Austin ISD publishes report recommending school district implement LGBTQ issues into curricula; trains teachers in “supporting transgender and nonbinary students”
The Austin Independent School District publishes annual reports on LGBTQ issues. The most recent report titled “Gender-Diverse Students’ Experiences in AISD” was published in August 2021. The report’s data points are based on the results of a “student climate survey” taken by students. The school district openly uses terms like “cisgender” in this report when referring to heterosexual students. The report quotes an anonymous sixth grade student as stating: “One thing my school does to make me feel welcome is using my correct pronouns and respecting my identity.” The school district then identifies this student as a “demigirl” in the report.
The report quotes another student as wanting a “genderless bathroom” by explaining: “I don’t want to use the women’s, because I’m not a woman, and I don’t want to use the men’s, because I’m not a man.” The school district then refers to this student as “nonbinary.” The report then quotes an eleventh grade student as stating that the district should work toward “changing normalized language like ‘ladies’ and ‘girls'” for people who “identify outside of cisgender.” This student also identifies as nonbinary.
In order to address the “systemic factors affecting the school experiences of gender-diverse students,” the report provides “recommendations” for the school district to adopt. These recommendations include changing the curricula to include LGBTQ themes and providing LGBTQ training to staff. The following were the recommendations provided by the report:
- Increasing students’ access to appropriate and accurate information regarding LGBTQ people, history, and events through inclusive curricula, and library and internet resources.
- Supporting student clubs (e.g., gay/straight alliances) that provide support and address LGBTQ issues in education.
- Providing professional development opportunities for school staff to improve rates of intervention and increase the number of supportive teachers and other staff available for students.
- Ensuring that school policies and practices, such as those related to dress codes and school dances, do not discriminate against LGBTQ students.
- Enacting school policies that provide gender-diverse students with equal access to school facilities and activities and specify appropriate educational practices to support these students.
- Establishing clear and effective systems for reporting and addressing incidents that students experience.
In November 2017, the school district published a report titled “Transgender Students’ School Perceptions and Experiences.” This report also used data from a “student climate survey.” The district explains that “findings from this report illustrate that schools are not safe or welcoming places for AISD transgender students.” The report further explains:
The report provides multiple recommendations for AISD to improve schools for transgender students, including making sure each middle and high school has an active and supported Gay Straight Alliance, implementing LGBT-inclusive curriculum, providing professional development opportunities to adults at schools to learn about transgender people and issues, training adults how to intervene in gender identity- and expression-based harassment and victimization, and ensuring that school and district anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies include explicit reference to gender identity and expression.
The report explains that LGBTQ students experience “high levels of victimization” that include “biased language” and “verbal harassment.” The report then attacks the state’s government as an example: “A perfect example, especially considering the context of a Texas school district, is the recent failed legislative bill to prevent transgender students from using the bathrooms that match their gender identity.”
The report advises the school district to encourage students to start GSA clubs. The report states: “Work should be done to ensure that every existing GSA is supported by administration, and that they are able to continue as active and effective clubs.” The report then explains that “54% of the students who identified as transgender were in middle school.”
The report additionally encourages the district to implement a “LGBT-inclusive curricula” in an effort to teach “all students about LGBT people and issues.” This ensures that students learn “to be more tolerant and accepting of LGBT people.” The report also recommends for the district to provide training for teachers on transgender issues. The report states:
To address the specific needs of transgender students, first, AISD should develop and implement professional development opportunities for teachers and school staff to understand basic information and issues regarding transgender people and students. Second, they should be trained on how to support these students in their schools, specifically by intervening when gender identity and expression-based victimization occurs.
The report mentions that the most recent “student climate survey” allowed students to write in their own preferred genders and then provides a list of the genders that students wrote. Some examples of genders that students wrote include “genderfluid,” “non-binary,” “agender,” “transgender,” “neither,” “gender is a social construct,” “a person in between,” “demiboy,” “demigirl,” “feminino,” “gender roles are stupid,” “gendervoid,” “quadgender demiboy,” and “two genders.”
In December 2021, the district published a report titled “Professional Learning: 2020-2021 Evaluation Summary.” The report explains that 1,623 members of the district’s staff took training in topics such as “cultural proficiency and inclusiveness,” “using your voice for equity,” “road to equity is paved with emotions,” “supporting transgender and nonbinary students,” and “restorative practices.” Additional training sessions for staff are titled “Supporting LGBTQIA+ Youth 101” and “Interrupting Bullying and Harassment of LGBTQIA+ Youth.”
The school district’s website has a page titled “LGBTQ+ Definitions and Resources.” The page provides definitions for the terms “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual,” “transgender,” “queer,” and “questioning.”
On June 4, 2019, the school district published an article titled “Austin ISD Continues to Support and Participate in Annual Pride Events.” In this article, the district promotes an “LGBTQ+ Affinity group” that raised the “Pride flag” on June 3 “at the flagpole on the courtyard of the AISD main office.” The district further explains that “this symbolic gesture will reiterate the district’s commitment to our LGBTQ+ students, staff and families.” The so-called “affinity groups” are groups that segregate people based on identity characteristics, such as sexual orientation or race. The district then explains: “In addition, the district’s LGBTQ+ Affinity Group will be coordinating a districtwide event Oct. 5 at the AISD Performing Arts Center, where LGBTQ+ students, staff and families will be celebrated to mark the beginning of AISD’s Pride Week, Oct. 7–11.”