JOHNSON, Vt. — Education professor Hannah Miller is starting a study very personal to her.
“My goal for the research is to make K-12 schools and a more inclusive and supportive space for queer and trans-identified teachers,” she said.
Miller tells NBC5 News she feels supported being out as a lesbian at Northern Vermont University. But even though Vermont has a discrimination law protecting LGBTQ workers, more should be done to make sure all educators feel welcome and accepted.
“I don’t necessarily mean being able to get a job and be able to feel comfortable being gay without being fired, I mean feeling included in the social network of your community,” Miller said.
She’s heard back from over 50 teachers across the state who want to be part of the study, like English teacher William Freed. Freed also said he feels very supported as an openly gay man now, but he didn’t always.
“I think that the primary reason that I was interested in this was that because I was really very, very severely bullied when I was in school, really to the point of severe depression, thinking about suicide,” he said.
The Mt. Mansfield Union High School teacher said he wants to help stop that from happening to students.
“I thought, this is my chance as an educator to participate with other educators to talk about, you know, what our role is in the classroom, in the school environment, to create that positive environment by living our own lives.”
The Vermont teacher’s union agrees, saying in a statement, “We share Professor Miller’s desire to make our K-through-12 public schools more inclusive and supportive of LGBTQ educators and look forward to her findings.”
Miller will meet with eight teachers and two of her students over the next few months to gather experiences and come up with a plan to address what they learn.
“The goal of the research is absolutely not to encourage people who do not feel comfortable coming out to do that. I would like to think about how to transform K-12 schools in places where, if teachers are comfortable being out themselves, that they would be able to do that if they wanted to,” she said.