Gender Training for Schools

Why Gender Specific Training?

Given the alarming statistics associated with transgender students, and the increasing number of families supporting their gender nonconforming children, it could be presumed that a great deal of attention is being given to this subject in teacher preparation programs and professional development. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Furthermore, in the rare cases when training is provided, issues related to gender are typically subsumed under the umbrella of more general LGBT programs that pay little attention to the very different concepts related to gender and youth.

Training and resources that specifically address student gender are critical for a variety of reasons. From their earliest years, children are aware of gender, both their own and others’. Schools working intentionally to remain open to and celebrate gender in all of its variety create an inclusive environment in which all forms of diversity can thrive. Given the data indicating that gender is frequently at the root of various forms of student harassment, training dedicated to the creation of a gender inclusive school is the ultimate anti-bullying program.

Furthermore, schools embarking on a program of gender inclusion training meet their legal obligation for ensuring that staff members are prepared to meet the needs of all students. In many states, language explicitly calls for training related to gender and gender identity; even in states where such requirements don’t exist, districts’ obligations to protect students’ access to a safe learning environment make training a necessity.

The Role of Adults

In order for schools to become truly gender inclusive, it requires all adult members of the community to take responsibility for the safety of all children regardless of their gender characteristics. Moving from the notion of gender as a binary concept to a more expansive understanding of the complex nature of the gender spectrum only occurs with a concerted effort by all adult stakeholders of a school.

School Leaders: A critical step in the staff training work is to engage the formal leadership of the school. While this may seem self-evident, the importance of this component cannot be emphasized enough.  The school leader’s approval of and advocacy for a more gender inclusive culture serves to create the supportive conditions all staff need for effectively fulfilling the school’s gender non-discrimination commitments.  The site leader’s explicit expectation for a safe and supportive school for all children, and the insistence that all adults on campus are responsible for insuring it, is imperative. The gender inclusive school leader asks not “If we will do this” but rather “how will we do this?” Finally, leaders set such a tone by addressing openly questions and concerns that supervisors, parents, or staff may raise. See Top 10 Questions Parents Will Ask for additional language for responding to families’ questions.

Teachers & Staff: Probably no group has a greater impact on the creation of a safe and inclusive campus climate than the adult staff. Whether the secretary in the front office, the custodian at lunch, teachers in classrooms, or supervisors on the yard, any adult who works on a school campus has the opportunity and the responsibility for insuring all students’ physical and emotional wellbeing. As the individuals who set the tone of what will or will not be tolerated on the campus, staff members establish the expectations students will follow. Well trained staff who effectively implement gender inclusive practices are the foundation of a safe school for all students. See Teaching About Gender Identity and Fluidity in Elementary School for one teacher’s reflections on the need and potential for such training.

Parents: While a school’s leadership and staff create the foundation for gender inclusiveness, families reinforce its importance at home. However, like educators, most parents or guardians have little or no experience with gender diversity, nor the language for working with their children. As with any effective effort, a partnership between home and school is crucial for the creation of gender inclusive campus environment. As parents get trained around issues specific to gender, they not only build their capacity to support their own children, they also create a powerful sense of community commitment to gender inclusion for all students. See Discussing Gender for ways in which parents can address issues of gender in everyday life.

Training Design and Sequence

Gender Spectrum offers comprehensive programs and resources to create more gender inclusive schools (Gender Spectrum Training Overview). Working collaboratively with school communities, our mission is to create safe climates in which all students can thrive as they grow and learn. We accomplish this mission by partnering with the school’s leadership to design a sequence of activities that will ultimately lead to deeper understanding about gender, children and youth, and the necessary skills to take action accordingly. Training programs are tailored to your school’s specific objectives, and may be comprised of one, several, or all of the following components:

Comprehensive Educational Workshop Package

A.    Leadership Consultation and Assessment
B.    Teacher and Staff Training I
C.    Teacher and Staff Training II
D.    Parent Education
E.    Age-appropriate Student Education
F.    Additional Services and Support

For a more detailed description of these workshops and other components, please read our Gender Spectrum Training Overview.

Training Benefits

Many schools and organizations understand the importance of addressing sexism or cultural diversity in their environments, and yet do not completely understand or address issues of diverse gender identity and expression. They may unknowingly support discriminatory practices — practices based predominantly on personal beliefs rather than current, evidence-based information and policy. We are committed to helping you eliminate discrimination. Our trainings provide accurate, up-to-date, accessible information regarding the best practices you can implement to make positive changes in your environment.

Additionally, our trainings address the educational and environmental influences that impact gender non-conforming children and teens, and how these influence self esteem and development. We help your administrators, teachers, staff and personnel move from awareness to action in order to create more inclusive and productive environments. A proactive approach to gender identity awareness and education enables these children to flourish — achieving a more holistic, confident sense of self.

Working within the specifics and distinctions of your school or agency, we will address both theory and practice. Our educators will help you navigate gender-specific issues such as camping trips, uniforms, bathrooms, and more. We can assist you with the practical applications and concerns that arise when working within a gender diverse community.

See Teaching About Gender Identity and Fluidity in Elementary School for one teacher’s reflections on the need and potential for such training.  
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