Post submitted by Kimmie Fink, Welcoming Schools Consultant
This week HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program was honored to participate at South by Southwest (SXSW) Edu, a conference that fosters innovation and brings together diverse stakeholders in the education field.
Connections Education, a part of global learning company Pearson, invited Welcoming Schools Director Johanna Eager to serve on a panel for a SXSWEdu session entitled “Transgender Student Rights in K-12 Education.” Eager was joined by J.M. Atherton High School principal Thomas Aberli, International Connections Academy Marketing Manager and HRC Board of Governors member Khoa Nguyen, and Connections Education Director of Counseling Tisha Green Rinker. The panel shared best practices for meeting the needs of transgender students and advised on responding to community pushback.
Perhaps most impactful for the audience was the personal story shared by a transgender student on the panel named Ezra. As a student at a single-gender school, Ezra’s experience has been unique in its challenges. Fortunately, he has the support and love of family, classmates and staff. Ezra underscored the importance of educating the educators. He said that cisgender teachers have a responsibility to be informed and ask transgender students what they need. Ezra’s experience echoes the Welcoming Schools approach, which emphasizes the need for collaboration between students and adults in the school community.
The workshop was one of just two workshops that addressed gender, and the only one to focus on transgender topics.
“This is an incredibly timely topic, and we’re thrilled to be here to talk about how to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory learning environment for all students regardless of gender identity,” Eager told HRC.
Based on the data from the HRC Foundation’s post-election survey, it is paramount that schools stand up for transgender students. While it can be difficult to navigate how best to support transgender students, the resource Schools in Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Schools in K-12 Education is a blueprint for safe, supportive and inclusive school environments for transgender youth.
There are more resources than ever before for schools who want to proactively address supporting transgender students. Ezra is fortunate in that he feels welcomed at his school, but that safe feeling is eroding in the wake of SB6 in Texas. As he pointedly commented during the panel, “If it’s about the safety of students, then why don’t you care about students like me?”
To help students like Ezra, check out Welcoming Schools resources on supporting transgender and nonbinary students at welcomingschools.org. View HRC’s resources on supporting transgender youth by visiting hrc.org/TransYouth.
HRC’s Welcoming Schools is the nation’s premier program dedicated to creating respectful and supportive elementary schools in embracing family diversity, creating LGBTQ-inclusive schools, preventing bias-based bullying, creating gender-expansive schools, and supporting transgender and non-binary students.
Now more than ever, LGBTQ youth need to know they have support. You can become a better advocate by attending HRC’s Time to THRIVE conference, the nation’s premier convening for K-12 educators, professional counselors and other youth-serving professionals on LGBTQ youth safety, inclusion and well-being. The 2017 conference will be held April 28-30 in Washington, D.C., in partnership with the National Education Association and the American Counseling Association.