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Family Matters: An Action Plan to Support and Understand the Needs of Elementary

Students with Same-Sex Parents


Rachel K. Patty
MAED READ
East Carolina University

Addressing Differences in Human Learning in Schools


EDUC 6001 Section 641
Dr. Shea
Spring 2014
Section I: Statement of My Diversity Interests and Related Background

Family structures in America have evolved drastically in the past decade. What was once
considered a normal household, consisting of a mom, dad, and biological children, is now just
one family style out of many. Family today has truly become an American melting pot.
Although our communities are changing, our schools have not quite caught up with the latest
trends. Students coming from non-traditional family structures still face on-going struggles in
school. I happened to grow up in a family with a mom, dad, and two older (biological) brothers.
My parents were very religious and engrained in me that it was only acceptable for a man to
marry a woman and vice versa. As Ive gotten older my lens on life has expanded drastically,
allowing me to view the world in a completely different manner than the way my parents taught
me. One of my roles as an educator is to accept diversity, no matter how different it may seem.
When I went through my student teaching year in a kindergarten classroom I was faced with the
challenge of teaching a student who had two mothers. I call this a challenge because I was not
prepared for the situations that arose such as, other students not understanding how someone
could have two mothers and the curriculum excluding families with same sex parents. I had to
constantly remind myself to use unbiased language every day. This is why I have chosen to
focus on creating an action plan that supports the needs of elementary students with same-sex
parents. Each student should be given an equal educational experience and one way of doing
that is by advocating for all family types to be addressed in schools, particularly those with
same-sex parents. Im naming myself the leader of this project and promoting it heavily not only
to become more educated adult but, more importantly, to advocate for the elementary students of
same-sex parents and hopefully spark a greater respect for diversity throughout the school.
Section II: Literature Review and Related Research on My Final Project Topic
Between 6 to 14 million children have a gay or lesbian parent in todays society

(Fioriello, 1998). These children are entering into elementary schools throughout communities
where homosexuals have been fighting for rights equal to those of heterosexuals for years now.
This struggle cant help but to be carried over into the classrooms, where students of same-sex
parents are feeling neglected, excluded, and mistreated by their peers and teachers (Adams,
2013). Multiple studies have been performed where the results show that there are no significant
disadvantages for children raised by gay and lesbian parents compared with other children
(Rosenfeld, 2010). If there is no difference in the parenting of children from same-sex couples,
why should there be a difference for these children in the classroom? They have the same needs
as other students but sometimes feel different solely based on their family structure. Language
that is used in the classroom, events and social activities, and the curriculum are three prime
examples of why these students feel different from their peers. The language that the elementary
students hear from their peers is also derogatory, such as freely using the term, gay in a
negative way. Based on a study conducted in 2008, results show that 30% of students felt they
could not participate in school because they had a LGBT parent, 36% of students felt school staff
did not acknowledge them because they were from an LGBT family, and 1/5 of students felt
discouraged from talking about their parents at school by a teacher, principal, other staff member
(Adams, 2013). Adams goes on to say that as a result of these negative experiences same-sex
parents feel excluded or isolated from the school community. In March 2010 in Boulder, Co a
Catholic school even refused to admit a student because the child had two mothers (Fioriello,
p.4). When a child begins school they realize how their family structure is similar or different
among all of their peers. They (students with same-sex parents) have to contend with the fact
that their family constellation was either not represented at school or represented as deviant
(Goldberg, A.E., 2012). In a lecture in 2010 E.V. Edwards makes a great statement when he

says, This ongoing cultural war is a competition between two major worldviews. Progressive
thinkers are fighting for equal rights for all humans, yet theistic parents might not want their
children to learn about same-sex relationships in the classroom. Should a student receive less of
an education on the basis that he or she has two mothers or two fathers? How do we bridge this
increasing gap in order to involve all students and family members equally and foster diversity in
our schools? These questions are what helped me formulate my diversity action plan. Staff
members need to be adequately trained in educating students with same-sex parents, schools
needs to create a welcoming environment, and curriculum and resources need to be altered in
order to be inclusive of all family structures.
Section III: Statement of Why this Diversity Issue is Problematic at My Classroom, School,
and/or Community
I came across the issue of students with same-sex parents needing additional support in
education when I did my student teaching in a kindergarten classroom in Chapel Hill, NC.
Overall, Chapel Hill is a very liberal town with a large LGBT population. After living here for
several years I have come to find that all types of people, not only live here, but are accepted
here. It is not uncommon to see same-sex couples with their children out and about in town.
Since Chapel Hill has become a special place to me I find it important to give back to this
community. One excellent way I am able to do that is by helping the children of these same-sex
couple community members feel accepted, supported, and successful in school. My action plan
will not only point out changes that need to be addressed in the elementary education curriculum,
but it will also get the community involved and provide resources for elementary teachers to be
properly instructed on how to teach students with same-sex parents. I have done in depth
research trying to find studies that have been done on this issue in North Carolina and was left

disappointed when I could not find any. However, in an article titled, Opening doors: lesbian &
gay parents and schools: a project of the Educational Advocacy Committee of Family Pride
Coalition, (Brickley, 1998) I came across several of the exact feelings that are experienced in a
situation where a student of same-sex parents is not adequately supported in school. The same
fears that I encountered were listed in this article as common fears for the teacher; addressing
issues about lesbian or gay headed families means that they have to talk about sex in the
classroom, uncomfortable using the words gay and lesbian, not sure what words to use when
interacting with members of lesbian and gay headed families, not sure where to find resources on
gay and lesbian families (Brickley, 1998). Common fears for the child include, teachers and kids
will think I am strange, teachers and kids will treat me unfairly, my family and I will be called
names, my family will not be included like other families in the school (Brickley, 1998). During
my student teaching year I also spent countless hours in staff development meetings where none
of these fears and issues were ever addressed. We had a seminar on supporting the needs of
Autistic children in the classroom, but were never given any guidance on how to support students
with same-sex parents. The diversity action plan that I have formulated will not only educate
school staff on how to provide additional support to these students, but it will also address how
to eradicate these fears.
Section IV: Description of Diversity Action Plan
The diversity action plan that I have come up with contains three separate events. I have
hopes that once these separate events begin they will occur annually, with updates and changes
made as needed to become more successful.
I.

Staff Development: At the beginning of each new school year teachers sit through
hours of staff development meetings, many of which provide useless information to

the teachers. Upon getting approval from the principal I would like to be able to
spend time during one of the staff development meetings to educate staff on how to
teach students with same-sex parents. I know that I am not a professional on this
topic, but having done adequate research I feel as if I could at least present the issue
to the staff in order to make them aware of it and provide them with useful
information on how to make changes in their classrooms in order to better support
students with same-sex parents. A PowerPoint will be presented and a handout will
be given to the teachers. I have already made the PowerPoint and handout that will
be presented at the staff development meetings. This step of the diversity plan does
not require any funding. Any absent staff members can be quickly filled in on the
II.

information through the provision of handouts.


Family Diversity Night: A family diversity night will be held close to the start of the
school year as a way for families to meet each other and learn about the diverse
family structures that are in the school. People are much more likely to respect others
if they have the chance to get to know them, and this is a great way to do that. When
there is a positive relationship between families and schools students perform better
academically and socially, (Brickley, 2012). Prior to when the night is held students
will go home with volunteer slips asking families to put together some sort of
presentation (poster board/something small) that will be placed around family
diversity night in order for others to get to know what types of families are
represented at our school. During the night families will have refreshments and will
be able to go around viewing the presentations. There will be a photographer there
taking pictures of each family that will then be printed and displayed around the
school upon principal approval. One major aspect of this night will be a

book/resource drive. This will be a time for the parents and other community
members to come in and bring books pertaining to their type of family. These books
will be dispersed among classrooms and throughout the library as resources for
teachers to use when teaching about diverse family structures. Students who had
access to LGBT resources and supports were more likely to report that their school
environments were safe for students with LGBT parents, (Goldberg, 2012). For this
event I will need many volunteers to help set up and organize the night, refreshments,
a photographer (along with any other activities), and an area in the school to host the
night, i.e. the library, cafeteria, gym. Funding for the night can be brought in through
donations or an organized fundraiser, such as a bake sale. This night will encourage
families to learn about and hopefully appreciate one another. Improvements in
school climate that reduce homophobia and transphobia can contribute to greater
individual well-being, improved academic achievement, and greater educational
III.

attainment, (Goldberg, 2012).


Book talks: After school once a month I will conduct a book talk for anyone
interested. Each month there will be a different book for the students to read and
reflect on. Each book talk will have a different theme pertaining to family household
diversity such as, single moms, children of military parents, children raised by
grandparents, children of same-sex parents, children living in foster homes or
homeless shelters etc. This will be a time of learning and deep discussion where
students will be able to connect based on their family diversity. For this event I will
need books about the various family diversity topics. Funding for the books could
possibly be provided by the school upon request from the principal, donations, or
personal spending.

Section V: Implications for Professional Development in 21st Century Skills/Common Core


a.)

Global Awareness, Civic Literacy: My research on the needs of students with samesex parents has assisted me in developing an action plan to make this issue known among

fellow teachers and staff members.


b.) Social & Cross Cultural Skills: Interacting with diverse cultures through the family
diversity night and student book talks will foster cross culture socialization.
c.) Leadership and Responsibility: I will show leadership and responsibility by taking it upon
myself to present this issue to fellow teachers and staff members at the elementary
school. Not only will I create awareness but I will also be proactive in finding a solution
to the issue through the action plan events.
d.) Creativity and Innovation: The book talks and family diversity night are events that are
not commonly held in schools. I will also show creativity in how I organize and execute
the action plan events.
e.) Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: Critical thinking and problem solving is shown
by coming up with an action plan to solve the issue of students with same-sex parents
needing additional support in elementary education.
f.) Communication and Collaboration: In order for the action plan to be successful there will
need to be an extensive amount of communication between the principal, other staff
members, parents, students, and myself. By everyone collaborating together we can
make a positive change in the school in regards to supporting students with same-sex
parents and other diverse families.

Section VI: Reference List


Adams, R., & Persinger, J. (2013). Research-Based Practice. School Support and Same-Sex
Parents. Retrieved , from http://www.nasponline.org/publications/cq/42/2/school-support.aspx

Brickley, M. (1998). Opening doors: lesbian & gay parents and schools : a project of the
Educational Advocacy Committee of Family Pride Coalition. San Diego, Calif.: Educational
Advocacy Committee of Family Pride Coalition.

Fioriello, P. (1998). Special needs of students with gay and lesbian parents in the elementary
school. La Verne, Calif.: University of La Verne.

Fioriello, P. (n.d.). The Education of Children Raised by Gay Parents - Hot Topics in
Education. Hot Topics in Education. Retrieved , from http://drpfconsults.com/the-education-ofchildren-raised-by-gay-parents/

Goldberg, A. E. (2012). LGBT-parent families: innovations in research and implications for


practice. New York City: Springer.

Randall, E. V. (Director) (2010, October 29). Same-Sex Marriage and Education: Implications
for Schools, Students, and Parents . Lecture conducted from , Provo .

Rosenfeld, M. (2010). NONTRADITIONAL FAMILIES AND CHILDHOOD PROGRESS


THROUGH SCHOOL. Demography , 47, 755-775.
Section VII: Supplemental Materials List

PowerPoint Presentation
Workshop Handout