The Invisible Subgroup: LGBTQ

Type: Article
Topics: Equity, School Administrator Magazine

August 01, 2023

As a mentor to aspiring superintendents, the author is asked for interviewing advice on playing the ‘partner game’

For the last four years, I have served as a mentor for women in education who hope to land a school superintendency in the near future. Mentees are anxious for me to share my experiences surrounding the superintendent search process. They want my help preparing for the journey of working with an executive search firm and for interviewing in front of a board of education.

The most thought-provoking interaction with a mentee, a participant in a formal mentoring experience tied to AASA’s Aspiring Female Superintendents Academy, transpired only recently. My mentee is gay, and we talked extensively about how to approach this through her application and interviewing process. Sexual orientation is something heterosexual educators do not have to think about. When heterosexual people share they are married or have children, nobody blinks. But if you are LGBTQ, you must grapple with the question “Do I play the ‘partner game’ or do I just come out and say, ‘I am married to a woman?’”

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Julie Vitale


Oceanside Unified School District, Oceanside, Calif.

Why LGBTQ Inclusivity Matters

Eery two years since 1999, GLSEN publishes findings from its latest National School Climate Survey. The most recent report, published in 2021, surveyed 22,298 students ages 13-21 from all 50 states.

Overall, LGBTQ students who experience victimization have lower grade point averages, are less likely to go to college, have lower self-esteem and higher levels of depression. Of the LGBTQ students who indicated they were considering dropping out of school, 31 percent indicated it was related to the harassment they faced at school.

Eighty-one percent of the students surveyed reported avoiding school functions because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable. Safety is the second tier on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and it is second only to air, water, food, shelter and sleep. With so many students reporting they feel unsafe, that is all the motivation educators need to disrupt the status quo and work to ensure our schools are safe and affirming for LGBTQ youth and staff.

Other GLSEN survey findings:

32 percent of students missed at least one day of school in the previous month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable;

97 percent heard “gay” used in a negative way, with 58 percent hearing homophobic remarks from teachers or other school staff;

31 percent experienced physical harassment;

53 percent experienced sexual harassment; and

36 percent experienced electronic harassment.

GLSEN is a national network of educators, students and local chapters seeking to end discrimination, harassment and bullying based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

—  Julie Vitale