Educators Conflicted on LGBT Issues, Survey Shows
Transgender students make up a relatively small slice of the student population. But so-called “bathroom bills” involving their rights to access facilities have led to some heated discussions in schools.
Educators surveyed by the Education Week Research Center were essentially evenly divided on the issue of transgender students and restrooms.
Forty-nine percent thought they should use the restroom corresponding to the gender of their birth.
“Because I’m a conservative, to me it’s common sense,” said Jason Tackett, a teacher at Herald Whitaker Middle School in Kentucky’s Magoffin County. “If you have a boy body part, you should use the boy bathroom.”
But 51 percent agreed that transgender students should use the restroom that matches their gender identity.
Anna Bertucci, the associate head of school at Oakwood Friends School, a Quaker boarding school in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., said the restroom issue isn’t as important as some other issues that transgender students wrestle with.
“We worry about the bathroom because we’re so worried about genitalia,” Bertucci said. Schools should let children use the restroom of their gender identity, she said, but also “we should be looking at depression and suicide rates of transgender students.”
Transgender students make up less than 1 percent of teenagers ages 13 to 17 according to the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law.
Identifying Themselves to Students
The Education Week Research Center surveyed a nationally representative sample of teachers, school-based leaders, and district leaders about their politics and views on a wide range of K-12 issues. The 38-question survey was administered in September and October to 1,122 educators including 555 teachers, 266 school leaders, 202 district leaders, and 99 other school or district employees. The margin of error for the survey overall was plus or minus 5 percent. Followup interviews involved survey respondents who agreed to be contacted after the survey and were willing to be quoted on a range of subjects.
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There was more agreement on another issue: whether LGBT teachers should be allowed to be “out” to their students. Forty-seven percent of educators surveyed said such teachers should be allowed to share their sexual preference with their students. Only 10 percent completed opposed that, and another 8 percent “somewhat” opposed.
Bertucci was emphatic that teachers should be able to share those details with their students.
“I feel like that’s a part of their identity as a human being,” she said. “They shouldn’t have to hide a part of their social identity because it might offend someone.”
And James Frank, the principal of Crest Ridge High School in Centerview, Mo., said educators can mention same-sex partners to their students if that’s something they’re comfortable with and it is handled appropriately.
“I’ve had gay and lesbian teachers who have been out to their students and others who felt like they couldn’t come out to their students,” he said. “We expect teachers to be professional.”
But Laura Hansen, a reading specialist in Hampstead, N.H., said she isn’t sure that school is an appropriate place for conversations about sexual identity of any kind.
“I don’t think our sexuality is any of students’ business. Straight or gay,” she said.