Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Back to School: How to support and respect LGBTQIA+ students

This time of the year means school is back in session, or nearly back in session, for many of us. It’s a good time for a reminder of how to support and respect LGBTQIA+ teens in classrooms and libraries, as well as be reminded of a few great resources. Obviously all of this goes for all people of all ages, but for a lot of queer teens who may be dreading heading back to school, it’s extra important. I know teachers, librarians, and others who work with teens are there to encourage and support all teens and are already aware of these issues and resources, but it never hurts to have a quick and easy list to be able to reference and pass along.

itgetsbetter2

Have other suggestions of resources or reminders? Add them in the comments!

Last year, The Chronicle of Higher Education had this great video post, ‘Ask Me’: What LGBTQ Students Want Their Professors to Know.

This Mashable post, 5 accidentally transphobic phrases allies use — and what to say instead, is a good quick reminder of how much our words matter, too.

For more on words, check out this American Psychological Association Psychology Benefits Society post, Stop Saying “That’s So Gay!”: 6 Types of Microaggressions That Harm LGBTQ People and, on Buzzfeed, this post, 19 LGBT Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis.

Are you familiar with the National School Climate Survey? From their site: “The 2013 National School Climate Survey(pdf) is GLSEN’s 8th biennial report on the school experiences of LGBT youth in schools, including the in-school resources that support LGBT students’ well-being, the extent of the challenges that they face at school, and insights into many other aspects of LGBT students’ experiences. The survey has consistently indicated that a safer school climate directly relates to the availability of LGBT school-based resources and support, including Gay-Straight Alliances, inclusive curriculum, supportive school staff, and comprehensive anti-bullying policies.” In this November 2014 TLT post, I summarize many of the main findings. The 2015 National School Climate Survey report will be released in Fall 2016!

While you’re looking at TLT, also check out this GLTBQ YA Resources for Building a Collection and Supporting Teens post. From there you can explore links on reading lists, blogs and Tumblrs to follow, resources, hotlines, and more. Two essential blogs to check out for reading recommendations, reviews, and great overall discussions by and about LGBTQIA+ people and issues are Gay YA and LGBTQ Reads. You can easily go spend a few hours poking around both sites—and they would be hours very well spent.

Campus Pride. From their site: “Campus Pride serves LGBTQ and ally student leaders and campus organizations in the areas of leadership development, support programs and services to create safer, more inclusive LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. It exists to develop, support and give “voice and action” in building future LGBTQ and ally student leaders.”

Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals. From their site: “The combined vision and mission of the Consortium is to achieve higher education environments in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni have equity in every respect. Our goals are to support colleagues and develop curriculum to professionally enhance this work; to seek climate improvement on campuses; and to advocate for policy change, program development, and establishment of LGBT Office/Centers.”

HRC Welcoming Schools. From their site: “HRC Welcoming Schools is a comprehensive approach to creating respectful and supportive elementary schools with resources and professional development to embrace family diversity, create LGBTQ-inclusive schools, prevent bias-based bullying and gender stereotyping, and support transgender and gender-expansive students.”

At Teaching Tolerance, a Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, check out this post, Best Practices: Creating an LGBT-inclusive School Climate. From their site: “It all starts with awareness. Often educators are unsure how to support their LGBT students in a meaningful way. These best practices were compiled to give school leaders the knowledge they need to create a climate in which their most vulnerable students feel safe and valued. Through inclusive policies and nurturing practices, administrators, counselors and teachers have the power to build an educational environment that is truly welcoming to all students.”

#MHYALit: Why You Shouldn’t Ban Your Kid from the Internet, a guest post by Laura Tims

MHYALitlogoofficfialWhen I was growing up, losing internet privileges was a common punishment in my family. It’s a common punishment in most families. Bad grades? No screen time for a week. Missed curfew? No internet.

 

It seems like a reasonable punishment. However, it may have unintended consequences.

 

Nowadays, twenty percent of adolescents have a diagnosed mental illness. That’s a huge number. But school counselors are typically understaffed and not equipped for longterm mental health care. When you’re under eighteen and you need mental health care, it pretty much has to go through your parents.

Imagine telling your parents that they need to pay for your therapy and medications, which even with insurance can be expensive, and drive you to appointments, which can be far away. This is assuming your family has insurance, a car, and the means to afford treatment. This is assuming that the guilt and self-blame, common with many mental illnesses, and the stigma of needing mental health care aren’t enough to keep you silent. This is assuming that you have a good enough relationship with your parents to come to them with this immense vulnerability. And even the most well-meaning parents don’t always understand what mental illness is – the fear that they’ll react with unintentional ignorance, dismissiveness, or self-blame themselves is enough to stop a lot of teenagers from speaking up.

 

It’s unsurprising that a lot of teens have little access to adequate mental health care. So they reach out wherever else they can – you see people trying to manage their own mental health and that of their friends’ at the same time, which, obviously, can be overwhelming. Oftentimes, they turn to the internet.

 

On December 28th, 2014, trans teen Leelah Alcorn died by suicide after posting a final note to her Tumblr. Among other things, she had been isolated by her parents and restricted from the internet for some time. Her death shone a light on what had already been going on – that plenty of teens share suicidal ideation on their social media accounts when they haven’t told anyone in real life.

 

Blocking access to the internet can cut someone off from the only venue where they might feel comfortable reaching out for help before they do something drastic. It creates an opportunity for someone to see the message and contact the authorities.

 

There’s also the fact that a lot of teenagers turn to the internet as their primary source of mental health resources. While it’s not a replacement for professional mental health care, there are tons and tons of blogs, videos, and forums online for DIY mental health care, which is sometimes all someone has access to.

 

Acting out is often a symptom of mental illness.  It can be the worst time to isolate a teenager from their best source of resources, or from their support group of friends. Even if you don’t think your teenager has a mental illness, it’s possible that they just don’t feel comfortable bringing it to you. There’s a stereotype of kids getting hysterical for no reason when losing access to their phones or laptops (often going along with the ‘millenials are too attached to their devices’ refrain) but if your teen reacts with seemingly unreasonable desperation or intensity to having their internet privileges taken away, it’s best to talk to them and see what it is they need instead of chalking it up to dramatics. You may be removing their only way to cope with a mental illness.

 

For a thorough list of online resources for mental illness and other issues, check out the resources page on my mental health blog

 

 

Meet Laura Tims

Laura Tims PhotoLaura Tims is a young adult author, a fan of humans, and a reasonably cute organism. Her debut novel, PLEASE DON’T TELL, will be out 5/24/2016, from Harperteen. Her second, THE BEST THING ABOUT PAIN, is coming 2017. She’s a Hufflepuff, an ENFP, a Cancer, and she likes pretty much everyone. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and her mental health blog.

 

 

About PLEASE DON’T TELL

Debut author Laura Tims writes an intense and utterly gripping contemporary YA tale perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars. Joy has done everything to protect her twin sister…including murder.

Joy killed Adam Gordon for what he did to her sister, Grace. At least, that’s what she thinks happened. Now Adam can’t hurt anyone ever again, and her sister can be free from the boy who harmed her.

But someone else knows what Joy did, and they’re going to out her as a cold-blooded killer if she doesn’t expose the scandalous secrets bubbling just below the surface of her mundane town. As the demands escalate, and she finds herself falling for Adam’s half brother, Joy must figure out the blackmailer’s identity before everything spirals out of control.

ISBN-13: 9780062317322

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 05/24/2016