Social And Emotional Learning
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Social-Emotional Learning

Discrimination in America is real, and it has ripple effects that affect the most marginalized of all sectors, the LGBT community. Intolerance is happening despite efforts pushing for equality, diversity, and acceptance. The movements that champion this freedom are strong, and they have generally been well-received by almost everyone. However, many people fear what they don't understand, and there's a lot of fear to go around. Whether this ignorance is handed down like a family heirloom or the result of humankind's primitive reptile brain—that classifies everything to survive—the threat is real. With little education going around about the LGBT community, ignorance is not bliss for the victims of hate and homophobia.

Prejudice In Schools: It's Happening Early

By the time a child reaches the age of three years old, they start to understand what bias means. Kids can distinguish between physical traits like height, weight, and hair color even earlier. However, when children reach preschool, they already know how particular characteristics such as gender or skin color affect how their peers and other people see them.

As children grow older, this prejudice can lead to discrimination and intolerance in schools. According to this survey in California, almost one-fourth of students across different grade levels report bullying and harassment on school grounds. These students were targets because of their gender, race, religion, ethnicity, disability, or sexual orientation.

Take a look at the numbers on LGBT bullying, according to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network:

  • 90% of the LGBT youth report getting verbally abused at school
  • 44% get physically harassed
  • 22% get physically assaulted

These are alarming numbers because most incidents happen on campus. The introduction of a proper LGBT curriculum in schools may lower the instances of bullying and harassment in schools. According to media monitor GLAAD, increased knowledge about LGBT people can lead to decreased levels of discomfort toward the community, which in turn reduces anti-LGBT bias.

However, education about this sector of the population remains almost non-existent. Only the state of California has the mandate to implement LGBT history and its prominent figures into school curricula. If all states had the same political will to crush prejudice once and for all, would bullying and violence against members of the LGBT community stop?

Knowledge Is Power: Reducing Discrimination Through Education

For widespread LGBT acceptance across the U.S., the public needs to learn more about the community. LGBT education can happen in a variety of ways, such as getting to know a gay family member or a transgender friend. Education can also take the form of media consumption, featuring shows with LGBT characters.

Teaching students about LGBT individuals and the issues they face within the classroom can help them understand the community better. If only the current school curriculum included LGBT issues, the discrimination and stereotyping of people from this sector of society could be reduced.

Starting An Inclusive Community

Government mandates may take a while. All concerned parties should act now to create a community that includes LGBTQ graduates and students. For this to work, the community needs the involvement of institutional services and alumni. Here are 5 steps on how to start.

1. Develop Transparent And Inclusive Admission Policies In Men's And Women's Colleges

These admission policies should actively support transgender students and graduates while former single-sex institutions need to create gender-inclusive programs and relationships for graduates. Programs and activities include alumni associations and reunions. Barnard College and Saint John's University offer examples of progressive policies that work.

2. Systematic Gathering Of Data On Gender Identity And Sexual Orientation

Several institutions are already doing this, including Northern Illinois University and Cal State University. Other schools are providing optional opportunities after admission. Institutions can better reach out and understand students who identify as LGBTQ. Educators can also track the progress of the students throughout their stay.

3. New Faculty And Staff Orientation On The LGBTQ Student Community

Schools need to offer information on LGBTQ students during teacher orientation. These discussions will help create fair learning environments that support transgender students. Lambda Legal and the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals have a few recommendations, including:

  •  Open collaboration with resource speakers and providers that focus on students of color
  •  Supporting LGBTQ students by accounting for a student's multiple identities, such as race, age, and SES
  •  Providing leadership development for LGBTQ students of color where prioritizing one identity over another is not mandatory

4. Advocacy For Inclusive Healthcare And Counseling For All Students, Regardless Of Sexual Orientation

Transgender students have different medical and mental health needs. Current student health insurance doesn't provide coverage for transgender-related treatment. Equal access to quality healthcare helps students succeed because they spend less time being sick.

5. Diversity-Related Programming That Can Increase Inclusion In Schools

Further support for LGBTQ issues can be accomplished through the use of programs geared toward an improved campus climate and increased inclusion.

  1. Offer educational programs that include multicultural diversity and LGBTQ topics. The goal of these programs is a more in-depth exploration and understanding of issues that affect the community. Safe Zone programs and the LGBTQ Speakers Bureau provide broader education coverage on campus. By talking to a larger audience, the chances for increased LGBTQ student support are higher.
  2. Develop co-curricular campus programs like diversity, education, and new student orientation. These initiatives can support LGBTQ students and at the same time, educate other students about LGBTQ inclusion.
  3. Spearhead administrative responsibility to provide education and support for LGBTQ students. Many schools have incorporated LGBTQ campus resource centers managed by knowledgeable people, including graduate students, faculty, and working professionals. The variety of programs and services these centers offer can be provided in other ways if standalone centers aren't available.

Social-Emotional Learning Can Help Fight Prejudice

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is a process that helps both kids and adults develop essential skills to succeed in life, which may assist in curbing prejudice. According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), these "life skills" are:

  • Self-awareness
    The power to recognize your thoughts and emotions, reflecting on how they influence behavior. These include knowing how to assess limitations and strengths, as well as having a grounded sense of optimism and confidence.
  • Self-management
    Knowing how to effectively regulate your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in various situations. This includes managing stress and impulses, as well as staying motivated toward reaching your goals.
  • Social awareness
    The ability to empathize and take the perspective of other people from different cultures and diverse backgrounds, as well as understanding the ethical and social norms of behavior.
  • Core relationship skills
    Knowing how to establish and maintain healthy relationships with diverse individuals across different groups. The core relationship skills needed are listening, cooperation, communication, and constructive conflict resolution. Other skills are the ability to resist social pressure and knowing when to offer or ask for help.
  • Responsible decision-making
    The ability to make constructive choices that respect personal behavior and social interactions. Decisions are based on ethical standards, consideration, safety concerns, consequences, social norms, and the well-being of others and oneself.
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