The inclusion of LGBTQ literature in the high school English Language Arts classroom is a necessary step that secondary schools should take to promote culturally responsive teaching that represents the growing number of adolescents identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer in American public schools. According to a study conducted by the Williams Institute School of Law (2020), information from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey found that about 1,994,000 of adolescents ages thirteen to seventeen identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Of this national count, about 39,000 adolescents in Massachusetts identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Despite these numbers, an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum framework does not exist in the most recent edition of the Massachusetts English Language Arts Frameworks. The often-neglected LGBTQ themes in the high school English Language Arts classroom correlates to the disproportionate success of LGBTQ students. A study on Massachusetts high school students (2014) revealed that “students identifying as LGB were over 4 times more likely than students identifying as heterosexual to not attend school because of feeling unsafe” (Birkett et al.). Aside from higher rates of truancy amongst LGBTQ high school students that add to the disproportionate rates of success, increased rates of harassment and bullying due to sexual orientation or gender expression negatively impact LGBTQ students academically. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2017 revealed that “LGB high school students experienced more bullying at school (33% among LGB students and 17% among heterosexual students), more sexual dating violence by dating partners (LGB, 16%; heterosexual, 6%), and more suicide attempts (LGB, 23%; heterosexual, 5%) than their heterosexual peers” (Johns et al.). While these percentages have decreased in the recent years, there is an evident calling to support both LGBTQ students and cis-gender students in the classroom. The proposed unit plan for James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room seeks to combat these statistics by not only using literature as a mirror for LGBTS students and students of diverse backgrounds, but also as a method to increase non-LGBTQ student’s empathy and tolerance.
English and Secondary Education
Dr. Lee Torda, Thesis Advisor
Dr. Sarah Thomas, Committee Member
Dr. John Kucich, Committee Member
D'Andrea, Jenivieve. (2023). LGBTQ Literature in the High School English Language Arts Classroom: A Rationale for a Unit Plan on Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. In BSU Honors Program Theses and Projects. Item 601. Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/honors_proj/601
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