A Layered Approach to Inclusivity

Proud and Empowered: Supporting LGBTQ+ Inclusion and Visibility in Education edLeader Panel recording screenshot

Watch the Recording Listen to the Podcast

Inclusion in schools and districts requires multiple stakeholders. An intentional, communal approach to involving them in inclusivity efforts (especially crucial for the LGBTQIA+ student and teacher community) is essential.

In the edLeader Panel “Proud and Empowered: Supporting LGBTQ+ Inclusion and Visibility in Education,” educators, advocates, and community leaders shared practical approaches to establishing and sustaining such inclusivity.

Developing an Inclusive Curriculum

A curriculum embracing LGBTQIA+ students is more than just lessons taught; it requires a safe learning environment where educators can address challenging topics. The panelists described their approaches to curricular inclusivity, including:

  • Conducting safe-space training for teachers to heighten their comfort with uncomfortable topics and conversations and reassure them that despite mistakes they will make (e.g., using the wrong pronouns), they can self-correct toward a more inclusive curriculum
  • Ensuring school libraries have books reflective of all students and relying on official district policy to populate libraries and including families in the selection and recommendation process
  • Purchasing inclusive software and other instructional tools
  • Launching district-level policy change to embrace inclusivity

Inclusivity-Focused Professional Development

All school staff should benefit from training to build their understanding and practice of inclusion. On this front, consider the following:

  • Providing mandated DEI workshops for all staff—facilities, bus drivers, food service workers, teachers, administrators—addressing topics including identity and intersectionality, language, transgender rights, and microaggressions and ensuring training is readily available (online, for example) for review and as refreshers
  • Highlighting intersectional opportunities: If discussing, for example, Black Lives Matter, talk about the LGBTQIA+ intersections (such as the high number of trans women murdered or met with violence in the Black community) so that everyone is affirmed

Engaged and Empowered Students

Propelling LGBTQIA+ inclusion calls for activating students to mandate school changes and advise on policies and practices. Strategies to consider include:

  • Establishing human rights clubs where students share experiences and effect school change (organizing a drive for and successfully establishing gender-inclusive bathrooms and informing the curriculum, for example)
  • Creating student advisory councils with sub-committees that amplify student voices and engage them in peer learning on, for example, LGBTQIA+ intersectionality

LGBTQIA+ Teachers: Included and Represented

Teachers must be representative of the LGBTQIA+ community. To help ensure this, consider:

  • Putting in place inclusive hiring practices that affirm diverse adults and consider the value of having adults who share similar life experiences with students across sexual and gender expression and sexual orientation (along with race, ethnicity, etc.)
  • Educating administrators on identity, enabling them to share their identities with staff and community, thus establishing a safety culture
  • Making sure staff are valued for their diversity and allowed to bring their whole selves into schools
  • Promoting the use of pronouns (in signatures and titles, at meetings, etc.)
  • Encouraging bravery among teachers, whose experiences help to shape an inclusive, safe, and protective community

Involving Parents and the Community

Fostering an inclusive district involves parental and community engagement and buy-in. Gaining both can be challenging, complex, and often contentious and may require:

  • Inviting caregivers to serve on committees, giving them a voice in decision making
  • Presenting decisions to the school board on controversial topics that might trigger pushback and dissent but that, over time, can produce change
  • Keeping communication lines open—always listening, acknowledging different points of view, and having face-to-face (often day-to-day) conversations (which can be emotionally charged; panelists shared stories of heated events addressing the misuse of pronouns and deciding whether to participate in sports events at a private school that discriminated against transitioning and gay students) to build trust and repair relationships and harm
  • Encouraging inclusion-based board actions, such as creating resolutions that affirm the rights of LGBTQIA+ students and families; such efforts can lead to other policies (anti-hostility, for example)

The commitment to inclusivity is strategic and requires different voices at the table. Those voices can jumpstart crucial conversations, purposeful professional development, and policy shifts which can effect extensive school and district change that ultimately promotes the inclusion of many.

Learn more about this edWeb broadcast, “Proud and Empowered: Supporting LGBTQ+ Inclusion and Visibility in Education,” sponsored by Institute for Education Innovation.

Watch the Recording Listen to the Podcast

Join the Community

Mentorship for K-12 Leaders is a free professional learning community that aims to connect aspiring leaders with mentors and content that helps guide, support, and provide insights into education leadership.

IEI Logo Institute for Education Innovation

The Institute for Education Innovation is bridging the gaps between the individuals and organizations committed to seeing students succeed in school and life, creating a safe space for constructive problem-solving and innovative thinking.

Mentorship for K-12 Leaders


Blog post by Michele Israel, based on this edLeader Panel.