With only a few weeks left in August, students will be returning to school soon. LGBTQ families (which I define as families that include LGBTQ parents or children or both) have the same concerns about school health as heteronormative families, but there are also some additional concerns.
Parents and students can make effective use of the professional skills of school nurses. According to two University of Connecticut School of Nursing faculty, Dr. Art Engler and Dr. Annette Jakubisin-Konicki, school nurses’ comprehensive practice includes:
First aid for minor injuries such as scrapes and cuts.
Emergency services for anaphylactic reactions and other life‐threatening conditions.
Emotional support for normal developmental events, from baby teeth falling out to the beginning of puberty and menstruation.
Input in required planning for students with special health and other needs such as 504 Plans and Individualized Health Plans.
Screening and referral for hearing and vision and other state‐mandated health indicators.
Administering prescribed medication, such as Ritalin and Concerta.
Education about health promotion and disease prevention.
Leadership and advocacy in health‐related school concerns.
Supportive care for children with such conditions as seizures and diabetes.
More information can be found from the National Association of School Nurses.
Dr. Jakubisin-Konicki also offers students Back to School Tips to Boost Brain Power that include maintaining physical activity, good nutrition, and adequate sleep.
Same-sex parents may have additional challenges. Legal provisions and social attitudes may be quite varied from state to state in the United States, and not all teachers or school administrators may be comfortable with LGBTQ parents or their relationship status. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy offers guidance for same-sex parents. The Family Pride Coalition also offers a more detailed handbook for parents, children, and educators, Opening Doors: Lesbian and Gay Parents and Schools.
Although we hope that school is a secure and supportive place for LGBTQ students, the reality is that both families and schools may harm their queer students. In August 2016 the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a groundbreaking study of health risks among sexual minority students. This study found that,
While many sexual minority youth cope with the transition from childhood to adulthood successfully and become healthy and productive adults, others struggle as a result of challenges such as stigma, discrimination, family disapproval, social rejection, and violence. Sexual minority youth are also at increased risk for certain negative health outcomes. For example, young gay and bisexual males have disproportionately high rates of HIV, syphilis, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and adolescent lesbian and bisexual females are more likely to have ever been pregnant than their heterosexual peers.
Among its recommendations:
Adolescent and young adult students should seek out queer-friendly adults for support and advice. You are not alone! Some states, like Connecticut, are fortunate to have advocacy and education organizations such as True Colors to support sexual minority students, their teachers, counselors, and parents.
Young adults preparing to choose a college, should consider campuses that are supportive of their LGBTQ students. The Princeton Review offers a variety of resources on its Guide to College for LGBTQ Students.