The Discrimination Differentiator
The expectation of educational organizations to include all children is clear; we can not purposefully exclude any child for any reason.
If it were only that simple. It takes more than saying it, to practice it.
Learning environments are not impacted solely by the classroom environment, teaching, curriculum, and administration. Learning environments are directly (and indirectly) continually impacted by policy.
Albeit at the National or local level, the policies we set send a clear message regarding our beliefs as learning organizations around inclusivity.
The differentiator for schools and districts is this; their goal is to promote learning and individual growth.
While a state can say, “we won’t list specific groups of marginalized individuals in anti discrimination laws,” schools and districts face the harsh reality that things cannot be so cut and dry in their local school board policies.
Why? Because schools and districts are responsible for learning.
While we seem well versed in physical parameters for safety, it is still too easy to prioritize needs of our students. Does the student who identifies as transgender deserve less than a student who identifies with a specific religion?
Quite simply: No.
If we can’t get past our own bias in how we prioritize physical safety, our policies must be more inclusive. Our statement to students that they all matter must be stronger.
If we can’t get the physical inclusion right, we will continually struggle with the emotional implications of serving diverse populations.
And the research on learning is clear: no emotional safety, no learning.
We cannot under any circumstance ignore the research on learning in this discussion. Because that research says clearly that students must feel safe to learn. Students learn better when they feel emotionally and physically safe. Students will excel if they feel seen, heard, and part of the learning community.
Emotional safety does not come to our classrooms by pedagogy alone, but with parallel policies.
It is no longer permissible for our educational organizations (especially those that claim to be forward thinking) to isolate, exclude, or ignore LGBTQ students within policies.
Those who set our policies cannot be beholden to their own beliefs. They cannot allow personal beliefs that students who identify with LGBTQ suffer mental illness to enter into their vote.
Why? Because the two main professionals trained to make that call have already made the decision; it is not a mental illness according to the American Medical Association and the America Psychological Association.
Those that set our policies cannot use God as an excuse or rationale. This is public education, these are public spaces, and these are public funds. Your public includes students that identify with LGBTQ and they are just as important as the students that don’t.
Let us not state that it’s okay for LGBTQ students to “have a hard time” with the excuse that they are building resilience. Expect your elected officials to set policies that make the most of research on learning; not use the platform of our schools to uphold personal views.
If I sound mad, quite frankly I am.
I live in an entrepreneurial community that has some great people, and growing diversity that must be acknowledged. But our school policies for discrimination are 19 years old. That’s a problem for me, and it should be a problem for every parent in our community.
If more inclusive school anti discrimination policies can help one student do better; why would we withhold the opportunity?
Think of these two policy examples, where do you think emotional safety for all students is more profound?
Our commitment to learning is the discrimination differentiator for our schools. Learning cannot happen to the fullest extent possible if emotional safety is not ensured by both policy and pedagogy.
As they said in church this Easter Sunday, you can doubt or you can believe.
If you doubt that inclusive policies can positively impact learning; error on the side of caution and pass those policies anyway. This is about learning organizations not any one person or belief. Our students, all of our students, deserve every local policy maker to place a priority on one truth that we all agree on: public schools are for learning.
Consider this a call to every school board member near and far: your job is to promote learning, do your job.