High school is tough, but now at least there is this guide for school dances that supports LGBTQI students who might otherwise feel marginalized by traditions and attitudes of their communities. The guide was released by the Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SSCA), which is a government-funded group that works towards preventing bullying and promoting inclusivity for LGBTQI students in schools, and provides resources and training to over 450 Australian schools. The mission of the guide is as follows:
"School formals, deb balls and school dances can be an exciting time for senior students. For same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students however, participating in school events may not always bring the same level of excitement and in fact might be a source of anxiety or fear. This is a quick guide to the policy and practice that can help make your school event safe, inclusive and fun for all students."
Twenty-year-old Ellie Rogers, speaking to BuzzFeed News about being discriminated against by her school when she tried to bring a girl to her school formal as her date, said, “I know of a lot of people who didn’t try [to bring a same-sex partner] just because of the ambiguity of their school’s policy. Young people in my experience are really very chill, this is 100 percent a problem with the school and with the system."
Here are some of the rules of the SSCA guide that aim to combat discrimination and empower young LGBTQ people to feel welcome and comfortable at school dances:
1. Early Planning
"Making the event fun for everyone should be a part of the planning and discussion process."
In the planning process, it is the school district's responsibility to review dance policies and remove anything that might be discriminatory.
3. Dress Code
"Work to ensure the dress code is inclusive by allowing students to express their identity in whatever way makes them comfortable within reason."
"If students are permitted to bring someone to the event, make sure your policy explicitly states that all partners and friends of students are welcome, including partners or friends of the same sex or gender."
5. No Discrimination
"Students and staff should be aware that negative language, homophobic or transphobic bullying and bad behaviour in general will not be tolerated at the event, or in the lead up to the event."
6. Event Promotion
All event promotion should be inclusive of all students regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
7. Getting It Right On The Night
"Hold a meeting with the staff, chaperones and other adults supervising the event and ensure they are all aware of your event’s policy around supporting gender diversity and sexual diversity. This group should also be given guidance on how to address any homophobic or transphobic behaviour that they may witness at the event."
School districts across the world, take note — we should all be following their lead.