Parents

Talking with school administrators

School administrators, particularly principals and vice principals, play a large role in the health and safety of children and youth. Their work involves maintaining and improving on the systems in place to make the school community a safe and productive one for students, educators and parents. The following are some tips to help in discussing LGBTQ inclusion and safety with your school’s administration.

1. Do your homework

Before your meeting with an administrator, do some research into existing school policies regarding sexual orientation and gender identity or more generally, inclusive education. Are these explicitly protected within the code of conduct? How well is the school doing this? If you can’t find anything, ask the administrator in your meeting what is in place to foster a safe, more inclusive and welcoming school climate specifically for LGBTQ youth, and families. Also, consider researching board policy as well as that of your provincial/territorial Ministry of Education. In Ontario for example, every school is required to have an equity and inclusive education policy in place.

For further discussion regarding policy, check out the Tips for Getting an LGBTQ Inclusive Policy at your School Board document.

2. Ask yourself, “What do I want out of this?”

Before your meeting with the school administrator, consider exactly what you wish to discuss and the outcomes you desire from such a conversation. Do you want improvements to the policy and code of conduct at the school, support for your child in forming a GSA or student-led safe space group, more school-wide representation of LGBTQ themes, or something else? Consider making a list of desired outcomes to help stay on track.

3. Be ready to help

It’s a good idea to come prepared to a meeting with the school administrator, so consider bringing resources and examples related to what you’re discussing. If you plan to talk about supporting your child and other students who want to form a GSA or student-led safe space group, consider bringing information on what these groups are and how they’re developed. Refer them to the Information for Administrators section of the Equity and Inclusive Education Resource Kit for Ontario Schools on MyGSA.ca. If you want to talk about equity, inclusive education and making the school environment safe, consider bringing in some examples of safe schools posters and materials (see MyGSA.ca's Shop Site for examples of these).

4. Take notes

It’s a great idea to keep dated notes regarding what was said in meetings with administrators. If you, or an administrator, make a commitment, make a note so that you can follow-up later. If you wish to make a formal request to an administrator, it may even be a good idea to write them a letter or another type of document detailing your request.

5. Assess your risks

Before beginning a conversation with your administrator, it’s important to assess the potential outcomes of that conversation, and what you and your family are comfortable with. For instance, is there a risk that this conversation could lead to anyone in your family being unintentionally “outed” at school or in the community? Could your child face bullying? Will you be asking the administrator to keep certain things in confidence, or would you rather they work to spread the message throughout the school? Take some time to assess your risks and determine what you’re comfortable with. Then plan accordingly.

6. Seek a support network

It’s important to feel supported in all your dealings with your child’s school. If you know of other LGBTQ families or groups in your community, consider reaching out to them for discussion and support. Find out if anyone else has approached the administration regarding LGBTQ inclusion, and what the results of that conversation were. As well, consider whether or not you’ll be scheduling meetings alone or with a supportive partner or friend. We at MyGSA.ca encourage you to reach out to us at mygsa@egale.ca for help and support!