School can be a terrifying, judgmental place. Students wonders if they are fitting in, but those feelings are amplified when a student is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or a lesser known sexuality or gender.
Many students make the mistake of using using the word “gay” as an insult. The civil rights movement showed society that we cannot use a characteristic of someone as an insult, yet many students still do. The constant insulting of the LGBT+ community can take a toll on a student’s self-esteem.
It is expected for a teacher to stand up for and help stop the bullying of a student, but when other students use homophobic and transphobic slurs around the school, it can be difficult for teachers to correct the behaviors. Instead, these negative remarks are used often without teachers acknowledging the insult and they make LGBT+ students uncomfortable in the classroom.
It’s true that the teachers will not be able to hear every derogatory insult toward the LGBT+ community in the classroom, but by reinforcing the discontinuation of the terms in the school, they can stop the insults from being used in students’ everyday lives.
The point of school is to have a safe environment that students can learn in, but the LGBT+ students will not perform as well if they question their acceptance within the learning environment. “[LGBT+ students] should be able to feel safe and okay in their learning environment for them to be able to get the best education possible,” sophomore Rose Daniels* said.
People would think that a school as progressive as Starr’s Mill is completely accepting of the LGBT+ community. The Starr’s Mill community would assume that the student yearbook, an annual production completed by students and for students, would use the preferred names of transgender students. The community would also expect the Code of Conduct to prohibit discrimination against sexuality or gender. Neither of these are true.
The Code of Conduct states that schools cannot “discriminate against any student/employee on the basis of race, national origin, sex, or handicap.” Nothing is mentioned regarding sexuality or gender. Since gender is what a person identifies as, it is different from sex which is the biological body a person is born with. Therefore, students are not currently protected against discrimination related to sexual orientation or gender identity.
Because the Code of Conduct allows discrimination against sexuality and gender identity, the yearbook, under the guidance of the school administration, can disregard the preferred names of transgender students. This is the same administration that forces transgender students to use different bathrooms. However, it is the Code of Conduct itself that denies LGBT+ students their basic human rights.
Principal Allen Leonard cannot explain why the Code of Conduct does not include sexuality or gender in its anti-discrimination policy, but he “certainly [doesn’t] encourage any kind of discrimination toward anyone,” Leonard said.
While the Fayette County Board of Education’s Code of Conduct continues to allow discrimination, Starr’s Mill can take the initiative by displaying “gay safe” stickers in classrooms which will provide comfort to many students while informing them that Starr’s Mill is doing its best to embrace and protect them.
“A progressive environment is crucial for the comfort and well-being of every student,” Daniels said.
*Names of students changed in accordance with guidelines from the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act which “generally prohibits the improper disclosure of personally identifiable information derived from education records.”