Edison Intermediate School forges a new front for LGBTQ community

Edison Intermediate School forges a new front for LGBTQ community

Liam Concannon

Edison Intermediate School (EIS) makes a stand for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) movement! Students and staff send their support to those who haven’t been accepted in the past simply for their right to express their identity and beliefs.

It is imperative that students feel safe in a learning environment and in middle school particularly. At a time when young adults are discovering who and what they want to be, middle schoolers need all the support they can get from schools like EIS. However this does not seem to be an issue here at Edison, Principle Dr. Matthew Bulton assured, “I think regardless of your race, religion, gender, and identity, we need to create a space of acceptance for all students.”

Thankfully, acceptance for all students is only on the rise. A recent state mandate in New Jersey requires information on LGBTQ topics to be taught in subjects like English and History. Seventh grade history teacher Jacqueline Messinger confirmed, “Schools can certainly do more and according to the NJ state education legislation, it is required and mandated. Within my social studies classes, I infuse the contributions of persons with disabilities and LGBTQ people throughout my curriculum for example, Leonardo da Vinci and Joan of Arc (Identify the political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities and LGBTQ people).” 

This material is also often an essential piece in other subjects as well. On the subject of LGBTQ topics in class, eighth grader Livia Reyes informed, “Yes, health class touched a bit on the LGBTQ+ topic. We talked about how everyone believes in different things and everyone’s feelings are different.”

But besides including these ideals in the curriculum, what else can staff at EIS do to help students who identify as LGBTQ? In actuality, it is best sometimes to treat them like every other student. Obviously the end goal of this movement is to make sure every student is treated equally and feels like they fit in with everybody else, seeing as we all share the same overarching title as a piece of humankind. To be plain, eighth grader Emma Epstein clarified, “Students don’t like to be called out for their own stuff and identification.”

Additionally, some students might feel more content than others with being called out during class. Therefore, teachers should always try their best to stay open minded and empathetic to every student. Eighth grader Dahlia Pantalena explained, “I dont think anyone really recognizes anything, I am bisexual and I only told my close friends and my family, it really depends on the person and their comfort level.”

To add on, eighth grader Olivia Gaffney illustrated another suggestion for teachers in the classroom. Olivia recalled, “I remember an activity in Language Arts where we had a debate about important topics today, some of which were about issues surrounding LGBTQ+ rights. For example, one question asked if it was morally right or not to allow a baker to deny a wedding cake for a gay couple. While it is important to teach kids about issues surrounding the LGBTQ+ community, allowing the basic rights and freedoms of this group of people to be treated like a matter of opinion or something to “respectfully disagree” with, especially when LGBTQ+ kids are almost certainly in the room, can create an unsafe and hostile environment for children who already face discrimination and hatred. LGBTQ+ students should feel as comfortable in school as everyone else, and shouldn’t have to tolerate bigotry in the name of ‘free speech’.”

On the other hand, these guidelines should not restrict the end goal of informing students about LGBTQ topics and creating a safe learning enviornment. Despite the great advancement of the recent state mandate, this idea does not yet apply to all subjects. All the same, teachers at EIS aren’t sitting idle on this issue. Sixth grade french teacher Kate Young pointed out that, “French is all about Joie de vivre – finding the everyday joy of living. My class embodies that spirit! One of the biggest rules of my classroom is BE KIND. So yes, acceptance is key to that. I know that because romance languages use gender as part of their grammar system, the French language rules have some work to do making the language itself more inclusive of all.”

On a similar note, ESL teacher Swapna Rao is trying to find a smooth way to incorporate these ideas as pupils make their transition into both American language and culture. She expressed, “…students who are English language learners can empathize with feeling different from the mainstream, and that sense can be expanded to create bridges with the LGBTQ+ community. On the other hand, sometimes the act of learning the basics of a language reduces it to simplistic forms out of necessity (ex. binary gender just to learn the pronouns he/she/it for a student brand new to English). I think there needs to be space for the student to acquire the basic tools of the language before expecting him/her to communicate in more nuanced ways, so that acceptance needs to flow back and forth. I think a great way my subject area could expand upon the idea of acceptance to people who identify as LGBTQ+ would be to use texts and/or videos with identity as the context. This would familiarize students with the LGBTQ+ community, particularly those who have emigrated from societies that are not as inclusive or do not promote as much awareness.”

At EIS it is clear that everyone is on board to raise awareness for the LGBTQ movement, and to keep students educated and informed on how to respect and console their peers in a learning environment. It will never be enough to just be polite to each other however, but instead to speak out, and let them know you’re on their side. In the words of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”