First, Ensure that Your School’s Anti-Bullying Policy Specifies Protections for LGBTQ+ Students
It is vital to specifically designate anti-bullying protections for students based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
Schools must first ensure that their anti-bullying policy enumerates protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Such enumerations clearly reduce the amount of LGBTQ+ bullying in a school (Sutherland, 2019).
Schools with specific LGBTQ+ protections in their anti-bullying policies see:
- Fewer homophobic comments toward students;
- Fewer instances of harassment and assault of LGBTQ+ students;
- More staff intervention when LGBTQ+ bullying occurs (Swanson & Gettinger, 2016).
It’s Not Enough to *Have* a Policy – Effective Bullying Prevention Requires Training and Enforcement
To maximize the protections offered by an anti-bullying policy, students and staff alike must be informed of the specifics of the policy, and of the consequences of violations.
Staff must be educated on why the policy is essential to the safety and well-being of the LGBTQ+ student body. (See Staff Training page.)
Staff must also be trained on how to enforce the policy. Even faculty and staff who are allies often do not know how to intervene and enforce anti-bullying protections. In one survey, 55% of teachers did not know when or how to intervene in cases of bullying (Swanson & Gettinger, 2016).
Education and Counseling versus Punishment Alone
One important element of a school anti-bullying policy involves the response to bullying. Punishment alone is not the most effective deterrent. Schools should include counseling and training for the perpetrators and the victims, to help address some of the underlying causes of bullying, and to help mitigate the damage bullying can do to individuals (Stonefish & Lafreniere, 2015).
Some schools give students who are experiencing school-based harassment a special sticker to put on the back of their school id/badge. The sticker serves as a pass which they can use to go directly to the counselor’s office as needed, no questions asked. This allows them to avoid potentially confrontational situations in the halls or a classroom when they are not in an emotional state to clearly articulate their situation to a faculty or staff member.
Sutherland, D. K. (2019). The push for transgender inclusion: Exploring boundary spanning in the gay-straight alliance. Sociology Compass, 13:e12739. doi:10.1111/soc4.12739
Stonefish, T. & Lafreniere, K. D. (2015). Embracing diversity: The dual role of gay-straight alliances. Canadian Journal of Education, 38(4). https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1086834.pdf
Swanson, K., & Gettinger, M. (2016). Teachers’ knowledge, attitudes, and supportive behaviors toward LGBT students: Relationship to gay-straight alliances, antibullying policy, and teacher training. Journal of LGBT Youth, 13(4):326-351. doi:10.1080/19361653.2016.1185765