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Addressing the Needs of LGBTQ students in times of the Pandemic

SSWAA supports and promotes equity for LGBTQ students. SSWAA is an official partner of the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Project THRIVE, a multi-year campaign to create more equitable and inclusive support systems for LGBTQ youth and has published two other resolution statements supporting LGBTQ students. In partnership with the Human Rights Campaign, a new resource has been released for school social workers that offers tips about how to support LGBTQ students during the pandemic and school closures. In times of the pandemic and social unrest, LGBTQ students are facing unique challenges. School social workers have already been leaders in advocating for LGBTQ affirming spaces, even in the most hostile of climates. As a school social worker in a suburban district, I served as the GSA sponsor so that students could have that affirming space. I worked in a school district with faculty and staff who were active “promise keepers[1]” and worked to block any district initiatives toward supporting LGBTQ students. Thus, supporting LGBTQ students required creating these safe spaces and other system-wide advocacy such as conducting professional development for faculty, actively engaging in the development of anti-bullying policies, and collaborating with LGBTQ advocacy organizations to support this work in the school.

As we face the Coronavirus pandemic, once again we are called to be aware of and sensitive to the needs of LGBTQ students. The closing of schools and stay-at-home orders have meant increased vulnerability for LGBTQ students. Many LGBTQ students are not out to their families, and school closings meant losing one of the only spaces of affirmation and connection that they may have had. Furthermore, reaching out to support LGBTQ students means navigating concerns about confidentiality and the ability to provide virtual support while protecting safety and privacy. It is critical that we remain aware of these privacy concerns in the provision of services. LGBTQ youth are at higher risk of suicidality and depression. However, when LGBTQ youth are supported and affirmed, their resiliency is enhanced, and they are able to see beyond their immediate challenges. While it is now the end of the school year, I would encourage school social workers to be mindful of summer transitions for LGBTQ students, potentially reaching out to them and/or ensuring that they have adequate support over the summer. In addition, it is not too soon to think ahead and consider what kinds of support LGBTQ students may need in the fall and what could be done in the school environment to ensure an inclusive and welcoming school climate.

Please see the following Tip Sheet for School Social Workers with several helpful suggestions and resources for supporting LGBTQ youth.

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Leticia Villarreal Sosa, PhD, LCSW


Dominican University

University Relations Representative, SSWAA

[1] Promise keepers are an Evangelical Christian parachurch organization for men. They oppose same-sex marriage and emphasize the role of the man as head of household.

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