Improving the School Experience for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Students (page 3)

By — Educational Resource Information Center (U.S. Department of Education)
Updated on Mar 8, 2010


Like all efforts to increase the multiculturalism in curricula, infusing information about homosexuality can be done in several ways, as appropriate for grade level (Hart & Parmeter, 1992): portraying lesbians, gays, and bisexuals matter-of-factly; using neutral language to describe lesbians and gays; identifying lesbians and gays of accomplishment; gay and lesbian literature courses; and gay studies courses.

Staff Development

School staff is crucial to establishing and maintaining a climate where lesbian and gay students feel safe and able to learn. Staff, therefore, may receive training that includes: basic information and about homosexuality and the needs of gay students, crisis intervention and violence prevention strategies, and appropriate responses to expressions of homophobia.

Several gay service organizations offer staff development activities and materials. The National Education Association (NEA) offers its members (especially those unfamiliar with homosexuality) two workshops for dealing sensitively with colleagues and students. NEA also responds to requests from its locals with referrals on materials, speakers, and additional trainers.

Special Schools

One school especially for lesbian and gay students has been in operation nearly a decade: the Harvey Milk High School in New York City, a joint project of the Board of Education and Hetrick-Martin. Its purpose is to provide a supportive environment for students who were on the verge of dropping out of traditional school. Another high school, the EAGLES Center in Los Angeles, has been operating for two years (Project 10 Handbook, 1993).

Other Education Initatives

Districts and schools that want to provide a supportive environment for lesbian and gay students and educate straight students about homosexuality, without necessarily implementing a full-scale program and without adding significantly to their budgets, can choose from the following list of suggestions:

  • Include gays and lesbians in non-discrimination policies, and expressions of homophobia on the list of prohibited behaviors in the school policy manual. 
  • Offer support and protection for teachers who come out so lesbian and gay students can have role models and a source of support. 
  • Give organizations of lesbian and gay students the same privileges as other groups, and allow same-sex couples to attend events. 
  • Create an atmosphere where students can feel free to reject sex stereotyped roles. 
  • Provide anti-bias and violence prevention training that includes self-protection strategies. 
  • Include books on homosexuality, both informational and fiction, in the library.


Dutile, F. N. (1986). Sex, schools, and the law. Springfield, IL: Thomas.

The Governor's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth. (1993). Making schools safe for gay and lesbian youth. Boston: Author.

Grayson, D. A. (1987, Summer). Emerging equity issues related to homosexuality in education. Peabody Journal of Education, 64(4), 132-45.

Hart, E. L., & Parmeter, S.-H. (1992). Writing in the margins: A lesbian and gay inclusive course. In C. M. Hurlbert & S. Totten (Ed.), Social issues in the English classroom. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of English. (ED 349 574)

Khayatt, D. (1994). Surviving school as a lesbian student. Gender and Education, 6(1), 47-61.

Lipkin, A. (1992, Fall). Project 10: Gay and lesbian students find acceptance in their school community. Teaching Tolerance, 1(2), 25-27.

Project 10 handbook: Addressing lesbian and gay issues in our schools. (1993). Los Angeles: Friends of Project 10. (ED 337 567).

Sears, J. T. (1987). Peering into the well of loneliness: The responsibility of educators to gay and lesbian youth. In A. Molnar (Ed.), Social issues and education: Challenge and responsibility. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (ED 280 781)

Uribe, V. (1994, Dec.-Jan.) Project 10: A school-based outreach to gay and lesbian youth. High School Journal, 77(1&2), 108-113.

Uribe, V., & Harbeck, K. M. (1992). Addressing the needs of gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth. In K. M. Harbeck (Ed.), Coming out of the classroom closet: Gay and lesbian students, teachers and curricula. New York: Harrington Park Press.


Bridges Project of the American Friends Service Committee, 1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102.

Gay and Lesbian High School Curriculum and Staff Development Project, Harvard University Graduate School of Education, 210 Longfellow Hall, Cambridge, MA 02138.

Hetrick-Martin Institute, 2 Astor Place, New York, NY 10003.

Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, 320 W. Temple St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

National Education Association, Human and Civil Rights Division, 1201 16 St., NW, Washington, DC 20036.

Project 10, 7850 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046.

Project 10 East, 459 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02138.

Sex Equity Program, Equity and Multicultural Education Section, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, PO Box 7841, Madison, WI 53707.

University of Minnesota Youth and AIDS Project, Wingspan, 100 N. Oxford St., St. Paul, MN 55104.

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