State superintendent Glenda Ritz joined a panel of LGBT students in Bloomington Tuesday to discuss how to make Indiana schools safer and more inclusive for all students.
Prism, an LGBT youth group run through Bloomington Pride, hosted the panel, which covered topics such as gender neutral bathrooms, teacher training on LGBT issues, encouraging school staff to use proper terminology and creating sex education courses that address and include LGBT people.
Ritz says although the decision to change policies or implement new structures to include LGBT students is a local school district decision, her role as a state policymaker allows her and the Department of Education to educate schools on these issues and advise when asked.
“Being able to give guidance to schools on non-discrimination policy, being able to talk about having restrooms for students that are unisex in nature…being able to meet the needs of students regardless of their sexual orientation is something that we need to address and make sure we are able to provide support for,” Ritz says.
Ritz says the recent controversy around the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana is likely empowering more LGBT students to advocate for themselves and what they need in their schools.
The Monroe County Community School Corporation, of which Bloomington High School South is a part, recently updated their anti-discrimination policy to specifically prohibit discrimination or bullying based on a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Before it prohibited discrimination toward “all” students.
District administrators will also participate in a training session later this month focused on interacting with LGBT students. Students part of Prism created the training and will lead most of the workshops.