Back to school time is quickly approaching, and although school may look different this year for many families, the typical stressors of this time will likely be exacerbated by the pandemic. Many parents are concerned about the safety risks involved in sending their children back to school.
According to a report by the University of Michigan School of Medicine, about one third of public school parents in Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio reported being unsure or planning not to send at least one of their children to school for in-person instruction. Parents of color were less likely to report they would send all of their children to school compared to parents identifying as white/non-Hispanic, and parents from lower-income households were the least likely to report that they would send all of their children to school than any other subset of parents .
The School District of Philadelphia recently announced a proposal whereby most K-12 students would participate in a hybrid model - the same group of students staying together with the same teacher for the entire school day and assigned to two days of face-to-face instruction, supplemented by three days of online learning .
Although the majority of staff and parents/guardians surveyed by the district reported feeling comfortable returning to school if all of the schools proposed safety measures were implemented, concerns remain for ensuring school cleanliness throughout the entire day, safety for students with asthma and other chronic conditions, and childcare needs for staff .
As of last night, the district remains in a deadlock as to whether this plan will actually take place, as six hours of criticism from parents, school principals, and teachers resulted in a delay on the school board’s vote on the plan. The issue continues to be fraught with fierce debate, with Superintendent William Hite, city Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farely, and the American Academy of Pediatrics urging schools to reopen in some capacity for the sake of the healthy development and well-being of the district’s most vulnerable learners. Parents and teachers cited concerns of maintaining proper sanitation in schools ridden by asbestos and other safety issues as some of the key reasons for their opposition to reopen .
The layers of complex uncertainties and concerns regarding sending children back to school this fall will certainly add to the typical stressors of this time of year.
Schooling challenges for Lgbtq+ led families
As if back-to-school time during a pandemic didn’t add enough anxiety to back-to-school time, starting a new school year is often much more stressful for LGBTQ+ parents than heterosexual parent families. The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education (GLSEN) network’s report on experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender parents and their children in K-12 schools found that more than two thirds (66%) of parents reported that they ever worried about their child’s safety at school. Over half (57%) of parents reported worrying that their child would have problems in school because of having an LGBT parent, and almost half (48%) reported that they worried about their child’s ability make friends at school .
Children of LGBTQ+ families do in fact experience mistreatment at school, with anxiety and levels of mistreatment increasing into and through adolescence. Teenagers of LGBTQ+ parents have reported peers using derogatory language and engaging in forms of violence against them due to their parents’ sexual orientation or gender identity . Lack of inclusion and representation are also concerning for schooling children of LGBTQ+ parents. Many LGBTQ+ parents do not feel supported at school, and therefore are hesitant to involve themselves in school activities. Additionally, most American schools do not include diverse family structures within their curricula and few textbooks include LGBTQ+ issues .
Although the prospect of home learning may appear to mitigate these effects, more time online also means more opportunities for cyberbullying. Research suggests that teens who are “different” are at higher risk for bullying, including cyberbullying. According to GLSEN, 48.7% of LGBTQ+ students report experiencing electronic harassment, including bullying via text messages and/or social media . Although research is limited on rates of cyberbullying for children of LGBTQ+ parents, even students who deny overt bullying experience microaggressions related to their parents’ sexual or gender identity, including verbal insults or social snubbing . This can certainly be exacerbated online, where anonymity allows for the opportunity to harass and bully youth with lower chances of consequences than bullying at school. Luckily, many organizations are fighting for better schooling experiences for LGBTQ+ parents and their children, as well as LGBTQ+ youth, by providing guides and resources to help parents find the best school fit for their children in addition to providing trainings for educators and administrators on how to make their schools more LGBTQ+ inclusive. We have compiled some of this information below which we hope you find helpful. We have also included some books and videos that represent a variety of LGBTQ+ families.
Be on the look out for upcoming information about PFP's virtual book fair with Big Blue Marble Bookstore!
Washington Post - Queer families and back to school
The Next Family - Tips for LGBTQ+ parents on picking a school
Lesbian moms - How to talk to teachers about your family
Lesbian moms - Back to school (LGBT parents spoof)
Queer Kid Stuff Just 4 Grown Ups - 5 tips for making your classroom queer-inclusive
Human Rights Campaign - Learning about school policies
Human Rights Campaign - How to exercise your rights
Human Rights Campaign - School resources for parents
Human Rights Campaign - Cyber bullying resources
BOOKS AND VIDEOS
7 LGBT books for kids
LGBT family books for adults
Books about raising children as an LGBTQ+ parent
Mombian - Books, music, and more
Pop'n'Olly - LGBTQ+ edutainment for kids
Welcoming Schools - Great LGBTQ inclusive picture and middle grade books
- Post written by Taylor Goldberg, PFP Intern