DENVER -- The suicide of a nine-year-old Denver boy who was apparently bullied after he came out as gay, has many educators wondering how can we make our classrooms more inclusive?
A Queer Endeavor is an initiative focused on supporting teachers and schools around topics of gender and sexual diversity. It is housed at the CU-Boulder School of Education.
The founders hold a conference in the summer and meetings throughout the year to help educators create inclusive environments. They role play, learn about pronouns and terminology.
“It’s OK to say that gay people exist in first grade, because we do,” said co-founder Bethy Leonardi.
“The more we bring diverse identities into the curriculum that we teach, into the stories that we read, into the data sets that we use, into the ways we talk about science, the more all kids can learn about what our world looks like,” Leonardi said.
The suicide this week reminds her just how important this work is. “It`s a matter of life and death for these kids sometimes,” she said.
That’s why teachers like Mary Gilreath make such an effort. The first grade teacher at University Hill Elementary School in Boulder has worked with A Queer Endeavor for several years. “It`s about making all kids feel safe,” Gilreath said.
She reads books to her class like The Princess Boy, about a boy who likes to dress up. She tells her students to use whatever bathroom they feel comfortable in. She talks about all different kinds of families.
Not all parents are supportive, but Leonardi responds with this, “We are not telling students what to believe. We are saying LGBTQ people exist, and they are welcome here.”
A Queer Endeavor holds a conference over the summer to share best practices and ways to support LGBTQ students. They also work with educators throughout the year.