“Employees should work together to improve their individual and collective skills and effectively teach a fairly diverse and changing student population.”
– Albuquerque Public School’s Justice and Diversity page
Statements like these suggest that APS is committed to providing students with quality education that meets their diverse needs. However, the district is not contributing enough to these efforts. In fact, APS does not recognize an important population of students in one of its key curricula, sex education. This is despite the fact that this population is three times more likely to be victims of sexual assault and dating violence, according to a report by the New Mexico Department of Health.
This population consists of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and other non-heterosexual / cisgender (LGBTQ +) students from APS. APS does not require that LGBTQ + identities be discussed in the sex education classes of its schools. The district’s Human Sexuality and AIDS Guidelines encourage schools to provide accurate and unbiased information. However, the guidelines do not specifically encourage them to develop curricula that cover LGBTQ + topics. This does not mean that the district curriculum is completely exclusive. In an interview, two APS health teachers stated that they are not required to teach inclusive sex, but are allowed to receive training and teach on LGBTQ + issues that are not included in educational standards. The problem, however, is that school cultures are different and LGBTQ + students may or may not get the gender they need depending on the academic community. And yes, inclusive sex is a need. A 2020 study by the Journal for School Health suggests that to combat the high rates of sexual and relational violence, schools need to provide sexual education that lowers LGBTQ + stigma, creates a deeper understanding of gender identity and sexual orientation, and examples for healthy LGBTQ + relationships. Without such a curriculum, LGBTQ + students look to other sources, healthy or not, to teach them.
However, Inclusive Sex Ed is not only intended for LGBTQ + students, but also for non-LGBTQ + students, especially peers with anti-LGBTQ + bias or who participate in LGBTQ + -specific bullying. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual students are twice as likely to be bullied as their non-LGBTQ + counterparts, according to a resource guide from the Children’s, Youth, and Families division. Half of these students say they feel unsafe at school and 15% say they fear missing out on school every month. Given Americans’ long anti-LGBTQ + history and the current wave of anti-transgender legislation, it is not surprising that some students are being tempted to orientate themselves and commit gender-based harassment. However, APS can do more to ensure that the school environment is safer by educating non-LGBTQ + students about their diverse peers.
Some fear that inclusive gender is confusing or too obscene to youth, but children from a young age decipher their gender identity and determine who they consider attractive. Age-appropriate inclusive gender does not create confusion, but rather gives young people the words they need to describe their experiences. Inclusive sexuality is also no more meaningful than any other comprehensive sex education curriculum. The curriculum is just giving the facts, and the fact is that LGBTQ + students exist and deserve relevant sexual education. It is time APS did more to achieve equitable education by including LGBTQ + issues in its teaching guidelines and making inclusive sex education mandatory in its schools.