Hello, my name is Adam. I am a Transgender student in tenth grade and I’m here to speak about my school and how it showcases a Respectful Environment as well as what can be done to improve it.
I’m here to talk about respect and tolerance because it’s important that schools are a comfortable environment for all students; it’s important to be comfortable in the place that you spend your childhood and adolescence. Treating all students equally regardless of who they are is something that all students and teachers should focus more of their time on. Being a transgender student and being considered “different” from others, it’s dificult to be myself when I’m witnessing students being constantly made fun for their appearance or the way they dress. In my school, I’ve heard slurs from a lot of students and it makes me realize that school may not be the safest place for people who have a hard time fitting in.
For example, in my drama class I don’t have a feeling of connection with the students and the teacher. There have been students who freely use slurs and will frequently misgender me and use my dead name despite the teacher using my correct name. I haven’t felt comfortable coming out to the class or correcting them because I don’t know if they would react positively. While the burden could fall on me to correct these students, the burden should go on the teacher to talk to them. This would make me feel relieved that the teacher is looking out for me. The students should also have the responsibility to make an effort to change their language when they realize that they’re using the incorrect name and pronouns.
While there are some classes that I dislike because I can’t be myself, there are also classes where I’m happy that I came out and I’m able to feel accepted. In my ELA class, on the first day the teacher had us fill out a preferred name and pronoun sheet. With that paper I was able to come out to my teacher without having to be verbal about something that was making me feel anxious. A few weeks after, I noticed that my teacher put a “Protect Trans Kids” sticker on her computer. It made me feel really happy to know that she would support me and be there for me if I needed her. This little wordless gesture showed that she was there and it made me feel comfortable enough to be who I truly am in that classroom.
Being able to come out at school has changed my experience for the better. It allows me to be more like myself in the classroom and I know that I will be accepted and supported. This allows me to participate more in class, pay more attention, understand the lessons, and be able to do my work better. When I’m not comfortable, it’s a lot harder to speak up or participate in class. My brain is so focused on feeling anxious about not being accepted that I’m not able to fully participate as a student and my education and mental health are negatively impacted. Regardless of who a student is, where they come from, or how they identify, they should all have the ability to focus on their education, knowing that they are accepted and supported.
In order to create a more respectful environment, teachers should pay more attention to how students are treating each other instead of brushing it off and looking away. Instead, they should educate these students on why what they’re saying isn’t okay and prevent further use of words and phrases that are harmful. In order to support students, teachers should be given resources to learn about how to respond and best support LGBTQ+ students. On top of the teachers, the school should include more education about LGBTQ+ topics in the curriculum. If more students learn about LGBTQ+ issues, there’s a greater chance that they will be respectful and also creates an obligation for them to be more respectful because they have that knowledge.
Thank you for listening to what I have to say about the importance of having a respectful environment at school. As legislators, you have the ability to make change for schools that can help create a more supportive environment for all students. In order to make change it’s important that decision makers listen to the voices of students like myself. By supporting Safe and Supportive Schools, you can help to make sure that more student voices are heard and that students are able to contribute to making their schools respectful and comfortable places to live and learn.
“It made me feel comfortable enough to be who I truly am in that classroom.” —Adam
“Regardless of who a student is, where they come from, or how they identify, they should all have the ability to focus on their education, knowing that they are accepted and supported.” —Adam
“If more students learn about LGBTQ+ issues, there’s a greater chance that they will be respectful.” —Adam
“It’s important to be comfortable in the place that you spend your childhood and adolescence.” —Adam
Adams 2023 Statement
It‘s important to feel safe in a place that you learn; to know that you are protected when you’re in this environment for almost your entire teenage life. Read Adam’s 2023 Statement
This website is dedicated to the valuable lessons we can learn from students’ own experiences about how to create better schools. Decisions about schooling are often made without listening deeply to students themselves. But students are in the best position to understand what they need in order to do well in school.
A collaboration of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI), Harvard Law School and Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC). LEARN MORE