Inclusivity in practice: Exploring how NSW teachers' perceptions of their school climate influences GSD-inclusive practices

Year: 2017

Author: Ullman, Jacqueline, Smith, Mel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Gender and sexuality diverse (GSD) members of the New South Wales Teachers Federation (NSWTF) report a fraught teaching and learning context with respect to GSD-inclusive topics. This is no doubt linked to the increased negative media portrayal of gender and sexuality diversity including debates around marriage equality, exemptions to anti-discrimination legislation and, most notably, the controversy surrounding the Safe Schools Coalition initiative.

While the public school sector is required to adhere to sex based anti-discrimination legislation (including sex, sexuality and gender identity), many school teachers and leaders are not trained on how to approach GSD-inclusivity and, thus, report seeking to ignore such topics rather than address them. This situation is compounded by systemic challenges to acknowledging gender and sexuality diversity in K-12 schooling, including overt state opposition (Urban, 2017). As research from the field demonstrates, such silences have a measurable negative experience on school outcomes of GSD students (Ullman, 2015; 2017) and teachers (Ferfolja, 2007; 2014).

GSD-identifying members of the Federation report feeling under-supported by their school leadership. This includes when undertaking their duties at work as well as when reporting instances of harassment and/or discrimination in the workplace. NSWTF members have reported ongoing homophobic and transphobic experiences faced by school community members, including teachers and students. Such experiences impact teachers' sense of safety and security at work, disturbing concentration and focus and unsettling teachers' confidence.

Thus, NSWTF membership recommended that the Federation undertake a member survey examining the experience of public school teachers in encountering GSD-based discrimination in NSW public schools. The survey will investigate how such discrimination impacts the individual and the schooling climate more broadly, and what supports are in place at the whole-school level. To complement and extend this investigation, Western Sydney University (WSU) will lead a qualitative exploration of the schooling experiences of 20 teacher participants from across the state, providing an opportunity to further explore trends in the data and gain a more nuanced understanding of the complex intersections of identity, curriculum and school climate for teachers.

This project represents the first jointly-funded collaboration between WSU and the NSWTF. Data collection for both project phases will commence in August 2017.

This presentation will present preliminary findings from this collaborative mixed method project. We anticipate that results will highlight the complexities faced by educators during this uncertain political and educational climate and contribute to this critical body of knowledge on gender and sexuality diversity in K-12 schooling.