s new back-to-school resources have been developed to complement our existing Inclusive Schools initiatives that teachers across Canada have been using in their classrooms for decades.

Egale’s national report, Still in Every Class in Every School, shows that 2SLGBTQI students continue to face unacceptable amounts of discrimination, harassment, and bullying.

The report, conducted in partnership with researchers from the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba, surveyed over 3,500 middle school and high school students across Canada. Of the many concerning findings within the report, we saw that 64 per cent of all participants reported hearing homophobic comments daily or weekly at school. The situation is particularly challenging for students who are trans and/or nonbinary, as trans and/or nonbinary students were the group most likely to report experiencing almost all forms of harassment and victimization. Of the trans respondents to the survey, 57 per cent had been targets of mean rumours or lies, and 79 per cent of trans students who had been the victims of physical harassment reported that teachers and staff were ineffective in addressing transphobic harassment.

As the report suggests, the impact of these negative experiences can result in a variety of adverse outcomes for 2SLGBTQI youth, including higher levels of emotional distress, more negative experiences in school, social marginalization, lower feelings of safety in schools, lower academic performance, and weaker school attachment.
It is also important to acknowledge that this reality in our schools is in addition to the undeniable rise in anti-2SLGBTQI hate that we are seeing across Canada and around the world. From coast to coast to coast, 2SLGBTQI community events are being protested, disrupted, and even cancelled due to safety concerns. For the first time ever, the federal government had to step in and provide emergency security funding to support organizations this Pride season amidst increased hate. Transphobia and homophobia are spreading through schools from board meetings to on-campus speaking engagements; at some schools, the Pride flag has been desecrated on numerous occasions. The message could not be more clear – our 2SLGBTQI communities are under attack.

Despite these deeply troubling circumstances, when students who participated in the Still in Every Class in Every School report were asked what they wanted their teachers to know about supporting 2SLGBTQI people, they provided inspiring and constructive feedback.

Specifically, students are asking their teachers to:

• understand why silence around 2SLGBTQI topics is harmful,
• stop making assumptions about their gender and/or sexual identities,
• use chosen pronouns,
• include 2SLGBTQI people in classroom examples,
• appreciate the importance of teacher support, and,
• acknowledge the barriers that many of them face.

Every student deserves the right to learn in an environment free from violence, harassment, and bullying. While there remains a great deal of work to do to create safer, accepting, and inclusive schools for 2SLGBTQI students, it is important for teachers to know that they have a crucial role to play, and that there are resources and support available. It is more important than ever that explicit efforts are made to visibly support, respect, include, and validate 2SLGBTQI students, and teachers should feel empowered to take action. As we saw in the Still in Every Class in Every School report, there are tangible actions with positive outcomes that teachers can take to show 2SLGBTQI students they are supported, and in turn, students want these teachers to know how appreciated they are.

As the leading national organization for 2SLGBTQI people and issues, Egale has a comprehensive suite of Inclusive Schools resources specifically tailored for all members of our school communities including teachers, students, principals and vice principals, and parents/guardians. Our resources include curriculum-aligned toolkits with videos, classroom materials, discussion questions, downloadable school posters, educational webinars, training sessions, and more. Beyond our Inclusive Schools resources, as part of our Back-to-School campaign, we’ve curated a list of existing resources to get you started as well as all new resources on how to tackle hate in schools—for educators, parents, and students.

Based on the inclusive principle that students are better supported when they see themselves reflected in the curriculum, it is clear that 2SLGBTQI-inclusive curriculum is a critical component of supporting 2SLGBTQI students in schools. However, this has not yet been adequately addressed in most education systems.

One respondent in the Still in Every Class in Every School survey said, “I would like it if LGBTQ issues were discussed in class and not just ignored.”

Another student wrote, “Literally anything taught about the LGBT community would be helpful. I shouldn’t have to learn everything on a private browser in my bedroom, hiding my search history from my parents so I could learn about the community and everything related to it.”

Teachers are the champions of inclusion, and Egale has the resources to help you continue growing your skills, knowledge, and confidence so that you can be a supportive, affirming adult in the lives of your 2SLGBTQI students.

Every member of your school community is encouraged to visit https://egale.ca/back-to-school/ to access our free resources and learn more about how to be a champion for creating inclusive classrooms for all students.

Egale’s national report, Still in Every Class in Every School, shows that 2SLGBTQI students continue to face unacceptable amounts of discrimination, harassment, and bullying. To learn more visit https://egale.ca/awareness/still-in-every-class/

– Originally published in the Fall 2023 issue of the MB Teacher

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