PD Spotlight: Creating Safe Spaces for LGBTQIA+ Students

PD Spotlight: Creating Safe Spaces for LGBTQIA+ Students

KIPP Comienza educators (left to right: Ms. Radinsky, Ms. Harris, Mr. K, Ms. Nastoff) at the professional development presentation

At KIPP SoCal, we’re committed to creating a joyful, anti-racist school culture. We celebrate the uniqueness of each KIPPster, acknowledging the variety of thoughts, experiences, interests, talents, assets, prior knowledge, and curiosity they bring into the classroom.

Our commitment to anti-oppression, anti-disability, anti-racism, pro-Black, pro-immigrant, and pro-LGBTQIA+ principles and the 'why' behind them are communicated, visible, and operationalized through our Anti-Racist Policy & Standards. A recent example of this commitment took place at KIPP Comienza Community Preparatory Lower School in Huntington Park. 

KIPP SoCal Director of Mental Health, Dr. Stephanie Nunez, and Mental Health Program Manager, Kathy Lopez

In anticipation of LGBTQIA+ History Month, the KIPP Comienza team hosted a professional development opportunity with our Director of Mental Health, Dr. Stephanie Nunez, and Mental Health Program Manager, Kathy Lopez, to re-ground themselves on the importance of creating inclusive school spaces and practice implementing tools on how to engage with students and families as supportive, caring adults. 

They discussed orientation-diverse terminology, gender-diverse terminology, gender identity development, how to challenge gender stereotypes, and how to use gender-neutral language. The team then worked through various scenarios where they practiced responding to students or families to foster a safe and inclusive school community.

KIPP Comienza team members working through student and family scenarios

Following the training, we asked some KIPP Comienza educators to share their experiences, favorite moments, and key takeaways from the opportunity. Here’s what they shared: 

“My key takeaways from this session were that enormous learning can be done when we all get together and talk about these kinds of topics. As educators, I was impressed to see the vast knowledge that many of my coworkers had about these topics. I feel really excited to continue discussing these different scenarios with them because these moments inevitably come up with our students and families. And the more practice we have, the more justice we can do to these communities that are often the target of discrimination. I feel really passionate and proud to be a part of a community that helps reflect and mirror all of our students' identities in the classroom and gives other students windows into other ways of living and being. I feel proud I can see this kind of growth in my students and their comfort in discussing these different topics.” –Ms. Nastoff, 2nd Grade Lead Teacher
“There are a lot of educators that work for kids that are also queer-identifying, and we want them to come back year after year. And in order for them to come back, we also have to focus on making safe spaces for them. The importance of doing this work is not only for students but also for teachers who teach those students. It's creating inclusive spaces for all LGBTQ+ people, students and teachers included, because we know that queer teachers save lives by their mere existence. For students to see a positive queer teacher already gives them a different landscape in which to look at the world, so it's really important for this type of work to happen at the school level for educators as well to affirm us.” –Mr. K, Kindergarten Teacher
“One of the key takeaways basically was the entire experience. The best part of this session was practicing the scenarios where we got to brainstorm with other people on how we would react to some things and what we would say. I also enjoyed the LARA acronym at the end, especially the affirming of other people's feelings where you can form a bridge before you tackle some difficult discussions.”  –Ms. Harris, 1st Grade Teacher 
“I think one of the key takeaways was practicing the different scenarios to have a toolbox. I know sometimes I get defensive about what we're doing, and I don't understand why people don't want this in their schools or their children's lives. So having that toolbox of the right way to say things and understanding how to have conversations that make children feel safe is crucial because it can save lives, and that's what we want.” –Ms. Radinsky, 2nd Grade Lead Teacher

KIPP Comienza team members working through student and family scenarios

Throughout the month of October, our schools have been celebrating LGBTQIA+ History Month with school assemblies, reading inclusive books, and more. This is just one of the many ways KIPP SoCal creates safe and inclusive schools for our KIPPsters throughout the year. 

If you love building meaningful relationships with students, creating inclusive and engaging lessons, and growing as an education professional, we encourage you to click the button below to explore our open roles and join our team!

Join Our KIPP SoCal Team