Cultivating respect - creating a safe school climate for all

Some may think primary school students are too young to worry about addressing issues surrounding gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students. Not so, experts say. It’s never too early to begin teaching children about respecting differences. When our students and their parents have questions related to LGBTQ issues, our goal is to foster healthy dialog, critical thinking and inclusiveness. With that in mind, our conversations include all students and perspectives to create a safe and supportive school climate.

Like many New England states, Maine has taken a strong stance in favor of LGBTQ rights.  Since 2005, state law prohibits discrimination based on gender identity.  Last year Maine’s High Court ruled that denying a transgender girl the use of the girls’ restroom at her school violated her rights under the state’s

Human Rights Act.  (Doe v Clenchy)  This case highlighted the need for ALL of us — staff, students, parents, community — to learn more. Through education we work towards the goal of greater understanding, acceptance and safety for all of our students. 

A wonderful book to help children understand the perspective of a transgender student is I Am Jazz.  It's the story of a transgender child based on the real-life experience of Jazz Jennings, who has become a spokesperson for transkids everywhere.  

One of the most compelling and informative avenues for understanding transgender youth can be found in a TEDx talk by Dr. Norman Spack from the Gender Management Services (GeMS) program at Boston Children's Hospital. Please watch!


For more insight, helpful tips, and FAQ’s we can direct you to some excellent organizations such as the Trans Youth Equality Foundation which is right here in Maine.

The Trans Youth Equality Foundation publishes the top 11 tips for caregivers of gender non-conforming children and youth and we thought it helpful to share those tips with you now.

Top Eleven Tips
  1. The child may not experience their gender as others see them.
  2. This is significant and the child takes it very seriously.
  3. Continue providing unconditional love.
  4. If you feel overwhelmed or under-informed, get support and accurate information. You are not alone!
  5. This isn't about something anyone has done or is doing wrong.
  6. This isn’t about the child’s current or future sexual orientation. Sexual Orientation is unrelated to Gender Identity.
  7. Substantial research indicates that gender identity is hard-wired. It is not a mental or physical illness.
  8. Support the child for who they are today rather than trying to change who they might someday become.
  9. The child, if supported in their gender expression, has every good chance of growing up to be an exceptional and successful person.
  10. Above all, respect the child’s feelings about their gender identity.        
  11. While this may be confusing at first, do not assume the child or youth is confused about their gender identity. They most likely are not.

from the TransActive Education & Advocacy Document Library 

Please refer to the external resources section of our website for more information.  Thank you.