I currently work for Boston Public Schools’ Office of Equity as an LGBTQ student support intern. I chose this internship because my professional goal is to assist students with marginalized identities in navigating academic and social settings. Much of my student-facing experiences have been centered in supporting more racial and socioeconomic-based inequities within education. This new position will further shape my thinking around intersectional educational inequity and addressing bias based on gender and sexuality, in order to evolve how we support our queer students in educational spaces.
This office investigates issues of harassment and bias, in addition to providing training and counseling around issues of equity. As part of my role, I assist in data collection for our training modules and maintain our social media platforms (Instagram and Discord server). Our social channels are sources for student engagement through which we create space for LGBTQ youth to express their experiences and socialize in monthly check-ins and the end-of-summer Back to School Kick off.
A major moment for us was celebrating LGBTQ pride month and attending the Trans Resistance March in June. The outward expression and unapologetic pride reflected by the number of staff, faculty and students in attendance from Boston Public Schools spoke to the inclusive environment we seek to establish and maintain.
One BPS assistant principal’s key takeaway was that, ultimately, our individual political beliefs should never permeate or even be introduced in our classrooms. She notes, “Our students’ lives are not political. Your personal politics leave when you enter the school building.” I find this significant in how we reimagine education and schooling as a space for all students to learn and grow both academically and personally. Our office works to remind students that they have the right to exist as their full selves as they evolve, and our job as educators is to support and nurture this evolution. We emphasize class culture as a facilitator of support beyond the symbolism of rainbow flags or other superficial signs of support. Rather, we invest in supporting inclusive pedagogical practices. This looks like actively disinvesting in gendered spaces and creating spaces that encourage students to reconsider gender outside of a binary. A basic example of this is in our sexual health curriculum and our adjustments in language and content that move away from boy/girl distinctions, and instead introduce non-binary, intersex and LGBTQ history.
More optimistic future goals will be to move away from strictly gendered bathrooms and provide more agender bathrooms, and changing spaces throughout schools. I find that Boston Public Schools continues to think critically about the protection of LGBTQ employees and students through their district-wide and school policies. Much of the work we do is based off of the feedback we get from students in individual conversations, and our community discussions about how we can better serve our students’ needs as school leaders, administrators, and furthermore as an office .