Friday, April 30, 2010

Schools Slowly Break from Cookie-Cutter Image of Families

Today's Washington Post has a great article on the changing landscape of schools' policies on LGBT families.

What does the school do for Mother's Day?

How about Father's Day?

And what is the plan when the uncomfortable queries come rolling in?

Rather than focusing on test scores, foreign language programs or fancy facilities, these are the linchpin questions for same-sex parents in the great school search.

In a Northwest Washington school last weekend, I listened as about 150 people came to the Rainbow Families conference to navigate the tricky but swiftly changing waters of parenting in a nontraditional family.

Wait, let me scratch that.

These families have always been around, although we haven't always been willing to acknowledge them.

We have a way of continually imposing a traditional mother-and-father construct on our children, despite the fact that this is not always the way a family looks, whether it's because of divorce, death or sexual orientation.

Look at your school directory: Does it list "mother" and "father"? If it simply lists "parent," that change probably didn't come easily.

"Those are the kinds of issues that come up," said Ellen Kahn, who is the director of the Human Rights Campaign Family Project and president of Rainbow Families.

It's subtle things, such as parent designations and what to do when the class is making Mother's Day gifts and a child has two daddies. And thornier topics, including how a teacher should deal with teasing or how to answer questions about a child's conception. And what exactly does the teacher do when kids are playing house and one kid divides up the parts, declaring that he's the daddy, she's the mommy and he's the donor?

With same-sex marriage legal in the District and some states, the next logical step is for our schools to begin the work of including these families.

Which is a fantastic thing, because whether or not everyone agrees with same-sex parenting, these children are in our schools, and making them anything but welcome is certain to harm them.

So instead of meeting children's questions with blank stares or answering their playground questions with: "No, John and Erik can't get married. Only a man and a woman can get married," teachers are working on inclusion. A D.C. public schools official said the system is enhancing the already imbedded agenda of diversity in its school policy.

To read this entire article, click here. [free subscription required]