Broward Public Schools on Thursday will publicly introduce an expansive training program to keep safe the district’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning students.
The program — already a model for larger school districts nationally — includes a 66-page training manual, LGBTQ Critical Support Guide, and 25-minute video that features Broward teens, parents and educators.
“It’s important because not a lot of people are educated on it,” said Liam Lugo, 18, a transgender senior at Cypress Bay High School in Weston who appears in the video. “No one’s hiding anymore. People are speaking out, and we’ve got to take action. You have to start with nothing and build your way up. The videos, the book, they have a lot of information. We’ve got to teach them things they’ve never been taught before.”
Among the topics addressed in the training manual:
• “Defining ‘LGBTQ,’ ” - Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning - to “become familiar with the correct terminology.”
• “Know the Law,” including federal, state and local antidiscrimination and antibullying policies.
• “Creating a Safe Atmosphere for LGBTQ Students,” including what to do if a student comes out to a teacher or counselor. “‘Offer support,’ ‘Be a role model of acceptance,’” according to the guide. “What not to say: ‘I knew it!’ ‘Are you sure? Are you confused?’ ”
Under very few circumstances will children be outed to their parents. “With the very limited exception involving the imminent fear of physical harm, it is never appropriate to divulge the sexual orientation of a student to a parent,” according to the manual.
• “Guidelines for Transgender Students,” including how to address the student — by his or her preferred name and gender pronoun.
Lugo said that when he came out as transgender about two years ago, among the issues he faced: What restroom should he use, and why he should no longer be called “Samantha.”
“I had a talk with the administration and explained what a transgender person is and what they have to go through on a day-to-day basis,” Lugo said.
In today’s world, with a barrage of talk about gay marriage and bullying, even the youngest students are ready to learn about sexual minorities, school prevention experts say.
“We know young people, children at a very young age, even as young as 3, 4 or 5, are aware of gender roles and can easily be taught into stereotypical thinking about gender roles in society,” said De Palazzo, a part-time Broward prevention specialist and former schoolteacher. “We know that there are young people that do not stereotypically fit into gender roles, and I’m not talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. It can be as simple as a boy who loves to cook and a girl who loves to climb trees.”
The LGBTQ training has become part of the district’s overall diversity program, said Palazzo, who now owns Perspectives Unlimited, a company that specializes in cultural diversity, conflict resolution and violence prevention training for school districts and businesses.