U.K. Boarding Schools Have Been Told To Adopt Gender Neutral Uniforms, And Hopefully The U.S. Will Follow Suit
Dress codes have been getting plenty of attention lately as an increasing number of students protest their sexist double standards, but for once, there is some good news on the subject. In the U.K., boarding schools have been advised to adopt gender neutral uniforms in order to avoid discriminating against LGBT pupils, the Independent reports. In fact, the Boarding Schools Association was even told to train teachers in LGBT sensitivity as part of their continuing education. Quick — if you listen closely, you can hear the sounds of everyone at Fox News tearing their hair out. Isn't it a wonderful day to be alive?The Boarding Schools Association even invited the advice: they called in Elly Barnes, CEO of the anti-discrimination charity Educate and Celebrate, to give a talk on how to make their schools more LGBT friendly. Unsurprisingly, she had quite a few things to say on the subject, and pretty much all of it will make you jump up and down, possibly while stabbing a finger at your computer screen and shouting "THIS." First up was, of course, uniforms:"
If it’s all right for a girl to wear trousers, why should a boy not be allowed to wear a skirt," she said. "We should be giving them the option."
<img alt="" src="http://media.giphy.com/media/vYGsUUBVbWVBC/giphy.gif" class="article-body-image" title="Image: http://media.giphy.com/media/vYGsUUBVbWVBC/giphy.gif"/>She went on to speak about educating teachers on how to address homophobia and other LGBT concerns in the classroom. Many teachers will not have received training on the subject, she claims, and as a result they may not feel comfortable handling issues as they come up. "Having the training is an essential part of their continuous professional development (CPD)” she said. “They need the confidence to embrace the new language."
Furthermore, she pointed out that it isn't enough to stop at not being homophobic; it's up to schools to reduce the stigma associated with LGBT families by including positive examples of children with "two mamas" or "two daddies." For example, "there should be displays on the walls celebrating different families." Barnes also suggested that teachers cover LGBT history along with other civil rights movements. "It could be part of maths lessons, English lessons, science lessons... In the same way as you teach about the Holocaust and the yellow stars worn by the Jewish community, you could look at the significance of the black and the pink triangle," she said. It's an important point to make; a 2009 survey by GLSEN found that less than 20 percent of U.S. students reported learning about LGBT-related topics in school, and barely a tenth of students reported positive representation. On the other hand, the same survey found that LGBT students who went to schools with a positive view of LGBT history were less likely to be bullied or feel unsafe. Clearly, representation matters, and Barnes knows it. "We can't ignore one part of the people who are around us," she told the council. "One in 10 people identify as being LGBT. They shouldn't feel they can't be part of the community."
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There's no word yet on whether the council will put all of these suggestions to use, but it's a promising sign that they invited Barnes to speak in the first place. If only we could get schools in the U.S. to follow suit... Although judging from the reasons schools have been in the news lately, that might take a while.
Images: Jaap Joris/Flickr, Giphy