Thank you for your commitment to providing a safe and supportive environment for all students. We are proud that Massachusetts is a leader in this regard and that there have been significant improvements in the past 25 years. We look forward to continuing this important work with you.
Creating safe schools for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) students and all students is an important part of providing the Holistic Supports and Enrichment outlined in my "Our Way Forward " report, and is a core component of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) priority to support social-emotional learning, health, and safety . To assist you with your efforts to create safe and supportive school environments for LGBTQ students, the Department and the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth (Commission) offer the following opportunities and information.
Training and Technical Assistance
The Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students (Safe Schools Program), an initiative of the Department and the Commission, can provide districts with training and technical assistance. Topics that may be requested include building safe and supportive environments for LGBTQ students; meeting the needs of transgender and gender-nonconforming students; the implementation of associated prevention efforts related to suicide, violence, and bullying; and the reduction of health disparities for LGBTQ students. To submit requests for trainings, technical assistance, or support for GSAs (see below), please complete the appropriate form.
Additionally, the Safe Schools Program offers curricula materials to help schools provide for LGBTQ-inclusive lessons. These resources range from hour-long discussions to multi-day lessons, and can help students value the contributions of LGBTQ people and understand their place in history, literature, and other fields. Currently, one unit is available from the Department's Model Curriculum Unit website: "Defending Democracy at Home: Advancing Constitutional Rights," which is a Language Arts or Social Studies unit for Grades 11–12. Additional curriculum materials are available on the Commission's website.
The Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth
The Commission advises others in state government on effective policies, programs, and resources for LGBTQ youth. This 50-member Commission and its staff issue annual policy recommendations, work in partnership with 17 state agencies, and hold community events and listening sessions.
The Massachusetts Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) Leadership Council
Modeled on the State Student Advisory Council (SSAC) to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Massachusetts GSA Leadership creates and informs policy, promotes inclusive learning environments for all students, supports the development of leadership skills, and fosters statewide collaboration among middle and high school LGBTQ students and allies. The GSA Leadership Council consists of a state council and five regional councils. The State GSA Leadership Council is comprised of students who attend the annual GSA Leadership Summit in August. The regional leadership councils consist of student leaders and adult advisors. State and regional council meetings take place bi-monthly from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
We invite you to register a team of up to four students and two adult advisors to join other GSA student leaders and advisors at the regional council meetings. Because the state and regional council meetings occur during school time, we ask that you support student and advisor attendance with appropriate arrangements for excused absences. For additional information and a complete list of dates, see posted details about the Massachusetts GSA Leadership Council.
Information on Federal and State Laws and Policies regarding LGBTQ Students
The Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students webpage contains information about federal and state laws and policies regarding LGBTQ students, including information about the Massachusetts Anti-Bullying Law, the Regulations for the Student Anti-discrimination Law, the Guidance on Notifying Parents When a Student Has Been Bullied Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity/Expression, the Guidance on Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity, and the Principles for Ensuring Safe and Supportive Learning Environments for LGBTQ Students.
In response to a number of Massachusetts school districts expressing the need for an additional gender marker, in 2016 the Department updated the Student Information Management System (SIMS), the Education Personnel Information Management System (EPIMS), and the School Safety and Discipline Report (SSDR) to include a value of Non-Binary (N). This gender marker is in addition to Female (F) and Male (M). Non-binary represents individuals for whom female/male does not accurately reflect their identity.
In closing, thank you again for all you do to support students, and feel free to contact the Safe Schools Program with any questions.