Create a safe atmosphere for students and staff to share their experiences
A safe atmosphere is a critical precondition to creating a school where there is equity and inclusion. Students and staff who are made vulnerable to abuse and discrimination due to social marginalization need to know they will be respected, validated and supported when they speak out. Creating a safe atmosphere is about building trust; it may require a range of responses, measures and positive experiences before students and staff feels safe to share their experiences with others.
To contribute to the process of developing a safe atmosphere, teachers can work with administrators to:
- create strategies to encourage safe reporting of sexist, homophobic and racist incidents (see a discussion about safe reporting in Safe Telling for Children and Teens);
- develop a pool of adults who are willing and able to identify themselves as, and become resource people for students (keeping in mind that teens will need to be able to choose those who they identify as allies);
- through a consultative process, develop collective agreements about respectful and acceptable behaviour and language that is explicitly anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-homophobic that all members of the school community agree to follow; such agreements can be made in the classroom or at the whole school level using the code of conduct as a vehicle;
- respect students’ and colleagues’ personal boundaries; when discussing any topic related to homophobia, racism, sexism or any other equity group, teachers can increase people’s feelings of safety by respecting their choices around sharing personal experiences related to their identity or background; no individual can or should be expected to represent the needs, experiences and opinions of every member of their social group.