Now more than ever, we need to make schools an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ students worldwide.
By Giulia Leo / Matthew staff || Edited by Eleonora Prior
On Monday Sept. 26, the Public Affairs Office and the Rome Youth Council of the Embassy of the United States of America hosted the event “#SafeSpace: Letting Diversity Flourish in Schools.” The event took place at Circolo di Cultura Omosessuale Mario Mieli, and it featured guest speaker Joe Kosciw, Director of GLSEN Research Institute.
GLSEN is an education organization founded in 1990 aimed at the development of positive learning environments for LGBTQ+ youth. In order to achieve their goal, they conduct research and come up with evidence-based solutions, create resources for educators, and advocate for policies that protect and support marginalized students. One of the organization’s most important achievements is the creation of the GLSEN National School Climate Survey, a 2019 report on the experience of LGBTQ+ students in terms of their well-being, the challenges they encounter, and the availability and usefulness of school resources.
GLSEN’s research demonstrates that 4 out of 5 LGBTQ+ students feel unsafe in schools because of a personal characteristic, be it sexual orientation, gender, body size, or disability. The same percentage of students experience identity-based harassment and assault based on sexual orientation and gender expression. Such acts of victimization and discrimination are both associated with poorer academic outcomes, as well as greater levels of depression, and lower levels of self-esteem.
Together with highlighting the effects of a hostile climate in schools on LGBTQ+ students, GLSEN’s report also calls attention to the four most effective forms of support: educated teachers, inclusive curricula, protective school policies, and school clubs or initiatives for LGBTQ+ students. Where those resources were implemented, the percentage of negative school experiences went down, simultaneously the rate of positive mental health and educational outcomes went up.
However, most LGBTQ+ students still don’t have access to those resources. To make an example, in Italy, 45.1% of the interviewed students were disappointed with the way LGBTQ+ topics were taught, and only 19.2% agreed that 6 or more members of the school personnel were supportive of LGBTQ+ students.
The urgency for the implementation of resources for LGBTQ+ students in Italy is even higher in the historical moment the country is entering, with the election of new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (which, ironically, was officialized on the same day as the event). Meloni says “yes to the natural family, no to the LGBTQ+ lobby, yes to sexual identity, no to gender identity, yes to the culture of life, no to that of death-” a statement where, paradoxically, the word “death” seems to allude to abortion, and “life” to the continuation of a woman’s pregnancy regardless of the mother’s impossibility to carry through with it, or of the dynamics of the conception.
In a context where the (few) conquests of the LGBTQ+ community are being threatened, we need to regain faith in a brighter future. Now more than ever, we need to work on building a bigger and better support system for all marginalized people, and this process must begin in school. Now more than ever, Italy –as well as the rest of the world- needs to make schools a safer and more inclusive environment for all students, without exceptions.
Find out more about GLSEN’s work and access their resources at: www.glsen.org/.