Dear Loudon County Administrators and Board Members,
I am writing to thank Loudon County Schools, Lenoir City High School, the yearbook staff and yearbook faculty advisor for embracing the diversity of all students at the at Lenoir City High School. The profile of Zac Mitchell in the school yearbook sends an inclusive message to students, parents and teachers that all youth are valued and cared for at Lenoir City High School. Profiling the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning students in the school yearbook promotes and inclusive and safe environment where students can maximize their academic potential.
We've all heard reports of school environments which are hostile to LGBT students in Tennessee (e.g., Sequoyah High School, Gordonsville High School, Cheatham County High School, etc.), but Lenoir High School appears to be taking positive steps against this trend.
Research from GLSEN demonstrates that when educators include positive representations of LGBT people, history, and events in their curricula, students experienced school as a less-hostile place. LGBT students in schools with an inclusive curriculum were:
Half as likely to experience high levels of victimization because of sexual orientation or gender expression.
Less likely to feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation or gender expression.
About half as likely to miss school be-cause of feeling unsafe or uncomfortable.
While it is not part of the curriculum, featuring Zac's story in the yearbook is a significant step toward creating a safe zone for LGBT students at Lenoir High School.
Lenoir City High School is setting a positive example for other schools in Tennessee to follow.