Community Conversation: LGBTQ+ Inclusive Schools

Parker is a community of active learners. Our students dive deeply into hands-on projects, and our faculty are passionate about honing their skills through multiple professional development opportunities throughout the year. The ability to continuously learn and grow is a skill we expect in our extended community as well. It takes teamwork to truly live out our mission and values of caring for our world, our community, and ourselves by reaching out to others with kindness and striving to understand our differences. It is only in this way that we come together in unity for our students.
In order for us to teach and support our children, we must first possess openness and understanding for ourselves. With this in mind, this past Monday Parker was honored to present our first Community Conversation entitled “LGBTQ+ Inclusive Schools”. Hosted by our school leadership team and guest speaker, Social Justice in Education consultant, Hamad Alghareeb, this event was significant in helping to continue our learning journey towards being an inclusive school community for all.
How often did you talk about gender as a child? Gender is a fundamental part of identity, but that does not make it simplistic. Most of us grew up with a binary construction of gender, and we never had these conversations with peers, teachers, or other adults. Our evening with Hamad began by exploring the concept identity by completing individual identity molecules, which we then shared in small groups. This allowed us to examine not only what identities we value, but also what identities we take for granted. Through discussion, we reflected on how we shift our identities depending on the perceived safety of our surroundings, and also how we cannot be reduced to just one or two identities. All of us are multi-dimensional.
Following this discussion, Hamad shared facts and statistics about gender discrimination in schools, along with actionable steps that schools can put in place to combat negative experiences for gender-diverse students. We then moved to an examination of the Gender Unicorn, a tool Hamad uses to effectively illustrate the infinite spectrum of gender identity. We discussed the differences between gender attribution (how you are perceived by others), gender expression (how you want others to perceive you), and gender identity (how you see yourself).
Finally, Hamad closed the evening by asking community members to reflect on how they would respond as the trusted adult in a child’s life if that child were ever to come out to them. Community members wrote personal notes memorializing these thoughts and feelings, which they sealed and took home, should they ever need them in the future.
Community member Marjorie Castro, Parker grandparent and Board member, reflected on our evening saying, “The Parker Community evening on gender was a truly informative and touching event. I thought that Hamad Alghareeb was a wonderful expert and guide through a topic that can be difficult and that many of us do not fully understand. I felt proud to be there and to know that my grandchildren are in a school that supports families and children who might be neurodiverse when it comes to gender. I was touched by those who spoke and shared personal differences that made life challenging for them and their families. There was such a comfortable, supportive feeling in the room and this allowed sharing to feel safe.”
Anne Foster, Parker parent and Board member, also shared, “Hosting an instructional evening with Hamad is another example of why Parker shines as an outstanding PreK-8 academic institution in the Capital Region. As our group discussion unfolded, it became even more clear that these important conversations about equity and inclusion for all children are simply not a given. Being offered the opportunity to learn together as a community of parents and educators filled me with an even greater sense of gratitude for this special place that truly values (through ACTION like this!) a growth mindset and the comprehensive wellbeing of all its students and families. Thank you, Hamad & Parker!”
We want to extend our deepest gratitude to our community for their participation in these conversations. We were deeply moved by the open hearts, minds, and presence everyone brought to our work together this week. We feel honored and thankful for this support and active participation in helping to shape our community. Hamad said it best when reflecting later on their Instagram page, “Some of us talked. Some of us listened. What’s even better is that we showed up for our young ones to learn together. A school’s journey of learning, development, and change should include everyone – not just students and teachers. I was overwhelmed by the support families showed to all community members and students.”
For more information on gender inclusivity we strongly recommend you follow Hamad’s Instagram account and check out the following resources:GLSEN.orgWelcomingSchools.orgTrans Student Educational Resources