Bullying, harassment, and discrimination can also be the result of an incomplete or inaccurate education. A comprehensive education curriculum is of paramount importance because it allows students to see inclusive LGBT representation in multiple academic subject areas. Part of a comprehensive education must include age-appropriate health education to ensure that youth have a clear understanding of their bodies, and health in order to respect themselves and their classmates.
It is particularly important that schools avoid abstinence-only education, which excludes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth from important information and lessons.
- Funding for abstinence-only education is provided only for programs where marriage is strictly defined as a union between one man and one woman, leaving LGBT youth feeling isolated and excluded.
- In abstinence-only programs, LGBT youth are told they simply cannot have healthy, safe or valid sexual experiences, a dangerous myth with far-reaching, negative consequences.
- Students are not provided with accurate information about the health benefits of condoms and other methods to reduce the risk of STDs.
Many states and school districts are leading the way to becoming fully inclusive. California’s Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act is a great example of how schools integrate age-appropriate and accurate LGBT history and social studies lessons.
An appropriate, comprehensive education curriculum should:
- Include age-appropriate information
- Not teach or promote a religious perspective
- Provide historical facts about LGBT people
- Include the rich perspectives of underrepresented groups of people, including LGBT communities.
Remember when developing your curriculum that parents overwhelmingly support teaching about sexual orientation at school. Three out of four parents feel comfortable speaking to their children about sexual orientation, but are unlikely to raise the topic on their own.
What Does Gay Mean: How to Talk with Kids about Sexual Orientation (San Francisco, CA: Horizons Foundation, 2001)
The GSA Network is an organization dedicated to proving schools with tools aimed at helping schools start and maintain Gay Straight Alliances (GSA) and other inclusive youth led clubs. The GSA Network has also developed lessons and other resources designed for teachers and educators. Visit www.gsanetwork.org/fair for more information. Not in California? Find a lesson plan you can share with your schools and communities.
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) provides education and information about sexuality and sexual and reproductive health.
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