The Kentucky Department of Education released a new online toolkit for educators to use as resources in supporting students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, asexual, intersex, non-binary and others who are part of the LGBTQI+ community.
The new toolkit resources are collections from the KDE, the U.S. Department of Education and external organizations such as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLADD) and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).
Daviess County Public Schools and Owensboro Public Schools will be using these resources when faced with a student who may need them.
Charles Broughton, the director of student services at DCPS, said schools and counselors within the district have been offered training to better provide response and resources for students who are part of the LGBTQI+ community.
“We are always looking to improve to better serve all students,” he said. “The toolkit will be another resource for our schools, administration and counselors to utilize when assisting students who are experiencing struggles.”
Broughton said that students under the age of 18 are minors and, by law, DCPS is required to keep parents or legal guardians informed of their education, discipline and attendance.
“DCPS counselors are available to all students to provide support, resources and a safe place to discuss concerns or struggles they may be experiencing,” Broughton said. “DCPS has more than doubled the number of mental health professionals on staff in order to better serve the needs of all students across the district.”
Some schools in the DCPS district do have a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club or equivalent offerings. Clubs are student driven and require a staff sponsor and approval by the school level School-Based Decision Making Council (SBDM).
“DCPS administrators, faculty, staff and counselors always work to provide resources and a safe place for all students to share their concerns or struggles,” Broughton said. “That approach will continue.”
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David Phillips, OPS director of diversity, equity and inclusion, said the district will be using the toolkit for additional resources aside from the ones already in use.
“At OPS, we want kids to feel like they have a safe place with any adult in the building,” Phillips said. “Counselors have resources to use and we are working to add resources onto the OPS website.”
Phillips said there is an administrative retreat coming up soon and Damien Sweeney, KDE director of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, will be presenting additional information on the toolkit and more resources related to LGBTQI+ students.
“This toolkit is an additional source to keep us ‘up-to-date’ and have students feel safe,” Phillips said. “OPS does a great job and want students to feel like they can go to any adult in the building and be taken seriously.”
Along with these resources, Phillips said educators within OPS do their best to use the pronouns and names students in the LGBTQI+ wish to go by. Owensboro High School also has a GSA club.
“KDE is committed to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students,” said Jason Glass, KDE commissioner of education. “Educators must be equipped with information and resources that help them understand and respond to issues related to identity in the classroom.”
In a KDE press release about the toolkit, it was reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 34% of LGBTQI+ students experience bullying at school and they are at a greater risk of experiencing personal violence.
In the same press release, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) reported that nearly 60% of LGBTQI+ students feel unsafe at school and are three times as likely to experience absenteeism as a result.
The toolkit can be accessed online at https://education.ky.gov.