Itoshima City to Introduce Guidelines and Training to Create LGBT-Inclusive Schools

The Itoshima City Board of Education in Fukuoka Prefecture has announced that in an effort to cultivate a better understanding of LGBT and other sexual minorities, it has begun to work on a handbook to be distributed to elementary and middle school teachers.

According to the Board of Education, the handbook will be unique in that it will include specific details regarding how to teach LGBT-related topics to students on a grade-by-grade basis. The handbook will be completed during the current school year, and there are plans to allocate teaching hours to LGBT-related topics in all 23 city schools beginning with the 2019 school year.

On September 4th, six individuals, including teachers and board of education officials working on the handbook, gathered and exchanged opinions.

“You hear the word LGBT, but in actuality, there are still many teachers in schools who don’t know about it.”

“You should also mention that one should practice awareness in their everyday life.”

According to the Board of Education, at one school where LGBT individuals held a lecture for students, it appears that the students there have become more sympathetic towards others.

While the number of teachers who realize that LGBT-related topics should be introduced in classrooms continues to increase, there are no specific teaching methods in place, so the Board of Education decided to draw up plans for a handbook.

Maehara Minami Elementary School has conducted trial lessons in an attempt to teach children about LGBT-related topics in a tangible manner during the 2016 and 2017 school years. In one such lesson, first graders were asked to think of their favorite things, and students were taught to affirm other’s interests even if, for example, a male student says he likes plush toys. And in a fifth grade class, students were asked to think of anything they are struggling with in their school lives, which revealed to teachers that some students felt uncomfortable with their gender.

The handbook will refer to these practical examples in explaining how to proceed with classes for each grade level. Moving forward, teachers will meet once a month to discuss specific items to be included.

According to a survey conducted by Professor Yasuhara Hidaka of the Takarazuka University Nursing Department, 58% of the 15,000 respondents answered ‘yes’ when asked if they experienced bullying during their elementary, middle or high school years. The Board of Education hopes that implementing guidelines will help to stave off bullying.

One Board of Education member working on the handbook said, “Up until recently  there were no reports on the discrimination or harassment of LGBT students, so it is possible that many students are struggling with these kinds of problems. I also would also like to take more time outside of classes to provide appropriate training for teachers.”

The Necessity of Providing Training for Teachers

In 2015, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) issued a notice to Board of Educations nationwide seeking details regarding how sexual minority students are being supported in schools, and awareness has continued to rise. Many experts have taken this opportunity to appeal the need for teachers to obtain specific training to handle the issues of LGBT students.

According to Associate Professor Daisuke Watanabe of Saitama University, unless teachers undergo proper training, students are likely to continue to experience self-denial, and discrimination and bully will fail to be prevented. In recent years, there has been an increase in teachers who have undergone sexual minority-related training, and the number of events where LGBT individuals are invited to speak about their experiences have increased nationwide, but there are many municipalities where no uniform guidelines exist.

Regarding Itoshima City’s plan to introduce grade-by-grade guidelines, Associate Professor Watanabe stated, “There is value in children accumulating knowledge according to their development.” Furthermore, “In order to teach the viewpoint that sexuality and gender are diverse and that all variations should be treated equally, we should also look at problems within our schools and in society. In order to make the best use of these guidelines, the country must guarantee enough time for teachers themselves to learn.”

Source – LGBT教育の指導手引書、作成へ

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