An overview of the legal landscape gives administrators, educators, parents, and students more awareness of the law, as they work to create safe and supportive school environments for all. He wanted to be treated like a human. Eighty-two percent of respondents support job or career skills classes – even if it means some students might spend less time on academics. Coming out, however, didn’t improve his situation. Overall, schools can use the guide to help create a more welcoming environment that will increase the safety, engagement, and inclusion of every student.
He recalls the principal saying, “I just Googled what this meant and I’m wondering what you want?” The answers were easy. Only 6 % rated standardized tests as the “most important” factor in determining school quality. He wanted to live an honest life. The resource includes guidelines for meeting the needs of transgender students, addressing issues like names, pronouns, and confidentiality; restroom and locker room access; sports; and harassment or bullying. She would approach him and ask if he needed to talk. “As soon as you have an adult on your side it validates you,” he shares. Baum states that “the guide is focused on transgender students but throughout the report we talk about how important it is to create gender-inclusive conditions for every child because all kids are impacted by some of the limitations we’ve imposed on them related to gender.” He adds, “If you wear the wrong clothes and someone makes fun of them—you become a target and there could be some real challenges.” The information in the guide is presented in an easy-to-read framework, offering information on basic concepts, including definitions for gender-expansive, transgender, and gender nonconforming. He felt alienated.
The lack of confidence in standardized tests can be attributed to the public’s growing unease over the narrow path our schools have been forced to follow over the past 15 years. To help the school community, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Gender Spectrum, along with HRC Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Education Association, recently produced Schools In Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools. A majority of Americans opposes using taxpayer funds to pay for private school tuition and supports a reduced role for standardized tests. Dov Rosenberg, an educator from Durham Public Schools in North Carolina who joined his state walkouts, said they are taking action for the students who are not getting what they deserve and that parents and teachers want the same thing for their students. He wanted acceptance. Author Orr states that “often times schools will say, ‘This is our first transgender kid,’ but we say this is the first one you know about.” The van Kuilenburgs eventually moved to Maryland so Nicola could be closer to work.
Presented with this detail, opposition to vouchers surged to 61%. In addition, when told that a voucher system either could help public schools by making them compete or hurt them by reducing their funding, support for only funding public schools increases to 67%, compared to 26% support for vouchers – a 41-point gap. Unchartered Territory Three years ago, van Kuilenburg found himself sitting in the principal’s office of his West Virginia middle school. Support for standardized testing as a measure of student success continues to decline. According to the poll, 42% see student performance on standardized tests as “highly important,” scoring significantly lower than art and music classes, extracurriculars, advanced academics, career-focused technology and engineering classes, and interpersonal skills. Given the current spotlight on vouchers, PDK dug a little deeper on the issue this year, asking respondents if they supported using public funds to pay for religious private school tuition. This was received without fanfare and an increasing number of school boards across the country are following suit. “They just need more information,” she says, emphasizing that the Schools in Transition guide has been helpful.
Professional development is key in helping to create a more welcoming environment and helping students discover who they are in a respectful and inclusive manner. Orr explains that people are hesitant to take on this issue because this is unchartered territory. “It’s not that they don’t want to do it. There is no plan for him. Otherwise, a transgender student will sit in silence. He wanted to feel comfortable in his own skin. When van Kuilenburg’s mom, Nicola, first spoke to the school administration, they informed her that they had no idea what to do. Teachers, parents, and students need to be educated, as reports from around the country continue to show parents protesting schools for allowing students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, or, in extreme cases, parents are bullying children.
They don’t know how to respond…and they need tools to figure it out,” he says. When harassed by peers, many adults would ignore the behavior, which left him feeling unprotected. He is doing well, too, and is more involved in school activities. Orr hopes the guide will serve as a tool to help people better understand the issue and ease some of their concerns. He wanted his teachers to ask him how he was doing. And it will be a lifesaver for the increasing number of transgender students who are living as their authentic selves.
How wide is the disconnect between the public and the current administration on what should and shouldn’t be done to strengthen our schools? According to the 2017 Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, the gap is significant. According to the 2017 PDK survey, a majority of Americans oppose using public funds to pay for private schools. A Roadmap Many advocates say that progress has been made, but more still needs to be done. Furthermore, 82% see technology and engineering classes as “extremely or very important” measures of school quality. “Taken as a whole, the American public is saying it thinks public education has tilted too far in pushing or emphasizing academics to the detriment of vocational or career skills classes,” Starr added. “They support the academic mission but they also want local schools to position students for their working lives after school.” Click to Enlarge The PDK poll also reveals high level levels of support for “wraparound services,” such as health and after-school programs – a central tenet of the community school model that is taking root across the nation. It also outlines best practices for working with unsupportive parents.
If a student makes an insensitive comment, teachers will pull him aside and ask if he’s okay. And it’s always a little scary because no one knows how these things will turn out, but so far we’ve had 100 percent success in that every place where teachers have raised their voices and thrown on their #RedForEd T-shirts and gone to the public, they’ve won support. [It’s about ending] the absolute neglect of education funding and giving kids the programs and services they need.” People are hearing what educators have been saying for years: There is much more that should be done to support public education. He knew some students and educators were talking about him. NEA’s Bully Free: It Starts With Me campaign asks you to take the Bully Free pledge and identify yourself as one caring adult. It also leads to severe dehydration. And while most reported that they had one supportive school staff member, fewer respondents could identify 11 or more. Ninety-two percent favor after-school programs, and 87% support providing mental health services to students who can’t get this help outside of school.
Large majorities also said schools should offer certificate or licensing programs that qualify students for employment upon graduation. This prevents him from being fully engaged in the classroom—half-listening to a lesson. Starr says it’s clear from the results that homework market the public wants balance. “Americans want a course correction.” Here are some additional highlights from the 2017 PDK International poll: 49% of Americans give their local public schools an A or B grade. NEA President Lily Eskelesen García has hailed this first-of-its-kind resource as a lifesaver, as it comes at a time when schools are increasingly called upon to include and uphold transgender students. “NEA is proud to be a co-author of Schools in Transition, a first-of-its kind guide to supporting transgender students in K-12 schools,” said García in a joint press release from partnering organizations. “This publication is an extremely valuable resource for the three million NEA members who work tirelessly to assure that their schools and classrooms are safe and welcoming for all students. Only when every school provides an inclusive, respectful environment can every student achieve their full potential.” The lead co-authors—Asaf Orr, transgender youth staff attorney for NCLR, and Joel Baum, senior director of professional development and family services for Gender Spectrum—say there must be more conversation and awareness around this issue so every student can thrive. But the PDK survey notes that this may “reflect a socially desirable answer,” instead of a commitment to act or support policies that might decrease segregation.
This resulted in a hastily prepared plan. An overwhelming percentage also want local school districts to provide “wraparound services” and favors increased funding to pay for them. “These and other results suggest that some of the most prominent ideas that dominate current policy debates – from supporting vouchers to emphasizing high-stakes tests – are out of step with parents’ main concern: They want their children prepared for life and career after they complete high school,” said Joshua P. Around this time, Nicola crossed into Maryland to serve as UniServ director for the Maryland State Education Association, and she believes the vast majority of members are not transphobic or bigoted. Starr, the chief executive officer of PDK International. But his story is not all about school bathrooms. He wanted acknowledgment that he had changed in a positive way.
The public believes it is highly important for schools to help students develop interpersonal skills, such as being cooperative, respectful of others, and problem-solving. It’s about school climate and the role educators play in creating a safe and welcoming environment for all students. One caring adult can make all the difference. It hasn’t been enough for decades. “Parents, the public, have all marched with their educators in support of more funding for education.” Eskelsen García said. “They’re asking, ‘What do you mean you have to pay for your own supplies? What do you mean you have 40 students in classrooms?’” Panelist Kathereine Strunk, a researcher at the University of Michigan, said we know that kids who miss school on a day unexpectedly miss learning. “If you miss five days of school for a snow day you miss learning,” she said. “We expect to see studies about kids and learning loss from strikes. These are not costless to them.” Educators walkouts have resulted in more funding for students, Eskelsen García responded, but said she’s never seen kids win a million dollars for their school after a snow day.
It’s energizing. Today, van Kuilenburg attends a high school where he is “stealth,” which means very few know he is transgender. But this move also provided the teen with an opportunity to start fresh. If the question is expanded to include religious schools as an option, opposition rises to 61 percent. Seven percent expect their child to seek a full-time job after high school. (photo: Joe Brusky) At the panel discussion on educator walkouts at the National Education Writers Association (EWA) conference this week, NEA President Lily Eskelsen García was asked what was driving this unprecedented activism happening across the country, including the latest action in Oregon this week. “A moment in West Virginia became a movement,” Eskelsen García said. “It is inspiring. The GLSEN survey also reveals that 62 percent of the respondents who reported harassment and assault said school staff was unresponsive. He was 12-years old and had just shared his gender identity with the principal.
According to the PDK survey, by a margin of 52% to 39%, Americans oppose this idea, consistent with results from previous year’s polls. It distinguishes between gender identity and sexual orientation, which, says Baum, can be often confused as having the same meaning. She’s worked with several local leaders to include gender identity in their non-discrimination policy. His teachers are nice and mindful, and he finds that people are more willing to learn. For example, very few parents say they would accept a longer commute for their children to attend a more diverse school. 61% of public school parents expect their child to attend college full time, while 22% expect a mix of part-time study and part-time work. Where does a potential national expansion of private school vouchers fit in?
Vouchers have never been a popular idea with the American public who have long recognized the danger of siphoning off money for public schools to pay for private school tuition. Their research emphasizes that having school support is a critical component to the success of all students. NEA will provide you with tools and resources for making your school safe and welcoming for all students. There are still some challenges to his school day, but for the most part, he says, “it’s a lot better.” Baum understands how challenging this can be for schools and how challenging it can be initially to imagine taking this on, but schools can do this. “It’s consistent with what we’ve done all along as educators: to meet the needs of kids…and create better learning conditions where everyone feels safe and respected.” Resources Download the Schools in Transition guide to find the best way to support students. But he certainly would have felt better had the school staff been prepared with training.
Van Kuilenburg’s “one” was a school counselor. He no longer wanted to cringe and suffer when someone used the wrong pronoun or the name assigned to him at birth. He just goes to school everyday. “I walk around like any other students,” he says. Professional Development While the school experience in West Virginia was unpleasant, van Kuilenburg isn’t bitter about how the middle school handled his coming out. Among public school parents, the approval increases to 62%. 70% of parents say they’d prefer to have their child in a racially diverse school, including equal numbers of whites and nonwhites.
The guide is a roadmap for educators and parents to provide safe and supportive environments for all transgender students, offering practical advice, field-tested tips, and narratives of real experiences from students and educators. By overwhelming margins, Americans want schools to educate students more than just academically.