How should schools address homosexuality

Recently I’ve seen a lot of debate about how schools should handle issues related to homosexuality.

A lot of people would like to see it not mentioned at all, but I don’t think that is really possible. We must acknowledge the reality that gay students exist. Most high schools have at least a couple out students, and plenty more that will come out in the years after high school. Straight culture gets a lot of attention in schools (what are proms after all?) and homosexual students need a way to participate in these activities, too. The issue of harrasment also comes up. Students need at least some education about homosexuality just so that they don’t believe every myth that they encounter. A lot of sex education is just that- debunking myths. Kids believe a lot of wierd things, and they ought to be set straight, so to speak. Finally, most sex education classes do address the issue of families (ours was usually called "family life’). Now gay families do exist. Some of these students will have gay families in the future. Why should gay families get any less attention than straight families?

I don’t see these as teaching values or politics, I see them teaching realities.

So how should schools address homosexuality. Should it be talked about up front? If you don’t think it should, what should happen if the subject comes up- let’s say a students asks a question about homosexuality in her sex ed class, or a students comes to parents night with two dads and faces a lot of puzzlment from her peers? What about school sponsered functions like proms or “cutest couple” awards? How should harrasment be handled?

I hope this thread doesn’t turn in to a train wreck, which it easily could. I am really searching for some answers and maybe some common ground.

I believe that schools must take a very honest, very non-judgemental approach to homosexuality. Do not discuss the religious situation regarding it. Discuss the facts about the existence of gays, the fact that they have families, etc… Kids spend far more time in school than they do with their parents. Closeted gay children could be greatly helped if at least at school they every once in awhile heard something that was non-condemnational about homosexuality.

Having a teacher in the sex ed or family ed class discuss that homosexuality is normal for a small subset of people might make the difference between suicide and life for a troubled, closeted teen, and that alone is worth making the religious bigots squirm in the seats.



This rubs me the wrong way and I’m not sure why. I guess to start I’m not really sure what you mean by straight culture. Most of the events I can remember from high school didn’t focus on heterosexual or homosexual students. I suppose things like socials (dances) might be said to give more attention to heterosexuals.

Maybe heterosexuals get most of the attention because the vast majority of students are in fact heterosexuals.


I think you have a valid point.


Because there are a lot more straight families? I’m not knocking teaching that gay families exist. I just don’t see any real reason why they should get equal time.


I think homosexuality should be addressed during sex education. And I think sex education should be taught around 5th or 6th grade.


Harassment based on sexuality should be handled in whatever way they handle other forms of harassment. If students are puzzled about things they can always ask their parents for information. And as far as school sponsered events go I think for the most part you’ll continue to see the heterosexual viewpoints more then others.


By “straight culture”, I guess I really meant dating in general. Dating is a major part of high school, and plenty of officially sanctioned events facilitate or encourage dating (dances, cute couple awards, “secret crush” pages in the yearbook, teacher recognizing relationships publically, all manner of pairing people up during rallies and the like). Because homosexuality has been really unwelcome in schools for the most part, these activities are geared towards straightness (even silly things like electing a prom queen and king are still about straightness). While I am not opposed to straightness in schools or anything like that (I’d never dream of getting rid of the prom king!), I am intersted in how what we do with homosexual students in the face of these traditions. Do we exclude them? Do we ignore them? Do we intergrate them? Do we give them their own events?

I’m not really talking about equal time as much as equal consideration. As in we talk about straight families to the degree that it will affect students, and so we ought to talk about gay families in the same manner…not neccesarily for the same amount of time. If we are on the subject of family types, it makes sense to discuss gay family types in the same way you’d discuss another family type. It’s not about equal time- it is about mentioning the subject if it is relevent. I don’t have a way to do this without a double negative, but…it’s about not not mentioning gay families.

You’d be surpised at how many people believe that the simple fact that gay families exist should never be mentioned.

Any problem with treating school-age children like younger adults?

As in:

“You’re free to think what you want. So are others. You are prohibited from treating others in ways prohibited by the rules we operate under (=the laws, in adult parallel). You are not free to spread falsehoods that malign others.”

Of course, this would mean that the mentality of school administrators, which for 95% of those I’ve encountered seems to be one of “everything not mandated is forbidden,” would have to change.

MGibson: I feel fairly sure that “equal time” in the post you quoted did not mean literally equal, but simply a fair representation of a minority view. I think Kirk has a very valid point regarding the emotional state of the gay students.

And one final thought: I’ve noted several articles recently where an out gay young man was named as homecoming king or prom king – apparently several different people. I think that left to themselves on the issue, the kids will eventually come to a standard of acceptance that is far better than anything legislated upon them.


While I do hope that homosexuals become more welcome at schools I still think most activities will be geared towards straightness.


Well gay students can still be elected king or queen of the prom especially since those two don’t have to be a couple. I’d have a problem with seperate school events for students based on things like race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Seperate but equal just isn’t a viable option these days.


If you’re not spending as much time then you’re not talking about it to the same degree.

No, I don’t think I’d be surprised.


I don’t see why they should be. It is not the place of the educational system to promote a heterosexual lifestyle. It doesn’t matter that most students are heterosexual; most American students are also Christians, but it would be inappropriate for a public school to gear most of its activities towards Christianity or to exclude practicioners of other religions.

Personally I think it would be to everyone’s benefit if public schools did away with things like official school dances and prom courts altogether, but if these events are to remain in place they must treat the issue of sexual orientation with complete neutrality.

When I was in high school just a few years ago many schools sponsored a once-a-year “backwards dance” or “girls ask boys dance”, thus managing to be both sexist and heterosexist at the same time! The standard policy for all dances was that they were open to all students of that particular school, and students might also each bring one “outsider” as a guest. Fair enough, except that sometimes same-sex guests were denied entry. I had friends who had to resort to elaborate date-switching plans (“Okay, you get Mary in and I’ll get Joe in”) so they could bring their same-sex dates or even platonic same-sex friends. Heck, during the dance unit in my gym class girls were expressly forbidden to dance with other girls, despite the fact that girls in the class outnumbered boys by more than 2:1. This meant that instead of spending the entire period actually practicing dance steps and getting a bit of exercise, all girls spent at least half of it cooling their heels by the wall. The least popular/attractive ones sometimes spent the entire period that way. My youngest sister is still in high school, and apparently none of these things have changed – and this is in a district that has often been blasted on these very boards for its excessively liberal policies!


No, it isn’t the place of the educational system to promote heterosexual lifestyle. And for the most part I don’t think schools support heterosexuality on purpose. There’s probably a lot of assumptions by everybody that when a guy buys two prom tickets he’s bringing a female companion.


From what I remember most of the holidays we had off corresponded with Christian holidays. Christmans, Easter, and Good Friday are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.


I see no compelling reason to end school dances and other social events. Nobody has to attend and much of the student body and staff enjoys these events. As for being completely nuetral on sexual orientation I think we can realistically expect the same rules to apply to everyone.


I can’t say I’m offended at the concept of Sadie Hawkings type dances.


That sucks and I certainly agree that shouldn’t be the policy.


You really should lighten up a little. School dances are supposed to be fun.

If kids want to bring their gay dates to the prom, got for it. Hey, its not my thing, but whatever. Its not the schools place to stop it.

Uh huh. I am in college now, and have never heard anyone speak fondly of their high school dances. Mostly I’ve heard people complain about how much money they ended up spending just to have a wretched time. As best as I can tell, school-sponsored dances are almost universally huge wastes of time, money, and other resources that could be better spent on things that are actually of some educational benefit, or at least things that are genuinely enjoyable. But this is perhaps a subject for another thread.

I would like to see a general downplaying of “couplehood” at schoool functions, period–I think that schools send a message that couplehood is the ultimate goal of all people, and I don’t think that’s healthy. For example, in my High School prom tickes were only sold in pairs: The message was pretty clear that prom was the sort of thing only people who could get dates were qualified to go. This irrittes me to no end.

If a high school were to dodge the whole issue by taking a stance that they don’t officially acknowledge romantic relationships of any kind between students, I would be OK with it, although that sort of issue dodging normally irritates me. I know too many adults who think that being single is an unabigiously negative thing, and some of them had ended up in very bad relationships as a result.

Done and done

Schools obcess over the lunch menu. And rightfully so.

Baby steps are in order for this one. And I’m not talking about years, I’m talking generations.

There are still people who are trying to get used to sex education in schools at all. Homosexual sex education might be a very tall order even in 2002. I think the majority of people think (now don’t get on me, I’m just saying) that homosexuality is other-than-normal behavior.

Other-than-normal behavior takes a long time to get into the curriculum at the local middle school.

My view? Teaching the existence and basc characteristics of homosexual families should be taught in a basic family life / sex education class as early as possible. Unfortunately for many of us who are out in high school, our peers were not taught early enough that different does not equal negative.

I don’t think that as many schools as you may think focus solely on heterosexual elements. For example, where I attend school, homosexual couples are equally able to attend and enjoy any school sanctioned event that may be classically considered heterosexual in nature (dances, prom, etc.) This year, in fact, I’m taking my boyfriend to my prom. The reaction I’m hoping for? No more than any heterosexual couple would get. The reaction I’ll get? Probably more than I’d like, but I deal. It’s basically a part of being a gay youth in this century.

Personally, I’ve never felt as if the school hasn’t already done enough to “address” homosexuality. In my opinion, it shouldn’t “address” it any more than it addresses heterosexuality. The last thing I feel we need is a system that focuses on our differences rather than our similarities. Tolerance, I feel, is a topic that should be introduced early on in a child’s life by parents or the school system, but after that should be fostered by peers.

Is homosexuality a ‘lifestyle’? I always thought it was an acitivity. (So does Gore Vidal, I believe) Are all homosexual families the same? Aren’t they usually single-parent families, anyway? Are they supposed to imitate heterosexual families? I don’t think gay people have answered any of these questions yet. How can schools?

Is heterosexuality an activity? Do you stop being heterosexual when you’re not having sex? boggle


No and no. Unfortunately the law is not on the side of same-sex couples who wish to raise children or the latter might be less common than it is.


The idea is for these things to be discussed. There are a fair number of people out there who think that “gay lifestyle” means (for males) just pretty much wearing leather pants, sleeping with lots of men, and dying of AIDS. I’m afraid that the idea of gay families is very foreign and it would be nice if schools discussed myths and facts about homosexual life.