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From Awareness to Action: Teacher Attitude and Implementation of LGBT-Inclusive Curriculum in the English Language Arts Classroom:

From Awareness to Action: Teacher Attitude and Implementation of LGBT-Inclusive Curriculum in the... This survey research describes English language arts teachers’ comfort levels in integrating literature with lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) themes or characters into their curricula and classroom practices. Significant relationships were found between teachers’ age, comfort, awareness of resources, and implementation levels. Although younger teachers had higher comfort levels with LGBT texts, they displayed lower resource awareness levels and static implementation rates. In addition, comfort, awareness, and implementation of LGBT curriculum materials were also correlated with teacher location and with strength of religious belief, with rural teachers and strongly religious teachers displaying lower comfort and implementation levels. Availability of supportive resources such as gay–straight alliances (GSAs) and library holdings, as well as teachers’ awareness of these resources, is also examined. Specific barriers rural teachers encounter when implementing LGBT-inclusive literature/curriculum are identified. A call for future research and professional development is extended. Keywords curriculum, education, social sciences, literacy, diversity and multiculturalism, teaching, teacher education As a teacher educator, I work closely with preservice teachers or gender expression. Other studies document the correlation and also with in-service teachers working in public schools. between these kinds of victimization and health issues such as All of these dedicated instructors would state that they want adolescent depression (see, for example, Martin-Storey & students to feel comfortable and safe in school. Most teachers Crosnoe, 2012). believe that schools are for everyone and all students deserve Negative school environments not only affect students’ the opportunity to learn. We want all students to have caring health and well-being but also adversely affect LGBT stu- and respectful relationships with other students and with dents’ academic achievement and goals, leading, for exam- school staff. However, not all students are having the experi- ple, to higher absenteeism, lower grade point averages, and ences that teachers hope for them. Specifically, students who lower educational aspirations (Kosciw et al., 2016; Wimberly, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) Wilkinson, & Pearson, 2015). For example, “the reported report feeling less safe, less respected, and less valued in our grade point average (GPA) for students who had higher lev- schools than do their heterosexual and cisgender peers, lead- els of victimization based on their sexual orientation or gen- ing to lower engagement and achievement (Kosciw, Gretak, der expression was significantly lower than for students who Giga, Villenas, & Danischewski, 2016; Lecesne, 2012; experienced less harassment and assault (2.9 vs. 3.3)” Robinson & Espelage, 2011). (Kosciw et al., 2016, p. 45) and LGBTQ students who were The National School Climate Survey (NSCS) conducted more frequently victimized based on sexual orientation or by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network gender expression “were twice as likely to report that they (GLSEN; Kosciw et al., 2016) reports that though progress did not plan to pursue postsecondary education (e.g., college has been made since the survey was first administered in 1999, LGBTQ students still frequently hear homophobic University of Minnesota, Morris, USA remarks and negative comments about gender expression, Corresponding Author: hear homophobic remarks from school staff, feel unsafe at Michelle L. Page, Associate Professor, Coordinator of Secondary school because of their sexual orientation, have been verbally Education, University of Minnesota, Morris, 108 Education Building, 600 E harassed at school, have been physically harassed, and have 4th Street, Morris, MN 56267, USA. been physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation Email: pagem@morris.umn.edu Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open or trade school) than those who experienced lower levels and other issues often experienced by LGBTQIA learners. (10.0% vs. 5.2%)” (p. xviii). Not only is the victimization of Inclusive curriculum can have a large impact. For example, one segment of the student body of concern due to the moral in schools where students report usage of an inclusive cur- imperative of providing safe spaces for learning for all stu- riculum, LGBTQ students feel more safe, are absent less fre- dents, it is of concern because it directly affects the learning quently, and feel more connected to their schools; they also and educational outcomes for these students. feel more accepted by their peers (GLSEN, 2011; Kosciw While the issue of bullying has received national atten- et al., 2016). Clark and Blackburn (2009) assert that ELA tion, teachers and teacher educators must also attend to other teachers can be powerful instruments in curbing homophobia aspects of educational systems to support LGBTQIA stu- and heterosexism in schools. They underscore the reading of dents. Although bullying and victimization of youth, and LGBT-themed literature as one mechanism for accomplish- specifically LGBTQ youth, is indeed a very important issue, ing this. recent research suggests that bullying alone may not fully In my own professional experiences, I have observed a explain the psychological and educational risks that LGBTQ disconnect between the lives and practices of the teachers students encounter. In one study, Robinson and Espelage with whom I work and the professional conversations at a (2012) found that national level. For example, there are more and more queer- themed resources and sessions available at national confer- ences and The National Council of Teachers of English (2007) Although victimization does explain a portion of the LGBTQ– heterosexual risk disparities, substantial differences persist even has spoken out in favor of “strengthening teacher knowledge when the differences in victimization are taken into account . . . of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues.” . This consistent pattern of findings suggests that policies aimed However, the teachers with whom I interact do not find such simply at reducing bullying may not be effective in bringing resources easily available and, as reported by GLSEN, few LGBTQ youth to the level of their heterosexual peers in terms of students have actually experienced inclusive curriculum. psychological and educational outcomes. Additional policies Other studies also report a hesitance on the part of teachers to may be needed to promote safe, supportive school environments. implement curriculum related to LGBTQIA issues (e.g., (p. 309) Puchner & Klein, 2011; Thein, 2013). The possibilities seem to remain just that—possibility rather than reality. Rather, researchers attribute some of the risk/disparities to There are competing perceptions related to visibility of “stigmatizing, macro-level messages . . . that persist even in gender and sexual minorities. On one hand, many argue that the absence of direct individual-level peer victimization” (p. there is greater visibility for LGBTQIA people in society 316). In addition, Crosnoe (2011) describes factors other than ever before, as indicated by media portrayals. But on the than victimization, such as negative impacts of not fitting other hand, as Mayo (2009) and others argue (Page, 2017), into adolescent social structures (which are largely formed there remains a profound silence around LGBTQIA people by schools), and Martin-Storey, Cheadle, Skalamera, and and issues in schools. Given this apparent national queer Crosnoe (2015) cite stigmatization of sexual minority youth ambivalence, and given the importance of the curriculum as contributing to challenges facing LGBTQIA youth. and how it represents and constitutes knowledge, I wanted to Such findings support the idea that approaches to creating explore how teachers are (or are not) enacting a queer-inclu- a positive school environment for LGBTQIA students that go sive curriculum and to gauge their comfort levels and aware- beyond antibullying programs are vitally imperative. Michael ness of resources. I also wanted to hear directly from Sadowski points out that providing safety for LGBTQIA stu- practicing teachers as the NSCS’ respondents are students. dents is not enough; we must also “create schools that affirm We know that students and teachers often perceive schools, LGBTQ students and integrate respect for LGBTQ identities classrooms, and teaching and learning differently. Few stu- through multiple aspects of school life” (Sadowski, 2017, p. dents surveyed in the NSCS reported experiencing inclusive 9). Some facets that might be considered are the “supportive curriculum; I wondered if ELA teachers perceived this the resources” included in the NSCS. These resources include same way. Did they feel comfortable incorporating LGBT students’ access to supportive staff members, the presence of themes into their teaching and curriculum? Did they do so? gay–straight alliances (GSAs) or similar clubs in schools, Were teachers aware of resources and texts that contained access to library resources, and exposure to inclusive curricu- LGBT characters, themes, or story lines? Did teachers’ com- lum. The NSCS reports that only about half the students had fort level correlate with a particular educational philosophy the opportunity to participate in a GSA, only 22.4% of stu- or view of schooling? Because such a small proportion of dents reported exposure to inclusive (queer-positive) school students reported that they had experienced inclusive/posi- curriculum, and fewer than half (42.4%) had access to tive curriculum in school (both nationally and in the state resources on LGBT issues in their libraries (including online resources and physical holdings; Kosciw et al., 2016). where this research was conducted [GLSEN, 2013; GLSEN, English language arts (ELA) teachers have the opportu- 2011]), and because of my interest in literature and literacy, I nity to make a difference in the lives of LGBTQIA students posed the preceding as research questions. These questions and to help stem the tide of harassment, violence, depression, gave rise to the survey research I describe in this article. Page 3 25% in Grades 7 to 8; and 20% had other assignments (e.g., Method both middle and secondary grades). The majority of teachers I sent an electronic invitation to participate in an online sur- were younger than 51 years of age (20.9% 20-30 years, 32.5% vey to all ELA teachers in middle and secondary schools in 31-40 years, 27.2% 41-50 years). The majority of respon- my state for whom public directory information was avail- dents had taught from 0 to 20 years, with the largest propor- able, hoping to invite every ELA teacher in the state to partici- tion teaching from 11 to 15 years (25.2%). Rural teachers pate. The online survey was open for 8 weeks. In total, 2,804 were more highly represented among the respondents invitations to participate were sent; 577 survey responses (46.7%), followed by suburban (38.8%), and then urban were submitted for a response rate of 20.6%. Of 87 counties (14.5%). In terms of race, respondents were primarily White in the state, 83 were represented in the responses. The four (98.3%). The respondents generally had a religious faith, with unrepresented counties are very small with low population. only 10% identifying as atheist and 28.3% as Catholic, 52.2% The focal state has one large metropolitan center with four as Protestant, 8.5% as Evangelical, 0.2% Muslim, 0.5% additional urban areas of more than 50,000 residents while Buddhist, and 10.2% as other. Survey respondents identified the bulk of the state could be characterized as rural. In terms themselves primarily as straight/heterosexual (97.0%), with of race, according to 2015 demographic data, the state is 81% 2.6% identifying as gay/lesbian/homosexual, 0.2% bisexual, White (non-Hispanic), 5.8% Black/African American, 1.1% and 0.2% as questioning. Participants were permitted to American Indian, 4.8% Asian, 0.04% Native Hawaiian/ choose whether or not to respond to each survey item; there- Pacific Islander, 2.1% two or more races, and 5.2% Hispanic fore, numbers of responses reported for items varied. (Minnesota State Demographic Center, 2015). The survey was developed by the researcher and centered Results on the questions above as well as questions related to other topics for future research. Survey items related to this study When one examines the demographics of the respondents, are included in data charts and figures that appear throughout the homogeneity of the participants is striking, especially in the discussion. The survey inquired about ELA teachers’ terms of sexual orientation and also race, with the teacher experiences with their media center, their views on curricu- respondent group being less racially diverse than the state as lum, their instructional purposes, their comfort levels related a whole. This, in itself, may form the foundation of an argu- to LGBT young adult literature in the classroom, their ment for working toward greater diversity in teaching. awareness of LGBT resources, their priorities regarding lit- However, this discussion will focus primarily on the findings erature selection, and other topics such as school policies (67 with the greatest statistical significance: general comfort items total). Most survey items were Likert-type scale items, level and awareness of LGBT issues and resources, age and but also several open-ended items asked participants to offer length of time teaching, religious beliefs, and community/ a narrative response, providing additional detail and nuance school size. In addition, significant findings related to sup- to complement closed question responses. Finally, respon- portive resources such as GSAs and library holdings will be dents were given the opportunity to volunteer for follow-up addressed. interviews so that survey responses could be probed and expanded upon. I conducted follow-up interviews with over Teachers’ General Comfort Level and Awareness 30 participants. Concurrently with the teacher survey, I also surveyed librarians and media specialists about LGBT litera- Several Likert-type scale items were posed to survey partici- ture use in library holdings and reviewed library holdings by pants related to comfort level in utilizing LGBTQ literature in examining online catalogs and databases. various ways in their classrooms. Over half of teachers In this article, I will focus on the segments of the teacher responded that they felt comfortable using literature that con- survey that related to comfort level and awareness of LGBT tains LGBT characters or story lines in the curriculum and that issues and resources. I was particularly interested in relation- they felt comfortable discussing LGBT issues in the class- ships within the data, whether comfort level or awareness room. In addition, more than 60% felt comfortable promoting was related to teachers’ age, school/community size, reli- LGBT literature for pleasure or choice reading. Table 1 sum- gious belief, level of experience, educational philosophy, and marizes data related to teachers’ comfort levels. Some readers so forth. Survey items were cross tabulated and chi-square will be encouraged that more than half of teachers reported tests conducted on the data to determine statistical signifi- these comfort levels, whereas others will be disappointed that cance. A threshold of .05 was used to determine significance. only about half of teachers display such comfort. Only data and topics with statistical significance are dis- Teachers were also asked to rate their agreement with the cussed in the findings. Data from open-ended items and fol- statements, “I am aware of resources (including fiction, non- low-up interviews were analyzed through an iterative coding fiction, web) in our school library/media center related to process that uncovered prominent themes. sexual orientation issues” and “I am aware of at least 5 young Demographics of the respondents in this study were as fol- adult works (novels, short story compilations, etc.) contain- lows: 75% female/25% male ; 55% taught in Grades 9 to 12; ing LGBT characters or storylines.” Only 28.1% of 4 SAGE Open Table 1. Summary of Participants’ Comfort Levels Related to LGBT Integration into Teaching and Awareness of Resources. Percentage of respondents who Percentage of respondents who Survey statement “strongly agree” or “agree” “strongly disagree” or “disagree” I feel comfortable using literature that contains LGBT 52.6 12.1 characters or story lines in my curriculum. I feel comfortable discussing LGBT issues in my classroom. 54.6 9.0 I feel comfortable promoting young adult literature with LGBT 61.0 9.6 characters and story lines to students for pleasure reading or choice reading. I am aware of resources (including fiction, nonfiction, Web) in 28.1 36.2 our school library/media center related to sexual orientation issues. I am aware of at least 5 young adult works (novels, short story 33.2 37.7 compilations, etc.) containing LGBT characters or story lines. Note. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Table 2. Approaches to Using LGBT Texts in the Classroom, as Reported in an Open-Ended Survey Item. Percentage of responses Open-ended item responses: approaches to integrating LGBT literature into teaching with this theme/code Student pleasure or choice reading 28 Using texts that emphasize other (not explicitly LGBT) themes such as diversity, 16 friendship, or family Using texts already part of the school curriculum, or guiding discussion of these 10 texts, using a lens of gender to analyze texts Using LGBT texts to explore social issues such as bullying 7 Intentionally exploring and addressing sexual orientation 6 Note. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender. respondents strongly agreed or agreed with the statement explicitly teaching about sexual orientation or gender or about being familiar with library resources while 33.2% including these topics in whole-class activities. Despite pro- strongly agreed or agreed with the statement related to famil- claiming a strong comfort level in discussing LGBT issues iarity with young adult works. While teachers may feel com- and incorporating LGBT texts, in actual practice a small pro- fortable using such works in their teaching, they are not portion of teachers are explicitly attending to gender and familiar with texts and resources that may be available to sexual orientation in teacher-led classroom activities. them. In subsequent sections, I will examine how teachers’ com- While 52.6% of respondents agreed that they felt com- fort levels in integrating LGBT literature related to other cat- fortable using LGBT literature in the curriculum, only 23.7% egories such as religious belief and school size. reported actually integrating this literature when asked about this in an open-ended item. This percentage is higher Teacher Age and Experience than the 22% of students who reported experiencing inclu- sive curriculum in the NSCS; it is possible that respondents Survey participants were asked about their age and about the to my research inquiries represented teachers who were more length of time they had been teaching ELA. To better under- “open” to this topic or that teachers and students were inter- stand whether teacher age and experience affected their com- preting classroom practices differently. It is also possible that fort levels related to LGBT literature, demographic this difference reflects the culture of the state where the sur- information was cross tabulated with responses to survey vey was administered (rather than the nation, which is sur- items related to comfort level integrating LGBT literature in veyed through the NSCS). The respondents reporting the curriculum, comfort discussing LGBT issues in the class- inclusion of queer texts in their teaching is a small proportion room, and the items about awareness of resources. The rela- of teachers, showing educators’ inhibition in this area. The tionship between teacher age and comfort level using LGBT most common method of including LGBT literature in the literature in the curriculum was significant, χ (4, N = 527) = classroom was allowing it or promoting it for pleasure or 35.33, p = .018. In general, comfort level seemed related to choice reading (see Table 2). Few teachers reported age—the older the teacher, the lesser the comfort level; Page 5 Figure 1. Relationship between age of teacher and comfort level integrating LGBT curriculum. Note. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. however, the oldest teachers (older than 60 years) did not fit teacher age and feeling a need for support in text selection, this pattern, displaying a higher comfort level that was com- χ (4, N = 521) = 44.44, p = .001. Proportionally, younger parable to the 20 to 30 years age group. This is demonstrated teachers were more likely to strongly agree or agree that in Figure 1. receiving guidance in text selection would increase their The same trend is displayed in the data related to comfort- comfort level with suggesting students’ readings. Older level promoting literature with LGBT characters and story teachers were less likely to agree with this statement. The lines with students for pleasure reading or choice reading, value of guidance in text selection was also significantly 2 2 χ (4, N = 521) = 44.68, p = .001. There seems to be a general related to length of time teaching, χ (6, N = 519) = 54.60, p = relationship with older teachers becoming less comfortable .003. Teachers with 0 to 15 years’ experience were more engaging in this activity, with the exception of the oldest cat- likely to agree that their comfort level would be enhanced if egory of teachers who display a slightly higher comfort level they had guidance in text selection than were more experi- than their colleagues in the adjacent group. Data about teach- enced teachers of 16 to 30+ years. It appears that more expe- ers’ level of experience also yielded this pattern, with more rienced teachers may feel more confident about text selection experienced teachers feeling less comfortable promoting this or that guidance would not affect their comfort levels. literature and less experienced teachers feeling more com- Teacher age also was statistically significant in relation to fortable, χ (6, N = 519) = 68.64, p < .001. awareness of resources available to teachers regarding LGBT Participants were asked in open-ended items whether they issues, χ (4, N = 510) = 34.33, p = .023. Younger teachers used LGBT literature with their students or in their classes. tended to be only half as aware of the resources available to They were asked to elaborate on how they used such texts (if them and to students in the library/media center than were they responded affirmatively) as well as the reasons why the oldest teachers. they did not do so (if they responded in the negative). The proportion of those who responded affirmatively to this item Teachers’ Religious Beliefs as compared with respondents from their overall age group were as follows: 26% of the 20 to 30 years old group reported Most respondents (89.7%) claimed a religious faith. Teachers using LGBT literature in some way, 28% of the 31 to 40 were asked about the strengths of their religious beliefs and years old group, 26% of the 41 to 50 years old group, 23% of their beliefs’ impact on their lives. There were significant the 51 to 60 years old group, and 35% of the older than 60 relationships found between strength of religious belief and years old group. The rate of implementation of LGBT litera- other factors. ture in their instruction was not significantly higher for When asked about their comfort levels integrating LGBT younger teachers, suggesting that higher comfort level did literature into the curriculum, those who held very strong not necessarily translate to increased curricular inclusion. religious beliefs were more likely to disagree or strongly dis- Teachers were asked whether they would feel more com- agree, displaying a lower comfort level than their colleagues fortable suggesting LGBT works to students (for choice or whose religious beliefs were not held as strongly, χ (5, N = pleasure reading) if they had more guidance themselves in 523) = 64.61, p < .001. Likewise, respondents reporting high choosing quality texts. Results show a relationship between strength of religious belief also displayed, proportionally, a 6 SAGE Open Figure 2. Relationship between holding strong religious beliefs and comfort level discussing LGBT issues in the classroom. Note. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. lower comfort level with discussing LGBT issues in the Of all groups, the Evangelical and Atheist groups varied classroom, χ (5, N = 520) = 43.72, p = .011. This finding is the most often and the most widely from the average rating not surprising, but what is of note here is that simply having for all respondents, while both Catholics and Protestants a religious faith was not closely correlated with discomfort in tended to be closer to the mean. Evangelicals were less likely exploring LGBTQIA issues and identities in the classroom to agree that they were comfortable using LGBT literature, or curriculum; rather, the degree to which religious faith whereas Atheists reported more agreement. The same pattern affected day-to-day actions was the correlating factor. recurs when asked about comfort discussing LGBT issues in Respondents who stated that their religious beliefs were not class—Atheists were more likely to agree while Evangelicals as strong or had less impact on their day-to-day lives were were less likely to display comfort in this area. While there more likely to agree or strongly agree that they were com- was less variety in ratings of the item “I feel comfortable fortable integrating LGBT literature or discussing LGBT using LGBT literature in my classroom but only if those issues (see Figure 2). characters and storylines are in the background of the text/ In general, more than half of all respondents (53.4%) story (not featured prominently),” both Evangelicals and agreed that they would feel more comfortable integrating Atheists were less likely to agree than were those who clas- LGBT literature into their teaching if they had more guid- sified themselves as Catholic or Protestant. It is unknown ance in selecting such texts. This includes teachers with whether this indicates that the teachers disagree because they strong religious beliefs. However, there were teachers who do not feel comfortable using such literature in general or did NOT desire guidance or did not feel that it would modify that the teachers disagree with relegating LGBT characters their comfort level. More frequently, these were teachers and story lines to the background. Evangelicals were less who identified themselves as having strong religious beliefs, likely to feel comfortable promoting LGBT literature for χ (5, N = 518) = 56.24, p < .001. pleasure or choice reading while Atheists were more likely to feel comfortable doing so. Evangelicals were less likely to agree that they would feel more comfortable using LGBT Denomination. Religious sects do not have uniform views on literature if they had guidance in selecting texts, perhaps gender or sexual minority people. Therefore, I examined data indicating that no amount of guidance would sway their related to type of religion, what I refer to as denomination. opinions. Data for respondents who identified as Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, and Other were not included in this comparison due to the small number of respondents who claimed those faiths. Unique Challenges for Rural Teachers: Comfort, Table 3 shows the ratings data for statements related to com- Awareness, Insecurity, and Resources fort level in using LGBT literature, discussing LGBT issues, and other items. In general, respondents felt most comfortable Comfort and awareness. One of the strongest relationships to utilizing LGBT literature for pleasure or choice reading. emerge from the data was that between teachers’ school/ Page 7 Table 3. Religious Groups’ Ratings of Agreement With Statements Related to Comfort Levels Utilizing LGBT Literature and/or Dealing With LGBT Topics. Which best describes your religious affiliation? I feel comfortable using literature that contains LGBT characters or story lines in my curriculum. Catholic Protestant Evangelical Atheist Rating average Rating 4.19 4.27 3.15 4.71 4.20 I feel comfortable discussing LGBT issues in my classroom. Catholic Protestant Evangelical Atheist Rating average Rating 4.43 4.37 3.73 4.90 4.38 I feel comfortable using LGBT literature in my classroom but only if those characters and story lines are in the background of the text/ story. Catholic Protestant Evangelical Atheist Rating average Rating 3.38 3.29 2.79 2.93 3.23 I feel comfortable promoting young adult literature with LGBT characters and story lines to students for pleasure reading or choice reading. Catholic Protestant Evangelical Atheist Rating average Rating 4.60 4.55 3.36 4.93 4.51 I would feel more comfortable suggesting LGBT works to students if I had guidance in selecting such works. Catholic Protestant Evangelical Atheist Rating average Rating 4.49 4.41 3.76 4.24 4.36 Note. Numerical equivalents to answer options were strongly agree = 6, agree = 5, somewhat agree = 4, somewhat disagree = 3, disagree = 2, strongly disagree = 1. Therefore, a higher average rating indicates more agreement with the statement while a lower rating indicates stronger disagreement. All items are significant at a level of p < .001. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. community size and teachers’ comfort levels, awareness of being aware of LGBT young adult literature works than were resources, and feelings of fear or insecurity. Multiple demo- their rural peers (see Figure 4). This trend is verified by data graphic questions were asked (Is your community rural, sub- related to school size and community size. Teachers in urban, or urban? How large is your school? How many smaller schools were less likely to agree that they were aware residents are there in your community?) as a means of verify- of available resources and teachers in smaller communities ing the trends and patterns that might emerge. Therefore, also were less likely to agree that they were aware of some representations of data have been condensed in the fol- resources, χ (7, N = 493) = 63.30, p = .002. lowing sections. Rural teachers’ lower comfort levels and lower awareness Generally, teachers in larger communities (more than of resources coincide with a lower rate of curricular diversi- 25,000 residents) were more likely to agree that they were fication. While 28% of suburban respondents and 46% of comfortable integrating LGBT literature into their curriculum, urban respondents reported using LGBT literature in the χ (7, N = 511) = 96.33, p < .001, and discussing LGBT issues classroom, only 18% of rural teachers used such literature. in the classroom, χ (7, N = 507) = 65.07, p < .001. Likewise, The correlation of rurality with implementation was statisti- school size was significant to comfort integrating LGBT liter- cally significant, χ (2, N = 532) = 26.26, p < .001. Rural ature, χ (5, N = 527) = 58.88, p = .001, and comfort discussing teachers may feel less comfortable in this aspect of their LGBT issues, χ (5, N = 523) = 54.45, p = .004. Teachers who work due to increased feelings of fear or insecurity, discussed taught in schools of more than 1,000 pupils were more likely in the next section. to state that they were comfortable discussion LGBT issues and integrating LGBT literature in their classrooms. Teacher insecurity. As stated previously, though a high propor- Teachers in rural schools, proportionally, felt less com- tion of respondents generally reported feeling comfortable fortable using LGBT literature in their curricula than did integrating LGBT literature into their teaching or discussing their suburban and urban counterparts, χ (2, N = 508) = LGBTQIA issues in their classrooms, a significantly smaller 72.41, p < .001. Figure 3 demonstrates the proportional dis- portion of them were actually doing so (less than 25%). In the parity in comfort level. Likewise, rural teachers’ comfort lev- case of young adult LGBT literature, dispositions are not els with discussion on LGBT issues were also lower, χ (2, N being translated into action. When asked why LGBT literature = 504) = 54.19, p < .001. Urban teachers were approximately is not used, the most common response (31%) was that teach- twice as likely to report a higher comfort level in discussing ers were afraid of challenges or confrontations with parents or LGBT issues. other community members. Other common reasons included a Rural teachers also believed themselves to be less aware lack of awareness or education about such texts (21%) and of LGBT young adult literature, χ (2, N = 489) = 39.23, p < lack of budget or resources to purchase texts (18%). Few .001. Urban teachers were almost twice as likely to report teachers cited a conflict with their values system as a reason to 8 SAGE Open Figure 3. Relationship between nature of school (rural, suburban, urban) and comfort level integrating LGBT texts into curriculum. Note. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. I am aware of at least 5 young adult works containing LGBT characters or storylines. 100% 90% 25.4% 30.9% Disagree/Strongly 80% 47.4% Disagree 70% 26.8% 60% Somewhat 36.2% 50% Agree/Somewhat 40% 25.2% Disagree 30% Strongly Agree/Agree 47.9% 20% 33.0% 27.4% 10% 0% RuralSuburban Urban Figure 4. Relationship between nature of school (rural, suburban, urban) and awareness of LGBT young adult literature. Note. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. rocking the boat for fear of being undermined as a teacher, not integrate this literature (4%). All of these concerns were labeled a deviant, or being challenged as fit to teach. So whether more pronounced among rural teachers. or not a teacher can actually be fired for including specific texts, Participants were asked in the survey whether they felt there is a very real concern that his or her reputation and they would be “in trouble” with the community if they inte- ultimately, career, could be ruined. So the question becomes, is grated LGBT literature into the curriculum. (Participants it worth it to include this text? defined for themselves what it would mean to be “in trouble” and who the community is). The data show that rural teach- Another participant explained their fear, stating, ers were much more likely to feel that they would be “in trouble” with their communities if they used LGBT literature In this community, I am fairly certain that using literature with in their classrooms, χ (2, N = 498) = 101.19, p < .001 (see LGBT themes would upset many parents, and potentially cause Figure 5). This concern was elaborated upon in follow-up me to lose my job. It is one of the reasons I feel a little interviews. One participant related, uncomfortable in this district; I believe that curriculum should address these voices instead of silencing them, but I’m not sure I’m brave enough to deal with 90% of my students’ parents There is always a level of fear that one will lose one’s job. being angry with me. However, I think most teachers do not want to be the ones Page 9 Figure 5. Proportion of rural, suburban, and urban teachers who feel they would be in trouble with the community for using LGBT literature. Note. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Likewise, rural teachers were more likely than their urban p < .001, and schools of 1,000 pupils or less, χ (3, N = 444) = and suburban counterparts to feel that they would be “in 31.12, p = .033, felt more vulnerable. trouble” with their principals for making such choices, χ (2, N = 496) = 78.55, p < .001. One participant explained in her Insecurity and gender. While this section pertains to findings interview, related to rural teachers, it must be noted here that gender is also a significant factor in feelings of teacher insecurity. Most teachers are afraid that they will get in trouble for not Gender generally was not significant in this study except for following a protocol that maybe they don’t know about. They this item. Female teachers were significantly more likely to are also afraid that there will be some kind of reprimand that feel “in trouble” with their communities, χ (1, N = 509) = would go into the permanent file. Unfortunately, I think there is 16.97, p = .004, and their principals, χ (1, N = 507) = 256.72, a real danger that there could be danger of losing one’s job or at p < .0001. Women were slightly more likely to work in rural least having to defend oneself in front of a board that can feel and suburban schools (47.5% and 40.25%, respectively, like a “witch hunt.” compared with 43.2% and 36.8% for men) while men were more likely to work in urban schools (20% compared with Another participant had fears over being driven out of the women at 13%), though these data were not statistically sig- district rather than fired, saying, nificant. Correlation between gender and feelings of vulner- ability may be an important topic for future research. I am tenured and the likelihood of being fired is remote. However, I can see where my classroom would come under the Supportive resources. Supportive resources named by GLSEN gun by the administration and I would find myself being include library holdings related to LGBTQ issues, faculty micromanaged by my principal and superintendent. I can also see where the school board would get involved as well. who are supportive of gender and sexual minority students, GSAs or similar clubs, comprehensive bullying policies (that Rural and suburban teachers had the same rates of agree- specifically attend to issues of gender and sexual orienta- ment that their instructional choices were supported by their tion), and inclusive curriculum. The NSCS indicated that stu- communities. However, urban teachers displayed a higher dents in schools with GSAs felt more safe, experienced less level of agreement. Generally, it appears that rural teachers victimization, heard fewer homophobic remarks, and had a feel more insecure and less supported than do teachers in greater sense of connectedness to their schools (Kosciw other settings (see Table 4). This pattern is evident when et al., 2016). A study conducted by the Family Acceptance examining school size and community size as well, with Project showed that LGBT adolescents who attend schools teachers in smaller schools and in smaller communities show- with GSAs experience greater mental health as young adults, ing higher levels of agreement with the statement that they are less likely to drop out of school, and are more likely to would be “in trouble” with their communities if they utilized pursue postsecondary education (i.e., attend college; Toomey, LGBT literature in the classroom. Generally, teachers in com- Ryan, Diaz, & Russell, 2011). Nationally, approximately munities of 25,000 residents or less, χ (7, N = 501) = 130.53, 54% of students reported having a GSA or similar club in 10 SAGE Open Table 4. Percentages of Participants Who Feel Vulnerable and Supported. Strongly agree Agree Somewhat agree Somewhat disagree Disagree Strongly disagree I feel that I would be “in trouble” with the community if I used LGBT works in my classroom. Rural 26.84 26.84 32.03 9.09 4.33 0.87 Suburban 15.82 22.96 29.59 13.78 11.73 6.12 Urban 1.41 5.63 21.13 28.17 28.17 15.49 I feel that I would be “in trouble” with my principal if I used LGBT works in my classroom. Rural 10.43 18.26 26.96 19.57 18.70 6.09 Suburban 7.18 8.21 18.46 31.79 20 14.36 Urban 0 1.41 9.86 18.31 39.44 30.99 I feel that in general the community supports my instructional choices. Rural 9.96 48.92 31.60 7.79 1.73 0 Suburban 13.33 45.64 33.33 5.64 1.54 0.51 Urban 16.90 54.93 25.35 1.41 1.41 0 Note. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Table 5. Relationship Between Presence of Gay–Straight Alliances (or Similar Clubs) and Comfort Levels and Feelings of Vulnerability. Does your school have a gay–straight alliance or similar club? We have one but it is I’m not We don’t have one but there No, we don’t Rating Yes, an active one. not very visible/active. sure. is student or staff interest. have one. average I feel comfortable using literature that contains LGBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) characters or story lines in my curriculum. 4.90 4.62 4.52 4.81 3.79 4.28 I feel comfortable discussing LGBT issues in my classroom. 4.96 4.82 4.48 4.69 4.02 4.43 I feel comfortable promoting young adult literature with LGBT characters and story lines to students for pleasure reading or choice reading. 4.99 4.93 4.76 4.85 4.18 4.56 I feel that I would be “in trouble” with the community if I used LGBT works in my classroom. 3.32 3.77 4.33 3.85 4.49 4.07 I feel that I would be “in trouble” with my principal if I used LGBT works in my classroom. 2.43 2.82 3.33 2.58 3.68 3.18 Note. Numerical equivalents to answer options were strongly agree = 6, agree = 5, somewhat agree = 4, somewhat disagree = 3, disagree = 2, strongly disagree = 1. Therefore, a higher average rating indicates more agreement with the statement while a lower rating indicates stronger disagreement. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. their school (Kosciw et al., 2016). In the survey described in aware of library resources, χ (4, N = 508) = 85.53, p < .001, this article, approximately 39% of teachers reported having a and being aware of LGBT young adult works than teachers GSA or similar club at their school. Rural schools were far in schools with no GSA (see Table 6). Teachers in schools less likely to have a GSA or similar club than were urban with active GSAs were also more likely to report having 2 2 schools, χ (2, N = 493) = 112.74, p < .001. While 46.5% of comprehensive bullying policies, χ (4, N = 508) = 33.45, p = urban respondents reported having an active GSA in their .005, and more consistent implementation of such policies, school, only 7.8% of rural respondents had this resource. χ (4, N = 506) = 28.59, p = .005. The lack of GSAs in rural In this study, respondents who reported having a GSA at schools may be both constitutive and reflective of teachers’ their school were more likely than their peers to feel comfort- feelings of vulnerability and the resultant lack of support for able integrating LGBT literature in their curricula, χ (4, N = gender and sexual minority students. 507) = 80.87, p < .001, more likely to feel comfortable dis- Library holdings are considered by GLSEN to be another cussing LGBT issues, χ (4, N = 506) = 66.14, p < .001, and supportive resource. As one thread of the larger research more likely to feel comfortable promoting LGBT literature as project, online catalogs of approximately 50 school libraries choice reading, χ (4, N = 505) = 55.79, p < .001. Table 5 illus- were randomly selected and examined for availability of fic- trates the data. tion and nonfiction titles that contained information or story In addition to higher comfort levels, ELA teachers in lines related to LGBTQIA people or issues. Four senior high schools with active GSAs were more likely to report being schools in populous urban areas had 100 or more books Page 11 Table 6. Relationship Between Presence of GSAs and Awareness of Resources. Does your school have a GSA or similar club? We have one but it is I’m not We don’t have one but there No, we don’t Rating Yes, an active one. not very visible/active. sure. is student or staff interest. have one. average I am aware of resources (including fiction, nonfiction, web) in our school library/media center related to sexual orientation issues. 4.25 3.71 3.27 3.81 2.84 3.38 I am aware of at least 5 young adult works (novels, short story compilations, etc.) containing LGBT characters or story lines. 3.79 3.79 3.48 4.00 3.12 3.45 My school has a comprehensive policy related to harassment and bullying. 5.39 5.15 5.12 5.31 5.08 5.17 My school fully and consistently implements its policies related to harassment and bullying. 4.81 4.56 4.64 4.42 4.48 4.57 Note. Numerical equivalents to answer options were strongly agree = 6, agree = 5, somewhat agree = 4, somewhat disagree = 3, disagree = 2, strongly disagree = 1. Therefore a higher average rating indicates more agreement with the statement while a lower rating indicates stronger disagreement. GSA = gay–straight alliance. available to students. Though 100 books may seem a large practice, demonstrating that feeling comfortable is not number, as a point of comparison, the same large urban enough—We must take action to make our curricula more schools had numerous books related to other minority inclusive. Including queer literature in choice reading is a groups—for example, over 1,000 titles pertaining to African start and is preferable to complete erasure of sexual and gen- Americans. Thirty-two (32) of the 50 schools’ libraries/ der minorities; however, many teachers can do more, even media centers recorded 20 or fewer books related to LGBT within constraining circumstances. In addition, merely people or issues and one school district had zero books in any including LGBTQ literature does not necessarily disrupt het- school library related to LGBT topics. The majority of eronormative discourses (Blackburn & Clark, 2011; Schieble, schools that had a dearth of resources were located in small, 2012). rural communities. Relegating queer texts to choice reading may feel safer for teachers, but this is not necessarily the safest route for students. In addition, using queer texts solely for pleasure Discussion and Implications reading limits what kinds of discussions students can have Data from this study reveal that although ELA teachers about these texts and the kinds of discourses that surround reported a relatively high level of comfort in utilizing LGBT the texts (Blackburn & Clark, 2011) and provides no instruc- texts, discussing LGBT issues, and promoting LGBT litera- tional support. An additional value to using LGBTQ litera- ture for pleasure reading, there was a low level of implemen- ture in whole-class settings is an increased visibility: “Using tation—the literature curriculum is not being widely LGBTQ-inclusive literature and film erodes the silence— diversified in terms of the texts included. Few teachers these characters, their lives and experiences, deserve textual reported actually using queer texts in their classrooms at all and discursive space in the classroom” (Kenney, 2010, p. and even fewer still reported using such texts for purposes 66). Kenney continues, describing how such readings other than student pleasure or choice reading. The most com- enhance all students’ empathy as well as literacy skills. mon reason given for not using LGBT texts in the classroom While some research studies and advocacy pieces men- was a fear of confrontations or challenges by parents or other tion teacher fear as a given (e.g., Caillouet, 2008), data are community members. This mirrors Thein’s (2013) findings rarely reported. Findings from this study support the assump- related to teachers’ justifications for failing to teach queer- tion that ELA teachers hesitate to integrate LGBT literature inclusive curriculum. One of the most common negative due to feelings of insecurity or fear. This seems to indicate claims in Thein’s study was concern over others’ (students, that, in general, ELA teachers at all levels (preservice and parents, community) potential protests. in-service) would benefit from assistance in establishing and In an effort to avoid conflict, teachers often only use maintaining positive relationships with parents and the com- LGBTQ books for choice reading. Although the visibility of munity, guidance in creating rationales for chosen texts, and queer literature as a choice reading may contribute to creating help in defending their instructional choices if necessary. a safer and more welcoming environment for LGBTQIA stu- This need is particularly acute in rural areas, as rural teachers dents and may help to promote acceptance among all stu- had amplified levels of fear and related concrete experiences dents, it still places LGBT literature in the margins rather than that justified their concerns. Teachers need to be guided to as a central part of the curriculum. Very few teachers reported resources such as the National Council of Teachers of English addressing LGBT issues specifically and intentionally in their intellectual freedom websites and rationales, the Children’s 12 SAGE Open Cooperative Book Center (CCBC) intellectual freedom and to live in a diverse society and to create safe spaces for all censorship resources, and local resources that may be avail- students in schools (Banks, 2008). Opportunities for profes- able through educational cooperatives. Discussions of how sional discussions and trainings that include attention to to build supportive relationships with principals and superin- spirituality and religious values (such as Safe Zone training) tendents are also very helpful. may be helpful for teachers working through these personal In this study, older teachers tended to be less comfortable and professional dilemmas. integrating LGBT texts into their teaching than were younger Like strongly religious teachers, teachers in smaller, rural teachers. One precipitating cause may be our changing soci- schools and communities displayed lower comfort levels ety. Sexual minority and gender nonbinary characters are related to LGBT issues and text integration. They also had becoming much more prominent in television and film, pub- displayed higher levels of fear and job insecurity than peers in lic figures and professional athletes are coming out as larger schools and communities. It is possible that teachers in LGBTQIA (though this number remains small in athletics), small communities and schools feel more visible and there- and the political environment is changing, with the legaliza- fore more vulnerable. Rural teachers are known in their com- tion of same-sex marriage. Younger teachers are living in a munities, as demonstrated by one participant’s comment: culture that is more open to LGBTQIA people earlier in their We can provide a network of support for each other, but the real lives than what older teachers have experienced. conflicts come at the grocery store and in church in a small However, though younger teachers reported a higher gen- town. I used to live in [a small town], and parent-teacher eral comfort level in using LGBT literature than their more conferences were civil, but meetings on the street were awkward. experienced counterparts, younger instructors did not have a significantly higher level of implementation. Furthermore, Like their students, rural teachers experience little anonymity they were less aware of queer literature and resources than and this can make them targets for negativity. However, they were other teachers. This points to a need for experience and also have the opportunity to use the relationships they create professional development related to resources. Younger within their communities to shift community culture. Rural teachers may hesitate to implement LGBTQIA-friendly cur- teachers who are respected and have already built a level of riculum due to less experience in working with parents and trust with families can be powerful in creating a “new nor- communities or a feeling of less job security than older col- mal.” Avenues of communication in rural communities are leagues, particularly in rural locations. Although this study often perceived as more open; teachers can communicate found that younger teachers generally felt more comfortable their reasoning behind potentially controversial instructional integrating LGBT literature into their curricula, we cannot decisions in a proactive manner. Rural teachers may need assume that generational shift will remedy the problem of support (both moral and material) in doing the delicate work excluding LGBTQIA content from schools. As young teach- of turning a perceived negative into a productive positive. ers become acculturated to a school or community context, Rural schools in this study had fewer GSAs, fewer library their levels of comfort might change and shift. We must holdings in general, and much fewer library holdings related assist teachers in being change agents rather than simply to LGBTQIA people and issues. Rural teachers need accepting community constraints and becoming assimilated. resources that can be accessed remotely and inexpensively to While the insecurity that teachers feel should be taken seri- support their work. In addition, rural teachers may need more ously, instructors should also remember that teachers are not opportunities for professional development and discussion separate from the community. Teachers are part of the com- centered on concerns unique to their circumstances. One of munity, not antithetical to it. Preservice and in-service teach- the resources that most teachers in this study desired was ers may find that they are able to make change by becoming guidance in selecting texts. There are many resources for active and respected in their communities beyond school. teachers to find text recommendations and book summaries, This study found that simply having a religious faith did but these need to be more widely circulated so that they reach not correlate with comfort levels or resource awareness. teachers easily (see Caillouet, 2011; Cart & Jenkins, 2006; Rather, significant differences in comfort levels related to Cart & Jenkins, 2015; Clyde & Lobban, 2001; Comment, LGBT texts and issues correlated to strength of religious 2009; Curwood, Schliesman, & Horning, 2009; Hartman, belief and to type of faith or denomination. In particular, 2009; Mason, Brannon, & Yarborough, 2012; Meyers, 2009; respondents who identified themselves as Evangelicals Norton & Vare, 2004; Vare & Norton, 2010). Having wide seemed to display the least comfort related to LGBT texts access to reviews and recommendations might buttress and issues. Many evangelical groups believe that sexual ori- teachers’ efforts to build more inclusive curricula. entation is a choice and believe that homosexuality is sinful. Reconciling religious beliefs with the need to represent all students equitably in the curriculum is a difficult challenge Conclusion for many teachers, administrators, and students alike. It is not the teacher’s place to proselytize or to change students’ If teachers and teacher educators care about concepts such as religious beliefs but it is the teacher’s role to prepare students justice and fairness, the texts we use matter because it is Page 13 fundamentally not just or equitable for some students to be tends to leave dominant cultural assumptions and their complex relationships to power unexamined. (p. 104) excluded from the curriculum and made invisible. One of the key ways that schools tacitly condone homophobia is by fail- In addition, she suggests that instructors need to craft a queer ing to include LGBT literature in the curriculum (Curwood pedagogy that disrupts “binary models of sexuality in ways et al., 2009). Invisibility is, in effect, invalidation. McLean that engage with power, rather than obscuring such models (1997) reminds us, within a language of tolerance with which we might seek to Whether texts structure the reader’s experience or whether the ‘cure’ homophobic students” (p. 107). More models of inclu- reader’s experience structures the text, the fact is that the sive teaching practices must be researched and discussed ignoring or denial of a group’s existence in literature invalidates (e.g., Page, 2016). Case studies and unit plans that demon- the experience and self-identity of members of that group by strate how teachers can integrate LGBT young adult litera- rendering them invisible, not only to themselves, but to all other ture into their teaching should be widely disseminated. Such groups in a society. (p. 182) portraits of teaching should include instruction that specifi- cally focuses on LGBTQIA issues, instruction that focuses Ultimately, the curriculum is dialogic, a metaconversa- on meeting standards through using diverse texts, instruction tion—between society and schools, among educators, that attempts to “speak back” to heteronormative practices, between social classes, among political viewpoints. Critical and other models. pedagogues and multicultural educators alike point out that The curriculum reflects who and what are valued in the curriculum is not neutral, but is political and ideological schools. If teachers and administrators truly respect and (see, for example, Apple, 1979; Apple, 1990; Banks, 1995; care for all students, we must be willing to transform our Freire, 1993/1970; Giroux, 1983; Giroux, 1984; McLaren, curricula to address issues of sexual orientation and gen- 1998; Shor, 1992). The curriculum, framed within teachers’ der identity. And if language arts teachers are to engage pedagogical practices, conveys what is valued; it both is a in this process, colleagues, scholars, and teacher educa- site of and reflection of political struggle and knowledge cre- tors must provide assistance. Preservice and in-service ation. What is said and discussed and what is swept under the education opportunities that address intellectual freedom, rug both convey value-laden messages. how to respond to challenges of texts, and curriculum In speaking of disability in education, Robert Anderson selection should be made plentiful and accessible, par- (2006) insightfully and poignantly asks, “Who decides which ticularly in rural areas. Online workshops can be created stories are worth being told?” (p. 368). The curriculum is a and offered free of charge or at low cost for teachers. mechanism for crafting social narrative and for telling stories Rural education centers should attend particularly to top- about individuals, groups, and society. As such, it is impor- ics of intellectual freedom as well as topics of sexual ori- tant that all members of society be represented within the entation and gender identity. Education and advocacy narrative. Inclusive texts that represent a diversity of stu- groups should promote the establishment of GSAs and dents must be present in the curriculum if we are to work provide resources that help students and teachers to get toward a more equitable and just society. Yet Mayo (2009) started with these initiatives. Advocacy centers for sexual states, orientation (such as GLSEN) and literacy (such as library organizations) could provide grants for the purpose of There is a loud silence in curricula that indicates to all students expanding library holdings and provide and promote that there are some people in the school who do not deserve to resources related to text selection. Guidelines and ratio- be spoken about and that even some interested in protecting nales for literary texts could be provided free of charge to sexual minority youth appear willing to use a community teachers by professional organizations. Educational lead- agreement on civil silence as protection. (p. 267) ership organizations should provide support to principals and superintendents so that they can be advocates for Although adding LGBT literature to the ELA curriculum their teachers and their students. is a foundational and important step toward equitable repre- Future research that explores how to help teachers reduce sentation of LGBTQIA students, such inclusion in and of their fear and discomfort and increase their efficacy is itself will not necessarily change the status quo. As Banks required. ELA teachers could be a powerful resource to sup- (1995) points out, curriculum is one dimension of the school- port students who are often marginalized and alienated in ing system that can and should be reformed. In discussing schools, but they must be equipped with tools, ideas, and multicultural education, Banks (2008) emphasizes curricu- allies that will help them to feel empowered so that they, in lum transformation versus additive curriculum. Likewise, turn, can empower their students. Winans (2006) stated that Declaration of Conflicting Interests . . . simply adding materials about “the other” does not challenge our pedagogy or conceptual framework in meaningful ways; the The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect additive approach of inclusivity or celebration of difference to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. 14 SAGE Open Funding Cart, M., & Jenkins, C. A. (2015). Top 250 LGBTQ books for teens. Chicago, IL: Huron Street Press. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support Clark, C., & Blackburn, M. (2009). Reading LGBT-themes litera- for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The ture with young people: What’s possible? English Journal, 98, author received financial support for the research from the 25-32. University of Minnesota, Morris Faculty Research Enhancement Clyde, L. A., & Lobban, M. (2001). A door half open: Young Fund. people’s access to fiction related to homosexuality. School Libraries Worldwide, 7, 17-30. Notes Comment, K. M. (2009). “Wasn’t she a lesbian?” Teaching homo- 1. The study I describe here employed a survey that utilized the erotic themes in Dickinson and Whitman. English Journal, 98, term “LGBT” to denote lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender 61-66. identities, similar to the National School Climate Survey at the Crosnoe, R. (2011). Fitting in, standing out: Navigating the social time. Therefore, I often use “LGBT” in this article. However, challenges of high school to get an education. Cambridge, UK: I will also use “queer,” “LGBTQ,” and “LGBTQIA,” denoting Cambridge University Press. lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or asexual Curwood, J. S., Schliesman, M., & Horning, K. T. (2009). Fight identities, as terms to integrate more broadly inclusive identity for your right: Censorship, selection, and LGBTQ literature. descriptors. English Journal, 98, 37-43. 2. As the resources were not available to conduct a national sur- Freire, P. (1993/1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: vey similar to that administrated by Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Continuum. Education Network (GLSEN), the home state of the researcher GLSEN. (2011). Teaching respect: LGBT-inclusive curriculum and was targeted, in the effort to elicit a high number of responses. school climate (Research brief). New York, NY: GLSEN. 3. The survey inquired about LGBT young adult literature because GLSEN. (2013). School climate in Minnesota (State Snapshot). both middle and secondary school teachers participated and also New York, NY: GLSEN. because there has been huge growth in publishing LGBT texts Giroux, H. A. (1983). Theory and resistance in education: A peda- for young adults since 2000 (Cart & Jenkins, 2015). gogy for the opposition. South Hadley, MA: Bergin & Garvey. 4. Options included male, female, intersex, transgender, and Giroux, H. 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From Awareness to Action: Teacher Attitude and Implementation of LGBT-Inclusive Curriculum in the English Language Arts Classroom:

SAGE Open , Volume 7 (4): 1 – Nov 1, 2017

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Abstract

This survey research describes English language arts teachers’ comfort levels in integrating literature with lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) themes or characters into their curricula and classroom practices. Significant relationships were found between teachers’ age, comfort, awareness of resources, and implementation levels. Although younger teachers had higher comfort levels with LGBT texts, they displayed lower resource awareness levels and static implementation rates. In addition, comfort, awareness, and implementation of LGBT curriculum materials were also correlated with teacher location and with strength of religious belief, with rural teachers and strongly religious teachers displaying lower comfort and implementation levels. Availability of supportive resources such as gay–straight alliances (GSAs) and library holdings, as well as teachers’ awareness of these resources, is also examined. Specific barriers rural teachers encounter when implementing LGBT-inclusive literature/curriculum are identified. A call for future research and professional development is extended. Keywords curriculum, education, social sciences, literacy, diversity and multiculturalism, teaching, teacher education As a teacher educator, I work closely with preservice teachers or gender expression. Other studies document the correlation and also with in-service teachers working in public schools. between these kinds of victimization and health issues such as All of these dedicated instructors would state that they want adolescent depression (see, for example, Martin-Storey & students to feel comfortable and safe in school. Most teachers Crosnoe, 2012). believe that schools are for everyone and all students deserve Negative school environments not only affect students’ the opportunity to learn. We want all students to have caring health and well-being but also adversely affect LGBT stu- and respectful relationships with other students and with dents’ academic achievement and goals, leading, for exam- school staff. However, not all students are having the experi- ple, to higher absenteeism, lower grade point averages, and ences that teachers hope for them. Specifically, students who lower educational aspirations (Kosciw et al., 2016; Wimberly, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) Wilkinson, & Pearson, 2015). For example, “the reported report feeling less safe, less respected, and less valued in our grade point average (GPA) for students who had higher lev- schools than do their heterosexual and cisgender peers, lead- els of victimization based on their sexual orientation or gen- ing to lower engagement and achievement (Kosciw, Gretak, der expression was significantly lower than for students who Giga, Villenas, & Danischewski, 2016; Lecesne, 2012; experienced less harassment and assault (2.9 vs. 3.3)” Robinson & Espelage, 2011). (Kosciw et al., 2016, p. 45) and LGBTQ students who were The National School Climate Survey (NSCS) conducted more frequently victimized based on sexual orientation or by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network gender expression “were twice as likely to report that they (GLSEN; Kosciw et al., 2016) reports that though progress did not plan to pursue postsecondary education (e.g., college has been made since the survey was first administered in 1999, LGBTQ students still frequently hear homophobic University of Minnesota, Morris, USA remarks and negative comments about gender expression, Corresponding Author: hear homophobic remarks from school staff, feel unsafe at Michelle L. Page, Associate Professor, Coordinator of Secondary school because of their sexual orientation, have been verbally Education, University of Minnesota, Morris, 108 Education Building, 600 E harassed at school, have been physically harassed, and have 4th Street, Morris, MN 56267, USA. been physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation Email: pagem@morris.umn.edu Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open or trade school) than those who experienced lower levels and other issues often experienced by LGBTQIA learners. (10.0% vs. 5.2%)” (p. xviii). Not only is the victimization of Inclusive curriculum can have a large impact. For example, one segment of the student body of concern due to the moral in schools where students report usage of an inclusive cur- imperative of providing safe spaces for learning for all stu- riculum, LGBTQ students feel more safe, are absent less fre- dents, it is of concern because it directly affects the learning quently, and feel more connected to their schools; they also and educational outcomes for these students. feel more accepted by their peers (GLSEN, 2011; Kosciw While the issue of bullying has received national atten- et al., 2016). Clark and Blackburn (2009) assert that ELA tion, teachers and teacher educators must also attend to other teachers can be powerful instruments in curbing homophobia aspects of educational systems to support LGBTQIA stu- and heterosexism in schools. They underscore the reading of dents. Although bullying and victimization of youth, and LGBT-themed literature as one mechanism for accomplish- specifically LGBTQ youth, is indeed a very important issue, ing this. recent research suggests that bullying alone may not fully In my own professional experiences, I have observed a explain the psychological and educational risks that LGBTQ disconnect between the lives and practices of the teachers students encounter. In one study, Robinson and Espelage with whom I work and the professional conversations at a (2012) found that national level. For example, there are more and more queer- themed resources and sessions available at national confer- ences and The National Council of Teachers of English (2007) Although victimization does explain a portion of the LGBTQ– heterosexual risk disparities, substantial differences persist even has spoken out in favor of “strengthening teacher knowledge when the differences in victimization are taken into account . . . of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues.” . This consistent pattern of findings suggests that policies aimed However, the teachers with whom I interact do not find such simply at reducing bullying may not be effective in bringing resources easily available and, as reported by GLSEN, few LGBTQ youth to the level of their heterosexual peers in terms of students have actually experienced inclusive curriculum. psychological and educational outcomes. Additional policies Other studies also report a hesitance on the part of teachers to may be needed to promote safe, supportive school environments. implement curriculum related to LGBTQIA issues (e.g., (p. 309) Puchner & Klein, 2011; Thein, 2013). The possibilities seem to remain just that—possibility rather than reality. Rather, researchers attribute some of the risk/disparities to There are competing perceptions related to visibility of “stigmatizing, macro-level messages . . . that persist even in gender and sexual minorities. On one hand, many argue that the absence of direct individual-level peer victimization” (p. there is greater visibility for LGBTQIA people in society 316). In addition, Crosnoe (2011) describes factors other than ever before, as indicated by media portrayals. But on the than victimization, such as negative impacts of not fitting other hand, as Mayo (2009) and others argue (Page, 2017), into adolescent social structures (which are largely formed there remains a profound silence around LGBTQIA people by schools), and Martin-Storey, Cheadle, Skalamera, and and issues in schools. Given this apparent national queer Crosnoe (2015) cite stigmatization of sexual minority youth ambivalence, and given the importance of the curriculum as contributing to challenges facing LGBTQIA youth. and how it represents and constitutes knowledge, I wanted to Such findings support the idea that approaches to creating explore how teachers are (or are not) enacting a queer-inclu- a positive school environment for LGBTQIA students that go sive curriculum and to gauge their comfort levels and aware- beyond antibullying programs are vitally imperative. Michael ness of resources. I also wanted to hear directly from Sadowski points out that providing safety for LGBTQIA stu- practicing teachers as the NSCS’ respondents are students. dents is not enough; we must also “create schools that affirm We know that students and teachers often perceive schools, LGBTQ students and integrate respect for LGBTQ identities classrooms, and teaching and learning differently. Few stu- through multiple aspects of school life” (Sadowski, 2017, p. dents surveyed in the NSCS reported experiencing inclusive 9). Some facets that might be considered are the “supportive curriculum; I wondered if ELA teachers perceived this the resources” included in the NSCS. These resources include same way. Did they feel comfortable incorporating LGBT students’ access to supportive staff members, the presence of themes into their teaching and curriculum? Did they do so? gay–straight alliances (GSAs) or similar clubs in schools, Were teachers aware of resources and texts that contained access to library resources, and exposure to inclusive curricu- LGBT characters, themes, or story lines? Did teachers’ com- lum. The NSCS reports that only about half the students had fort level correlate with a particular educational philosophy the opportunity to participate in a GSA, only 22.4% of stu- or view of schooling? Because such a small proportion of dents reported exposure to inclusive (queer-positive) school students reported that they had experienced inclusive/posi- curriculum, and fewer than half (42.4%) had access to tive curriculum in school (both nationally and in the state resources on LGBT issues in their libraries (including online resources and physical holdings; Kosciw et al., 2016). where this research was conducted [GLSEN, 2013; GLSEN, English language arts (ELA) teachers have the opportu- 2011]), and because of my interest in literature and literacy, I nity to make a difference in the lives of LGBTQIA students posed the preceding as research questions. These questions and to help stem the tide of harassment, violence, depression, gave rise to the survey research I describe in this article. Page 3 25% in Grades 7 to 8; and 20% had other assignments (e.g., Method both middle and secondary grades). The majority of teachers I sent an electronic invitation to participate in an online sur- were younger than 51 years of age (20.9% 20-30 years, 32.5% vey to all ELA teachers in middle and secondary schools in 31-40 years, 27.2% 41-50 years). The majority of respon- my state for whom public directory information was avail- dents had taught from 0 to 20 years, with the largest propor- able, hoping to invite every ELA teacher in the state to partici- tion teaching from 11 to 15 years (25.2%). Rural teachers pate. The online survey was open for 8 weeks. In total, 2,804 were more highly represented among the respondents invitations to participate were sent; 577 survey responses (46.7%), followed by suburban (38.8%), and then urban were submitted for a response rate of 20.6%. Of 87 counties (14.5%). In terms of race, respondents were primarily White in the state, 83 were represented in the responses. The four (98.3%). The respondents generally had a religious faith, with unrepresented counties are very small with low population. only 10% identifying as atheist and 28.3% as Catholic, 52.2% The focal state has one large metropolitan center with four as Protestant, 8.5% as Evangelical, 0.2% Muslim, 0.5% additional urban areas of more than 50,000 residents while Buddhist, and 10.2% as other. Survey respondents identified the bulk of the state could be characterized as rural. In terms themselves primarily as straight/heterosexual (97.0%), with of race, according to 2015 demographic data, the state is 81% 2.6% identifying as gay/lesbian/homosexual, 0.2% bisexual, White (non-Hispanic), 5.8% Black/African American, 1.1% and 0.2% as questioning. Participants were permitted to American Indian, 4.8% Asian, 0.04% Native Hawaiian/ choose whether or not to respond to each survey item; there- Pacific Islander, 2.1% two or more races, and 5.2% Hispanic fore, numbers of responses reported for items varied. (Minnesota State Demographic Center, 2015). The survey was developed by the researcher and centered Results on the questions above as well as questions related to other topics for future research. Survey items related to this study When one examines the demographics of the respondents, are included in data charts and figures that appear throughout the homogeneity of the participants is striking, especially in the discussion. The survey inquired about ELA teachers’ terms of sexual orientation and also race, with the teacher experiences with their media center, their views on curricu- respondent group being less racially diverse than the state as lum, their instructional purposes, their comfort levels related a whole. This, in itself, may form the foundation of an argu- to LGBT young adult literature in the classroom, their ment for working toward greater diversity in teaching. awareness of LGBT resources, their priorities regarding lit- However, this discussion will focus primarily on the findings erature selection, and other topics such as school policies (67 with the greatest statistical significance: general comfort items total). Most survey items were Likert-type scale items, level and awareness of LGBT issues and resources, age and but also several open-ended items asked participants to offer length of time teaching, religious beliefs, and community/ a narrative response, providing additional detail and nuance school size. In addition, significant findings related to sup- to complement closed question responses. Finally, respon- portive resources such as GSAs and library holdings will be dents were given the opportunity to volunteer for follow-up addressed. interviews so that survey responses could be probed and expanded upon. I conducted follow-up interviews with over Teachers’ General Comfort Level and Awareness 30 participants. Concurrently with the teacher survey, I also surveyed librarians and media specialists about LGBT litera- Several Likert-type scale items were posed to survey partici- ture use in library holdings and reviewed library holdings by pants related to comfort level in utilizing LGBTQ literature in examining online catalogs and databases. various ways in their classrooms. Over half of teachers In this article, I will focus on the segments of the teacher responded that they felt comfortable using literature that con- survey that related to comfort level and awareness of LGBT tains LGBT characters or story lines in the curriculum and that issues and resources. I was particularly interested in relation- they felt comfortable discussing LGBT issues in the class- ships within the data, whether comfort level or awareness room. In addition, more than 60% felt comfortable promoting was related to teachers’ age, school/community size, reli- LGBT literature for pleasure or choice reading. Table 1 sum- gious belief, level of experience, educational philosophy, and marizes data related to teachers’ comfort levels. Some readers so forth. Survey items were cross tabulated and chi-square will be encouraged that more than half of teachers reported tests conducted on the data to determine statistical signifi- these comfort levels, whereas others will be disappointed that cance. A threshold of .05 was used to determine significance. only about half of teachers display such comfort. Only data and topics with statistical significance are dis- Teachers were also asked to rate their agreement with the cussed in the findings. Data from open-ended items and fol- statements, “I am aware of resources (including fiction, non- low-up interviews were analyzed through an iterative coding fiction, web) in our school library/media center related to process that uncovered prominent themes. sexual orientation issues” and “I am aware of at least 5 young Demographics of the respondents in this study were as fol- adult works (novels, short story compilations, etc.) contain- lows: 75% female/25% male ; 55% taught in Grades 9 to 12; ing LGBT characters or storylines.” Only 28.1% of 4 SAGE Open Table 1. Summary of Participants’ Comfort Levels Related to LGBT Integration into Teaching and Awareness of Resources. Percentage of respondents who Percentage of respondents who Survey statement “strongly agree” or “agree” “strongly disagree” or “disagree” I feel comfortable using literature that contains LGBT 52.6 12.1 characters or story lines in my curriculum. I feel comfortable discussing LGBT issues in my classroom. 54.6 9.0 I feel comfortable promoting young adult literature with LGBT 61.0 9.6 characters and story lines to students for pleasure reading or choice reading. I am aware of resources (including fiction, nonfiction, Web) in 28.1 36.2 our school library/media center related to sexual orientation issues. I am aware of at least 5 young adult works (novels, short story 33.2 37.7 compilations, etc.) containing LGBT characters or story lines. Note. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Table 2. Approaches to Using LGBT Texts in the Classroom, as Reported in an Open-Ended Survey Item. Percentage of responses Open-ended item responses: approaches to integrating LGBT literature into teaching with this theme/code Student pleasure or choice reading 28 Using texts that emphasize other (not explicitly LGBT) themes such as diversity, 16 friendship, or family Using texts already part of the school curriculum, or guiding discussion of these 10 texts, using a lens of gender to analyze texts Using LGBT texts to explore social issues such as bullying 7 Intentionally exploring and addressing sexual orientation 6 Note. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender. respondents strongly agreed or agreed with the statement explicitly teaching about sexual orientation or gender or about being familiar with library resources while 33.2% including these topics in whole-class activities. Despite pro- strongly agreed or agreed with the statement related to famil- claiming a strong comfort level in discussing LGBT issues iarity with young adult works. While teachers may feel com- and incorporating LGBT texts, in actual practice a small pro- fortable using such works in their teaching, they are not portion of teachers are explicitly attending to gender and familiar with texts and resources that may be available to sexual orientation in teacher-led classroom activities. them. In subsequent sections, I will examine how teachers’ com- While 52.6% of respondents agreed that they felt com- fort levels in integrating LGBT literature related to other cat- fortable using LGBT literature in the curriculum, only 23.7% egories such as religious belief and school size. reported actually integrating this literature when asked about this in an open-ended item. This percentage is higher Teacher Age and Experience than the 22% of students who reported experiencing inclu- sive curriculum in the NSCS; it is possible that respondents Survey participants were asked about their age and about the to my research inquiries represented teachers who were more length of time they had been teaching ELA. To better under- “open” to this topic or that teachers and students were inter- stand whether teacher age and experience affected their com- preting classroom practices differently. It is also possible that fort levels related to LGBT literature, demographic this difference reflects the culture of the state where the sur- information was cross tabulated with responses to survey vey was administered (rather than the nation, which is sur- items related to comfort level integrating LGBT literature in veyed through the NSCS). The respondents reporting the curriculum, comfort discussing LGBT issues in the class- inclusion of queer texts in their teaching is a small proportion room, and the items about awareness of resources. The rela- of teachers, showing educators’ inhibition in this area. The tionship between teacher age and comfort level using LGBT most common method of including LGBT literature in the literature in the curriculum was significant, χ (4, N = 527) = classroom was allowing it or promoting it for pleasure or 35.33, p = .018. In general, comfort level seemed related to choice reading (see Table 2). Few teachers reported age—the older the teacher, the lesser the comfort level; Page 5 Figure 1. Relationship between age of teacher and comfort level integrating LGBT curriculum. Note. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. however, the oldest teachers (older than 60 years) did not fit teacher age and feeling a need for support in text selection, this pattern, displaying a higher comfort level that was com- χ (4, N = 521) = 44.44, p = .001. Proportionally, younger parable to the 20 to 30 years age group. This is demonstrated teachers were more likely to strongly agree or agree that in Figure 1. receiving guidance in text selection would increase their The same trend is displayed in the data related to comfort- comfort level with suggesting students’ readings. Older level promoting literature with LGBT characters and story teachers were less likely to agree with this statement. The lines with students for pleasure reading or choice reading, value of guidance in text selection was also significantly 2 2 χ (4, N = 521) = 44.68, p = .001. There seems to be a general related to length of time teaching, χ (6, N = 519) = 54.60, p = relationship with older teachers becoming less comfortable .003. Teachers with 0 to 15 years’ experience were more engaging in this activity, with the exception of the oldest cat- likely to agree that their comfort level would be enhanced if egory of teachers who display a slightly higher comfort level they had guidance in text selection than were more experi- than their colleagues in the adjacent group. Data about teach- enced teachers of 16 to 30+ years. It appears that more expe- ers’ level of experience also yielded this pattern, with more rienced teachers may feel more confident about text selection experienced teachers feeling less comfortable promoting this or that guidance would not affect their comfort levels. literature and less experienced teachers feeling more com- Teacher age also was statistically significant in relation to fortable, χ (6, N = 519) = 68.64, p < .001. awareness of resources available to teachers regarding LGBT Participants were asked in open-ended items whether they issues, χ (4, N = 510) = 34.33, p = .023. Younger teachers used LGBT literature with their students or in their classes. tended to be only half as aware of the resources available to They were asked to elaborate on how they used such texts (if them and to students in the library/media center than were they responded affirmatively) as well as the reasons why the oldest teachers. they did not do so (if they responded in the negative). The proportion of those who responded affirmatively to this item Teachers’ Religious Beliefs as compared with respondents from their overall age group were as follows: 26% of the 20 to 30 years old group reported Most respondents (89.7%) claimed a religious faith. Teachers using LGBT literature in some way, 28% of the 31 to 40 were asked about the strengths of their religious beliefs and years old group, 26% of the 41 to 50 years old group, 23% of their beliefs’ impact on their lives. There were significant the 51 to 60 years old group, and 35% of the older than 60 relationships found between strength of religious belief and years old group. The rate of implementation of LGBT litera- other factors. ture in their instruction was not significantly higher for When asked about their comfort levels integrating LGBT younger teachers, suggesting that higher comfort level did literature into the curriculum, those who held very strong not necessarily translate to increased curricular inclusion. religious beliefs were more likely to disagree or strongly dis- Teachers were asked whether they would feel more com- agree, displaying a lower comfort level than their colleagues fortable suggesting LGBT works to students (for choice or whose religious beliefs were not held as strongly, χ (5, N = pleasure reading) if they had more guidance themselves in 523) = 64.61, p < .001. Likewise, respondents reporting high choosing quality texts. Results show a relationship between strength of religious belief also displayed, proportionally, a 6 SAGE Open Figure 2. Relationship between holding strong religious beliefs and comfort level discussing LGBT issues in the classroom. Note. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. lower comfort level with discussing LGBT issues in the Of all groups, the Evangelical and Atheist groups varied classroom, χ (5, N = 520) = 43.72, p = .011. This finding is the most often and the most widely from the average rating not surprising, but what is of note here is that simply having for all respondents, while both Catholics and Protestants a religious faith was not closely correlated with discomfort in tended to be closer to the mean. Evangelicals were less likely exploring LGBTQIA issues and identities in the classroom to agree that they were comfortable using LGBT literature, or curriculum; rather, the degree to which religious faith whereas Atheists reported more agreement. The same pattern affected day-to-day actions was the correlating factor. recurs when asked about comfort discussing LGBT issues in Respondents who stated that their religious beliefs were not class—Atheists were more likely to agree while Evangelicals as strong or had less impact on their day-to-day lives were were less likely to display comfort in this area. While there more likely to agree or strongly agree that they were com- was less variety in ratings of the item “I feel comfortable fortable integrating LGBT literature or discussing LGBT using LGBT literature in my classroom but only if those issues (see Figure 2). characters and storylines are in the background of the text/ In general, more than half of all respondents (53.4%) story (not featured prominently),” both Evangelicals and agreed that they would feel more comfortable integrating Atheists were less likely to agree than were those who clas- LGBT literature into their teaching if they had more guid- sified themselves as Catholic or Protestant. It is unknown ance in selecting such texts. This includes teachers with whether this indicates that the teachers disagree because they strong religious beliefs. However, there were teachers who do not feel comfortable using such literature in general or did NOT desire guidance or did not feel that it would modify that the teachers disagree with relegating LGBT characters their comfort level. More frequently, these were teachers and story lines to the background. Evangelicals were less who identified themselves as having strong religious beliefs, likely to feel comfortable promoting LGBT literature for χ (5, N = 518) = 56.24, p < .001. pleasure or choice reading while Atheists were more likely to feel comfortable doing so. Evangelicals were less likely to agree that they would feel more comfortable using LGBT Denomination. Religious sects do not have uniform views on literature if they had guidance in selecting texts, perhaps gender or sexual minority people. Therefore, I examined data indicating that no amount of guidance would sway their related to type of religion, what I refer to as denomination. opinions. Data for respondents who identified as Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, and Other were not included in this comparison due to the small number of respondents who claimed those faiths. Unique Challenges for Rural Teachers: Comfort, Table 3 shows the ratings data for statements related to com- Awareness, Insecurity, and Resources fort level in using LGBT literature, discussing LGBT issues, and other items. In general, respondents felt most comfortable Comfort and awareness. One of the strongest relationships to utilizing LGBT literature for pleasure or choice reading. emerge from the data was that between teachers’ school/ Page 7 Table 3. Religious Groups’ Ratings of Agreement With Statements Related to Comfort Levels Utilizing LGBT Literature and/or Dealing With LGBT Topics. Which best describes your religious affiliation? I feel comfortable using literature that contains LGBT characters or story lines in my curriculum. Catholic Protestant Evangelical Atheist Rating average Rating 4.19 4.27 3.15 4.71 4.20 I feel comfortable discussing LGBT issues in my classroom. Catholic Protestant Evangelical Atheist Rating average Rating 4.43 4.37 3.73 4.90 4.38 I feel comfortable using LGBT literature in my classroom but only if those characters and story lines are in the background of the text/ story. Catholic Protestant Evangelical Atheist Rating average Rating 3.38 3.29 2.79 2.93 3.23 I feel comfortable promoting young adult literature with LGBT characters and story lines to students for pleasure reading or choice reading. Catholic Protestant Evangelical Atheist Rating average Rating 4.60 4.55 3.36 4.93 4.51 I would feel more comfortable suggesting LGBT works to students if I had guidance in selecting such works. Catholic Protestant Evangelical Atheist Rating average Rating 4.49 4.41 3.76 4.24 4.36 Note. Numerical equivalents to answer options were strongly agree = 6, agree = 5, somewhat agree = 4, somewhat disagree = 3, disagree = 2, strongly disagree = 1. Therefore, a higher average rating indicates more agreement with the statement while a lower rating indicates stronger disagreement. All items are significant at a level of p < .001. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. community size and teachers’ comfort levels, awareness of being aware of LGBT young adult literature works than were resources, and feelings of fear or insecurity. Multiple demo- their rural peers (see Figure 4). This trend is verified by data graphic questions were asked (Is your community rural, sub- related to school size and community size. Teachers in urban, or urban? How large is your school? How many smaller schools were less likely to agree that they were aware residents are there in your community?) as a means of verify- of available resources and teachers in smaller communities ing the trends and patterns that might emerge. Therefore, also were less likely to agree that they were aware of some representations of data have been condensed in the fol- resources, χ (7, N = 493) = 63.30, p = .002. lowing sections. Rural teachers’ lower comfort levels and lower awareness Generally, teachers in larger communities (more than of resources coincide with a lower rate of curricular diversi- 25,000 residents) were more likely to agree that they were fication. While 28% of suburban respondents and 46% of comfortable integrating LGBT literature into their curriculum, urban respondents reported using LGBT literature in the χ (7, N = 511) = 96.33, p < .001, and discussing LGBT issues classroom, only 18% of rural teachers used such literature. in the classroom, χ (7, N = 507) = 65.07, p < .001. Likewise, The correlation of rurality with implementation was statisti- school size was significant to comfort integrating LGBT liter- cally significant, χ (2, N = 532) = 26.26, p < .001. Rural ature, χ (5, N = 527) = 58.88, p = .001, and comfort discussing teachers may feel less comfortable in this aspect of their LGBT issues, χ (5, N = 523) = 54.45, p = .004. Teachers who work due to increased feelings of fear or insecurity, discussed taught in schools of more than 1,000 pupils were more likely in the next section. to state that they were comfortable discussion LGBT issues and integrating LGBT literature in their classrooms. Teacher insecurity. As stated previously, though a high propor- Teachers in rural schools, proportionally, felt less com- tion of respondents generally reported feeling comfortable fortable using LGBT literature in their curricula than did integrating LGBT literature into their teaching or discussing their suburban and urban counterparts, χ (2, N = 508) = LGBTQIA issues in their classrooms, a significantly smaller 72.41, p < .001. Figure 3 demonstrates the proportional dis- portion of them were actually doing so (less than 25%). In the parity in comfort level. Likewise, rural teachers’ comfort lev- case of young adult LGBT literature, dispositions are not els with discussion on LGBT issues were also lower, χ (2, N being translated into action. When asked why LGBT literature = 504) = 54.19, p < .001. Urban teachers were approximately is not used, the most common response (31%) was that teach- twice as likely to report a higher comfort level in discussing ers were afraid of challenges or confrontations with parents or LGBT issues. other community members. Other common reasons included a Rural teachers also believed themselves to be less aware lack of awareness or education about such texts (21%) and of LGBT young adult literature, χ (2, N = 489) = 39.23, p < lack of budget or resources to purchase texts (18%). Few .001. Urban teachers were almost twice as likely to report teachers cited a conflict with their values system as a reason to 8 SAGE Open Figure 3. Relationship between nature of school (rural, suburban, urban) and comfort level integrating LGBT texts into curriculum. Note. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. I am aware of at least 5 young adult works containing LGBT characters or storylines. 100% 90% 25.4% 30.9% Disagree/Strongly 80% 47.4% Disagree 70% 26.8% 60% Somewhat 36.2% 50% Agree/Somewhat 40% 25.2% Disagree 30% Strongly Agree/Agree 47.9% 20% 33.0% 27.4% 10% 0% RuralSuburban Urban Figure 4. Relationship between nature of school (rural, suburban, urban) and awareness of LGBT young adult literature. Note. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. rocking the boat for fear of being undermined as a teacher, not integrate this literature (4%). All of these concerns were labeled a deviant, or being challenged as fit to teach. So whether more pronounced among rural teachers. or not a teacher can actually be fired for including specific texts, Participants were asked in the survey whether they felt there is a very real concern that his or her reputation and they would be “in trouble” with the community if they inte- ultimately, career, could be ruined. So the question becomes, is grated LGBT literature into the curriculum. (Participants it worth it to include this text? defined for themselves what it would mean to be “in trouble” and who the community is). The data show that rural teach- Another participant explained their fear, stating, ers were much more likely to feel that they would be “in trouble” with their communities if they used LGBT literature In this community, I am fairly certain that using literature with in their classrooms, χ (2, N = 498) = 101.19, p < .001 (see LGBT themes would upset many parents, and potentially cause Figure 5). This concern was elaborated upon in follow-up me to lose my job. It is one of the reasons I feel a little interviews. One participant related, uncomfortable in this district; I believe that curriculum should address these voices instead of silencing them, but I’m not sure I’m brave enough to deal with 90% of my students’ parents There is always a level of fear that one will lose one’s job. being angry with me. However, I think most teachers do not want to be the ones Page 9 Figure 5. Proportion of rural, suburban, and urban teachers who feel they would be in trouble with the community for using LGBT literature. Note. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Likewise, rural teachers were more likely than their urban p < .001, and schools of 1,000 pupils or less, χ (3, N = 444) = and suburban counterparts to feel that they would be “in 31.12, p = .033, felt more vulnerable. trouble” with their principals for making such choices, χ (2, N = 496) = 78.55, p < .001. One participant explained in her Insecurity and gender. While this section pertains to findings interview, related to rural teachers, it must be noted here that gender is also a significant factor in feelings of teacher insecurity. Most teachers are afraid that they will get in trouble for not Gender generally was not significant in this study except for following a protocol that maybe they don’t know about. They this item. Female teachers were significantly more likely to are also afraid that there will be some kind of reprimand that feel “in trouble” with their communities, χ (1, N = 509) = would go into the permanent file. Unfortunately, I think there is 16.97, p = .004, and their principals, χ (1, N = 507) = 256.72, a real danger that there could be danger of losing one’s job or at p < .0001. Women were slightly more likely to work in rural least having to defend oneself in front of a board that can feel and suburban schools (47.5% and 40.25%, respectively, like a “witch hunt.” compared with 43.2% and 36.8% for men) while men were more likely to work in urban schools (20% compared with Another participant had fears over being driven out of the women at 13%), though these data were not statistically sig- district rather than fired, saying, nificant. Correlation between gender and feelings of vulner- ability may be an important topic for future research. I am tenured and the likelihood of being fired is remote. However, I can see where my classroom would come under the Supportive resources. Supportive resources named by GLSEN gun by the administration and I would find myself being include library holdings related to LGBTQ issues, faculty micromanaged by my principal and superintendent. I can also see where the school board would get involved as well. who are supportive of gender and sexual minority students, GSAs or similar clubs, comprehensive bullying policies (that Rural and suburban teachers had the same rates of agree- specifically attend to issues of gender and sexual orienta- ment that their instructional choices were supported by their tion), and inclusive curriculum. The NSCS indicated that stu- communities. However, urban teachers displayed a higher dents in schools with GSAs felt more safe, experienced less level of agreement. Generally, it appears that rural teachers victimization, heard fewer homophobic remarks, and had a feel more insecure and less supported than do teachers in greater sense of connectedness to their schools (Kosciw other settings (see Table 4). This pattern is evident when et al., 2016). A study conducted by the Family Acceptance examining school size and community size as well, with Project showed that LGBT adolescents who attend schools teachers in smaller schools and in smaller communities show- with GSAs experience greater mental health as young adults, ing higher levels of agreement with the statement that they are less likely to drop out of school, and are more likely to would be “in trouble” with their communities if they utilized pursue postsecondary education (i.e., attend college; Toomey, LGBT literature in the classroom. Generally, teachers in com- Ryan, Diaz, & Russell, 2011). Nationally, approximately munities of 25,000 residents or less, χ (7, N = 501) = 130.53, 54% of students reported having a GSA or similar club in 10 SAGE Open Table 4. Percentages of Participants Who Feel Vulnerable and Supported. Strongly agree Agree Somewhat agree Somewhat disagree Disagree Strongly disagree I feel that I would be “in trouble” with the community if I used LGBT works in my classroom. Rural 26.84 26.84 32.03 9.09 4.33 0.87 Suburban 15.82 22.96 29.59 13.78 11.73 6.12 Urban 1.41 5.63 21.13 28.17 28.17 15.49 I feel that I would be “in trouble” with my principal if I used LGBT works in my classroom. Rural 10.43 18.26 26.96 19.57 18.70 6.09 Suburban 7.18 8.21 18.46 31.79 20 14.36 Urban 0 1.41 9.86 18.31 39.44 30.99 I feel that in general the community supports my instructional choices. Rural 9.96 48.92 31.60 7.79 1.73 0 Suburban 13.33 45.64 33.33 5.64 1.54 0.51 Urban 16.90 54.93 25.35 1.41 1.41 0 Note. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Table 5. Relationship Between Presence of Gay–Straight Alliances (or Similar Clubs) and Comfort Levels and Feelings of Vulnerability. Does your school have a gay–straight alliance or similar club? We have one but it is I’m not We don’t have one but there No, we don’t Rating Yes, an active one. not very visible/active. sure. is student or staff interest. have one. average I feel comfortable using literature that contains LGBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) characters or story lines in my curriculum. 4.90 4.62 4.52 4.81 3.79 4.28 I feel comfortable discussing LGBT issues in my classroom. 4.96 4.82 4.48 4.69 4.02 4.43 I feel comfortable promoting young adult literature with LGBT characters and story lines to students for pleasure reading or choice reading. 4.99 4.93 4.76 4.85 4.18 4.56 I feel that I would be “in trouble” with the community if I used LGBT works in my classroom. 3.32 3.77 4.33 3.85 4.49 4.07 I feel that I would be “in trouble” with my principal if I used LGBT works in my classroom. 2.43 2.82 3.33 2.58 3.68 3.18 Note. Numerical equivalents to answer options were strongly agree = 6, agree = 5, somewhat agree = 4, somewhat disagree = 3, disagree = 2, strongly disagree = 1. Therefore, a higher average rating indicates more agreement with the statement while a lower rating indicates stronger disagreement. LGBT = lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. their school (Kosciw et al., 2016). In the survey described in aware of library resources, χ (4, N = 508) = 85.53, p < .001, this article, approximately 39% of teachers reported having a and being aware of LGBT young adult works than teachers GSA or similar club at their school. Rural schools were far in schools with no GSA (see Table 6). Teachers in schools less likely to have a GSA or similar club than were urban with active GSAs were also more likely to report having 2 2 schools, χ (2, N = 493) = 112.74, p < .001. While 46.5% of comprehensive bullying policies, χ (4, N = 508) = 33.45, p = urban respondents reported having an active GSA in their .005, and more consistent implementation of such policies, school, only 7.8% of rural respondents had this resource. χ (4, N = 506) = 28.59, p = .005. The lack of GSAs in rural In this study, respondents who reported having a GSA at schools may be both constitutive and reflective of teachers’ their school were more likely than their peers to feel comfort- feelings of vulnerability and the resultant lack of support for able integrating LGBT literature in their curricula, χ (4, N = gender and sexual minority students. 507) = 80.87, p < .001, more likely to feel comfortable dis- Library holdings are considered by GLSEN to be another cussing LGBT issues, χ (4, N = 506) = 66.14, p < .001, and supportive resource. As one thread of the larger research more likely to feel comfortable promoting LGBT literature as project, online catalogs of approximately 50 school libraries choice reading, χ (4, N = 505) = 55.79, p < .001. Table 5 illus- were randomly selected and examined for availability of fic- trates the data. tion and nonfiction titles that contained information or story In addition to higher comfort levels, ELA teachers in lines related to LGBTQIA people or issues. Four senior high schools with active GSAs were more likely to report being schools in populous urban areas had 100 or more books Page 11 Table 6. Relationship Between Presence of GSAs and Awareness of Resources. Does your school have a GSA or similar club? We have one but it is I’m not We don’t have one but there No, we don’t Rating Yes, an active one. not very visible/active. sure. is student or staff interest. have one. average I am aware of resources (including fiction, nonfiction, web) in our school library/media center related to sexual orientation issues. 4.25 3.71 3.27 3.81 2.84 3.38 I am aware of at least 5 young adult works (novels, short story compilations, etc.) containing LGBT characters or story lines. 3.79 3.79 3.48 4.00 3.12 3.45 My school has a comprehensive policy related to harassment and bullying. 5.39 5.15 5.12 5.31 5.08 5.17 My school fully and consistently implements its policies related to harassment and bullying. 4.81 4.56 4.64 4.42 4.48 4.57 Note. Numerical equivalents to answer options were strongly agree = 6, agree = 5, somewhat agree = 4, somewhat disagree = 3, disagree = 2, strongly disagree = 1. Therefore a higher average rating indicates more agreement with the statement while a lower rating indicates stronger disagreement. GSA = gay–straight alliance. available to students. Though 100 books may seem a large practice, demonstrating that feeling comfortable is not number, as a point of comparison, the same large urban enough—We must take action to make our curricula more schools had numerous books related to other minority inclusive. Including queer literature in choice reading is a groups—for example, over 1,000 titles pertaining to African start and is preferable to complete erasure of sexual and gen- Americans. Thirty-two (32) of the 50 schools’ libraries/ der minorities; however, many teachers can do more, even media centers recorded 20 or fewer books related to LGBT within constraining circumstances. In addition, merely people or issues and one school district had zero books in any including LGBTQ literature does not necessarily disrupt het- school library related to LGBT topics. The majority of eronormative discourses (Blackburn & Clark, 2011; Schieble, schools that had a dearth of resources were located in small, 2012). rural communities. Relegating queer texts to choice reading may feel safer for teachers, but this is not necessarily the safest route for students. In addition, using queer texts solely for pleasure Discussion and Implications reading limits what kinds of discussions students can have Data from this study reveal that although ELA teachers about these texts and the kinds of discourses that surround reported a relatively high level of comfort in utilizing LGBT the texts (Blackburn & Clark, 2011) and provides no instruc- texts, discussing LGBT issues, and promoting LGBT litera- tional support. An additional value to using LGBTQ litera- ture for pleasure reading, there was a low level of implemen- ture in whole-class settings is an increased visibility: “Using tation—the literature curriculum is not being widely LGBTQ-inclusive literature and film erodes the silence— diversified in terms of the texts included. Few teachers these characters, their lives and experiences, deserve textual reported actually using queer texts in their classrooms at all and discursive space in the classroom” (Kenney, 2010, p. and even fewer still reported using such texts for purposes 66). Kenney continues, describing how such readings other than student pleasure or choice reading. The most com- enhance all students’ empathy as well as literacy skills. mon reason given for not using LGBT texts in the classroom While some research studies and advocacy pieces men- was a fear of confrontations or challenges by parents or other tion teacher fear as a given (e.g., Caillouet, 2008), data are community members. This mirrors Thein’s (2013) findings rarely reported. Findings from this study support the assump- related to teachers’ justifications for failing to teach queer- tion that ELA teachers hesitate to integrate LGBT literature inclusive curriculum. One of the most common negative due to feelings of insecurity or fear. This seems to indicate claims in Thein’s study was concern over others’ (students, that, in general, ELA teachers at all levels (preservice and parents, community) potential protests. in-service) would benefit from assistance in establishing and In an effort to avoid conflict, teachers often only use maintaining positive relationships with parents and the com- LGBTQ books for choice reading. Although the visibility of munity, guidance in creating rationales for chosen texts, and queer literature as a choice reading may contribute to creating help in defending their instructional choices if necessary. a safer and more welcoming environment for LGBTQIA stu- This need is particularly acute in rural areas, as rural teachers dents and may help to promote acceptance among all stu- had amplified levels of fear and related concrete experiences dents, it still places LGBT literature in the margins rather than that justified their concerns. Teachers need to be guided to as a central part of the curriculum. Very few teachers reported resources such as the National Council of Teachers of English addressing LGBT issues specifically and intentionally in their intellectual freedom websites and rationales, the Children’s 12 SAGE Open Cooperative Book Center (CCBC) intellectual freedom and to live in a diverse society and to create safe spaces for all censorship resources, and local resources that may be avail- students in schools (Banks, 2008). Opportunities for profes- able through educational cooperatives. Discussions of how sional discussions and trainings that include attention to to build supportive relationships with principals and superin- spirituality and religious values (such as Safe Zone training) tendents are also very helpful. may be helpful for teachers working through these personal In this study, older teachers tended to be less comfortable and professional dilemmas. integrating LGBT texts into their teaching than were younger Like strongly religious teachers, teachers in smaller, rural teachers. One precipitating cause may be our changing soci- schools and communities displayed lower comfort levels ety. Sexual minority and gender nonbinary characters are related to LGBT issues and text integration. They also had becoming much more prominent in television and film, pub- displayed higher levels of fear and job insecurity than peers in lic figures and professional athletes are coming out as larger schools and communities. It is possible that teachers in LGBTQIA (though this number remains small in athletics), small communities and schools feel more visible and there- and the political environment is changing, with the legaliza- fore more vulnerable. Rural teachers are known in their com- tion of same-sex marriage. Younger teachers are living in a munities, as demonstrated by one participant’s comment: culture that is more open to LGBTQIA people earlier in their We can provide a network of support for each other, but the real lives than what older teachers have experienced. conflicts come at the grocery store and in church in a small However, though younger teachers reported a higher gen- town. I used to live in [a small town], and parent-teacher eral comfort level in using LGBT literature than their more conferences were civil, but meetings on the street were awkward. experienced counterparts, younger instructors did not have a significantly higher level of implementation. Furthermore, Like their students, rural teachers experience little anonymity they were less aware of queer literature and resources than and this can make them targets for negativity. However, they were other teachers. This points to a need for experience and also have the opportunity to use the relationships they create professional development related to resources. Younger within their communities to shift community culture. Rural teachers may hesitate to implement LGBTQIA-friendly cur- teachers who are respected and have already built a level of riculum due to less experience in working with parents and trust with families can be powerful in creating a “new nor- communities or a feeling of less job security than older col- mal.” Avenues of communication in rural communities are leagues, particularly in rural locations. Although this study often perceived as more open; teachers can communicate found that younger teachers generally felt more comfortable their reasoning behind potentially controversial instructional integrating LGBT literature into their curricula, we cannot decisions in a proactive manner. Rural teachers may need assume that generational shift will remedy the problem of support (both moral and material) in doing the delicate work excluding LGBTQIA content from schools. As young teach- of turning a perceived negative into a productive positive. ers become acculturated to a school or community context, Rural schools in this study had fewer GSAs, fewer library their levels of comfort might change and shift. We must holdings in general, and much fewer library holdings related assist teachers in being change agents rather than simply to LGBTQIA people and issues. Rural teachers need accepting community constraints and becoming assimilated. resources that can be accessed remotely and inexpensively to While the insecurity that teachers feel should be taken seri- support their work. In addition, rural teachers may need more ously, instructors should also remember that teachers are not opportunities for professional development and discussion separate from the community. Teachers are part of the com- centered on concerns unique to their circumstances. One of munity, not antithetical to it. Preservice and in-service teach- the resources that most teachers in this study desired was ers may find that they are able to make change by becoming guidance in selecting texts. There are many resources for active and respected in their communities beyond school. teachers to find text recommendations and book summaries, This study found that simply having a religious faith did but these need to be more widely circulated so that they reach not correlate with comfort levels or resource awareness. teachers easily (see Caillouet, 2011; Cart & Jenkins, 2006; Rather, significant differences in comfort levels related to Cart & Jenkins, 2015; Clyde & Lobban, 2001; Comment, LGBT texts and issues correlated to strength of religious 2009; Curwood, Schliesman, & Horning, 2009; Hartman, belief and to type of faith or denomination. In particular, 2009; Mason, Brannon, & Yarborough, 2012; Meyers, 2009; respondents who identified themselves as Evangelicals Norton & Vare, 2004; Vare & Norton, 2010). Having wide seemed to display the least comfort related to LGBT texts access to reviews and recommendations might buttress and issues. Many evangelical groups believe that sexual ori- teachers’ efforts to build more inclusive curricula. entation is a choice and believe that homosexuality is sinful. Reconciling religious beliefs with the need to represent all students equitably in the curriculum is a difficult challenge Conclusion for many teachers, administrators, and students alike. It is not the teacher’s place to proselytize or to change students’ If teachers and teacher educators care about concepts such as religious beliefs but it is the teacher’s role to prepare students justice and fairness, the texts we use matter because it is Page 13 fundamentally not just or equitable for some students to be tends to leave dominant cultural assumptions and their complex relationships to power unexamined. (p. 104) excluded from the curriculum and made invisible. One of the key ways that schools tacitly condone homophobia is by fail- In addition, she suggests that instructors need to craft a queer ing to include LGBT literature in the curriculum (Curwood pedagogy that disrupts “binary models of sexuality in ways et al., 2009). Invisibility is, in effect, invalidation. McLean that engage with power, rather than obscuring such models (1997) reminds us, within a language of tolerance with which we might seek to Whether texts structure the reader’s experience or whether the ‘cure’ homophobic students” (p. 107). More models of inclu- reader’s experience structures the text, the fact is that the sive teaching practices must be researched and discussed ignoring or denial of a group’s existence in literature invalidates (e.g., Page, 2016). Case studies and unit plans that demon- the experience and self-identity of members of that group by strate how teachers can integrate LGBT young adult litera- rendering them invisible, not only to themselves, but to all other ture into their teaching should be widely disseminated. Such groups in a society. (p. 182) portraits of teaching should include instruction that specifi- cally focuses on LGBTQIA issues, instruction that focuses Ultimately, the curriculum is dialogic, a metaconversa- on meeting standards through using diverse texts, instruction tion—between society and schools, among educators, that attempts to “speak back” to heteronormative practices, between social classes, among political viewpoints. Critical and other models. pedagogues and multicultural educators alike point out that The curriculum reflects who and what are valued in the curriculum is not neutral, but is political and ideological schools. If teachers and administrators truly respect and (see, for example, Apple, 1979; Apple, 1990; Banks, 1995; care for all students, we must be willing to transform our Freire, 1993/1970; Giroux, 1983; Giroux, 1984; McLaren, curricula to address issues of sexual orientation and gen- 1998; Shor, 1992). The curriculum, framed within teachers’ der identity. And if language arts teachers are to engage pedagogical practices, conveys what is valued; it both is a in this process, colleagues, scholars, and teacher educa- site of and reflection of political struggle and knowledge cre- tors must provide assistance. Preservice and in-service ation. What is said and discussed and what is swept under the education opportunities that address intellectual freedom, rug both convey value-laden messages. how to respond to challenges of texts, and curriculum In speaking of disability in education, Robert Anderson selection should be made plentiful and accessible, par- (2006) insightfully and poignantly asks, “Who decides which ticularly in rural areas. Online workshops can be created stories are worth being told?” (p. 368). The curriculum is a and offered free of charge or at low cost for teachers. mechanism for crafting social narrative and for telling stories Rural education centers should attend particularly to top- about individuals, groups, and society. As such, it is impor- ics of intellectual freedom as well as topics of sexual ori- tant that all members of society be represented within the entation and gender identity. Education and advocacy narrative. Inclusive texts that represent a diversity of stu- groups should promote the establishment of GSAs and dents must be present in the curriculum if we are to work provide resources that help students and teachers to get toward a more equitable and just society. Yet Mayo (2009) started with these initiatives. Advocacy centers for sexual states, orientation (such as GLSEN) and literacy (such as library organizations) could provide grants for the purpose of There is a loud silence in curricula that indicates to all students expanding library holdings and provide and promote that there are some people in the school who do not deserve to resources related to text selection. Guidelines and ratio- be spoken about and that even some interested in protecting nales for literary texts could be provided free of charge to sexual minority youth appear willing to use a community teachers by professional organizations. Educational lead- agreement on civil silence as protection. (p. 267) ership organizations should provide support to principals and superintendents so that they can be advocates for Although adding LGBT literature to the ELA curriculum their teachers and their students. is a foundational and important step toward equitable repre- Future research that explores how to help teachers reduce sentation of LGBTQIA students, such inclusion in and of their fear and discomfort and increase their efficacy is itself will not necessarily change the status quo. As Banks required. ELA teachers could be a powerful resource to sup- (1995) points out, curriculum is one dimension of the school- port students who are often marginalized and alienated in ing system that can and should be reformed. In discussing schools, but they must be equipped with tools, ideas, and multicultural education, Banks (2008) emphasizes curricu- allies that will help them to feel empowered so that they, in lum transformation versus additive curriculum. Likewise, turn, can empower their students. Winans (2006) stated that Declaration of Conflicting Interests . . . simply adding materials about “the other” does not challenge our pedagogy or conceptual framework in meaningful ways; the The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect additive approach of inclusivity or celebration of difference to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. 14 SAGE Open Funding Cart, M., & Jenkins, C. A. (2015). Top 250 LGBTQ books for teens. Chicago, IL: Huron Street Press. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support Clark, C., & Blackburn, M. (2009). Reading LGBT-themes litera- for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The ture with young people: What’s possible? English Journal, 98, author received financial support for the research from the 25-32. University of Minnesota, Morris Faculty Research Enhancement Clyde, L. A., & Lobban, M. (2001). A door half open: Young Fund. people’s access to fiction related to homosexuality. School Libraries Worldwide, 7, 17-30. Notes Comment, K. M. (2009). “Wasn’t she a lesbian?” Teaching homo- 1. The study I describe here employed a survey that utilized the erotic themes in Dickinson and Whitman. English Journal, 98, term “LGBT” to denote lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender 61-66. identities, similar to the National School Climate Survey at the Crosnoe, R. (2011). Fitting in, standing out: Navigating the social time. Therefore, I often use “LGBT” in this article. However, challenges of high school to get an education. Cambridge, UK: I will also use “queer,” “LGBTQ,” and “LGBTQIA,” denoting Cambridge University Press. lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or asexual Curwood, J. S., Schliesman, M., & Horning, K. T. (2009). Fight identities, as terms to integrate more broadly inclusive identity for your right: Censorship, selection, and LGBTQ literature. descriptors. English Journal, 98, 37-43. 2. As the resources were not available to conduct a national sur- Freire, P. (1993/1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: vey similar to that administrated by Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Continuum. Education Network (GLSEN), the home state of the researcher GLSEN. (2011). Teaching respect: LGBT-inclusive curriculum and was targeted, in the effort to elicit a high number of responses. school climate (Research brief). New York, NY: GLSEN. 3. The survey inquired about LGBT young adult literature because GLSEN. (2013). School climate in Minnesota (State Snapshot). both middle and secondary school teachers participated and also New York, NY: GLSEN. because there has been huge growth in publishing LGBT texts Giroux, H. A. (1983). Theory and resistance in education: A peda- for young adults since 2000 (Cart & Jenkins, 2015). gogy for the opposition. South Hadley, MA: Bergin & Garvey. 4. Options included male, female, intersex, transgender, and Giroux, H. 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Journal

SAGE OpenSAGE

Published: Nov 1, 2017

Keywords: curriculum; education; social sciences; literacy; diversity and multiculturalism; teaching; teacher education

There are no references for this article.