October 02, 2013

With the start of October, many parents across the country will be attending Back-to-School Nights at their children’s schools. The start of the school year can prompt lots of excitement as well as stir up anxiety, not only for students, but for their parents as well. For LGBT parents in particular, this season may be a time of trepidation, as they may be wondering whether their family will be treated equally and with respect: will the emergency contact forms allow for more than one mother? Will their student be the only child with two dads? Will LGBT parents be included in books and lessons about families?

III report coverYou may or may not be familiar with GLSEN’s report (produced in collaboration with COLAGE and Family Equality Council), Involved, Invisible, Ignored: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Parents and Their Children in Our Nation’s K-12 Schools. The report examines and highlights the school experiences of LGBT-headed families using results from surveys of LGBT parents of children in K-12 schools and of secondary students who have LGBT parents. Findings reveal that LGBT parents may be highly engaged in their child’s school, even if they sometimes encounter non-welcoming environments.

LGBT parents said they were highly involved, as LGBT parents were found to be more active in their children’s education than the general population of parents. For instance: 

  • 94% of LGBT parents had attended a Back-to-School Night or parent-teacher conference in the past year, compared to 77% of a national sample of K-12 parents.
  • 41% of LGBT parents of a high school student said they were members of their school’s parent-teacher organization, compared to 26% of the national sample of parents.

Nonetheless, LGBT parents often said that they felt invisible in their child’s school.

  • 15% said their child’s school didn’t acknowledge their family type at least some of the time.
  • 32% said that their child’s school was “not at all” or only “a little” inclusive of LGBT families (see chart below).

families blog chart

Finally, some LGBT parents said that they felt less than welcome or even ignored in their child’s school:

  • 16% said they felt they could not fully participate in their child’s school community.
  • 12% said they did not feel comfortable talking to their child’s teacher about their family.

It’s important that schools are welcoming to ALL families. For resources about including LGBT families in schools, see GLSEN’s Ready, Set, Respect! toolkit for elementary schools or its Unheard Voices lesson plans for secondary schools.

For more information from this report and to access other research about LGBT issues in K-12 education, visit glsen.org/research and follow us on Twitter at @GLSENresearch

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