Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry

What Can I Do About Familial Exclusion?

'I Can Always Tell'

A central California woman writes: "I'm raising my grandson, who is 8; he calls me 'Mama.' I'm at least 20 years older than most of the parents of his classmates, and when I drop him off or pick him up, the other kids notice that difference. He tells me they make fun of him, asking why his 'mother' is so old."

A man writes about an elementary school parent-teacher conference: "My wife and I both went, and the teacher leaned toward us and whispered, 'I can always tell the children in my class who have two parents at home.' She meant it as something nice to us, but my son's best friend happens to be being raised — and raised well — by a single mom. It made me wonder how the teacher treated my son's friend in class."

Work with individual speakers. When someone makes a comment that excludes or minimizes a type of family, point it out. "You mean every one-parent household is bad? Is that what you're saying?" Or a simpler question: "What do you mean by that?"

Ask the administration for specific changes. Instead of "Parents Night," ask administrators to consider using the more-inclusive "Family Night." Request that school forms be changed to accommodate many kinds of families, instead of "mother/father" contact information, for example, use "caregiver/guardian" contact information.

Ask for help. If a child is being bullied, teased or harassed at school because of family differences, notify school administrators and seek assistance from school counselors.

Advocate for resources and training. Lobby to have library resources and classroom curricula that include positive examples of non-traditional families, including grandparents as parents, single-parent households, adoptive families, foster families and families with gay or lesbian parents. Discuss the issue with the school principal or a guidance counselor, and ask for staff training on issues of family diversity.