D.C. teachers will have new professional development opportunities — and DC Health will receive additional funding to advance its youth and student sexual health efforts — as part of a three-year investment that Mayor Muriel Bowser said aims to support LGBTQ+ students across the District.
The District’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education said in a statement last week that it plans to expand its current support infrastructure by offering resources and learning opportunities to teachers and staff; offering additional health trainings for teachers and kids; and supporting DC Health’s school-based programs in middle and high schools.
Christina Grant, the state superintendent, told WTOP the areas of need were identified in part by evaluating results from the DC Youth Risk Behavior Survey. That survey, she said, found that D.C. kids who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered disproportionately experience health risks such as suicide, suicidal thoughts and ideations, and sexual violence.
The programming will cost about $764,000 over three years, OSSE said, and will be paid for using federal stimulus money.
“One of the driving forces that are pushing us to set up these resources and call them out is because we have data that shows us that these children have different lived experiences, both in school and out of school,” Grant said.
“For us, it is vital that we engage in the conversation around equipping our schools with knowledge and resources that they need, so that no matter what a child’s gender identity is, or their sexual orientation, that they are in schools and in places that make them feel safe, seen and cared for.”
Teachers, Grant said, need to be equipped with strategies for creating a supportive classroom. A professional development resource training program is among the initiatives that will help educators learn ways to “take intersectional approaches to how they support and essentially love our children who are LGBTQ+ students,” she said.
A portion of the money will be given to DC Health to expand its STI- and HIV-prevention programs and expand outreach to middle and high school students.
OSSE, according to the release, has partnered with the group Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders to offer some learning sessions for teachers.
The agency also said it plans to review its policies to ensure they align with national standards for supporting LGBTQ+ students.
“We know that a lot of our children were negatively impacted as a result of the pandemic,” Grant said. “But we know that because of social stigma, lack of awareness, competency support, these children need more, and we wanted to stand up resources for them.”