I was a Gay Straight Alliance adviser as a high school teacher for several years. As adults we may not be homophobic and therefore may not be able to understand how some people are – it has been inconceivable to me hearing over the years the things people go through and even if a restorative circle is called a safe space, if there is a homophobic person in it then we have extended an invitation to vulnerability at an at risk situation that is actually highly volatile and the potential for trauma is that much higher. A lot of LGBT kids also don’t feel like they can report bullying because they don’t feel safe coming out to their teachers and therefore the teachers can’t tell how destructive and disruptive even small comments are to the child and adult who is being harassed or witnessing the harassment. As adults, regardless of what our own stance may be regarding LGBTQ+ rights, we have a responsibility to ensure the safety of all students under our care – and therefore, safe space stickers and training on LGBTQ+ child development are imperative for adults on campus to ensure that we are not outing students or assuming identities in restorative circles.
Contrary to popular belief, people should not feel like they have to be their full selves in a restorative circle and to put that burden of being open about one’s gender or sexuality in a circle on students is abusive and puts their well being in jeopardy.