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Poster and Flyer Intervention at the Secondary: “We Are NMS.”

 

If you came to our Secondary campus at P30 shortly before or after the summer break, you may have seen some colorful posters and flyers around the school buildings proudly stating, “We are NMS. We are disabled. We are queer.” You can read the flyer and see the posters here. Sadly, the reason for the posters and flyers was less cheerful than the paper they were printed on.

 

On two separate occasions during the last school year, a member of the NMS community was targeted by anonymous cissexist and ableist flyers that were left in the school building at P30. The flyers claimed that autistic and queer people like this particular member of our community do not belong to NMS. Fortunately, our wonderful students immediately recognized these flyers as hate speech, collected them, and handed them in to staff members. Because of the severity of the attacks, police reports were filed on both occasions, but the perpetrator or perpetrators have not been identified yet. 

 

While the anonymous flyers tried to single out one particular member of our community, the NMS community in fact consists of an incredibly diverse array of people, many of whom identify as lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, inter, or asexual and/or as neurodivergent, as having a chronic illness, or as having a disbility / being disabled. Because all of us are impacted when one of us is targeted, a group of about 20 students, teachers, staff members, and parents, the majority of whom belong to one or more of the groups targeted in the attacks, volunteered our free time and parts of our summer holidays to reaffirm that NMS stands for diversity and a school culture where everybody is welcome and appreciated with all of our unique experiences and perspectives. 

 

We created the slogan “We are NMS.” to highlight that it is precisely the contributions of all the diverse members of the NMS community that make our school a special place. For these particular interventions in response to last year’s attacks, we wanted to focus on the fact that queer and disabled people are already and will continue to be an integral part of the fabric of our school. We deliberately chose bold words that have been reclaimed from violent abuse to identify ourselves to underscore that we are not ashamed of who we are. If you’d like to learn more about the reclamation of the term “disabled”, for instance, you can read up on the role of identity-first language in disability activism (for example here). 

 

So, what can you do to help confront ableism (i.e. the discrimination of disabled people) and cissexism (i.e. the discrimination of trans, inter, and non-binary people) at NMS? First, you could read the Dos and Don’ts we compiled for the flyer (which you can find here) and put them into practice in your daily lives. Second, you could approach the Intersectional Student Union at the Secondary or the Junior Intersectional Student Union at the Primary, the GEV, or any of the contact people listed below with any questions you may have, to let us know about problems you noticed at NMS, or to bring your own creative ideas to life.

 

(Junior) Intersectional Student Union:

The ISU at the Secondary is a student-led group mainly focused on supporting marginalized communities and spreading diversity at NMS. We are a community that discusses current issues or problems students might face concerning their identity. The Junior ISU shares these goals and is led by Tanya Mokdad and Stephanie Greenwald.

The ISU welcomes all students from grade 7-13 to our meetings, which usually take place on Thursdays at 3 pm.

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The Junior ISU welcomes all students from grade 5 and 6 to our meetings as part of the WUF.

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Anti-discrimination officers: 

At the Secondary, the anti-discrimination officers, Given Rapholo and Sophia Calligaro, provide a safe space where they support and help you directly and confidentially to resolve conflicts and experiences that were discriminatory against you or someone you know.

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Contact people for gender and sexual diversity: 

You can approach Tanya Mokdad, Stephanie Greenwald, and Lex Kartanė at the Primary with any questions or concerns you may have about gender identity and sexual orientation. At the Secondary, you can approach Lex Kartanė, Christopher Langhans, and Kai Linke.

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Contact person for neurodiversity and ableism: 

You can reach out to Lex Kartanė any time if you have any questions, need someone to listen to, or need personal support regarding neurodiversity or ableism you might experience.

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Contact people for inclusion and wellbeing at the Primary and contact people for SEN (special educational needs) and inclusion at the Secondary:

At the Primary, you can contact the integration and wellbeing team about accommodations in the classroom (Nachteilsausgleich (NTA) and Förderstatus (FS)). They can help you with measures which can be implemented to remove barriers to your learning. At the Secondary, you can contact Sarah Dent, Julian Hensel, and Gülru Schindler.

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LGBTQIA+ Guidelines

These guidelines are supposed to contribute to protecting students against discrimination specifically with regard to their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, as mandated by the Schulgesetz and the Landesantidiskriminierungsgesetz. The guidelines therefore focus on the students' right to self-determination with regard to these characteristics. The guidelines are intended to provide teachers with guidance on how to help ensure that people with different sexual orientations and gender identities can feel comfortable and welcome at Nelson-Mandela-School at all times.

Support: If members of the school community need support with questions about gender identity, they can speak to Kai Linke at secondary (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or to Lex Kartanė at primary (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and externally to Queer Leben (professional counselling: https://queer-leben.de/english/) or Lambda (peer counselling: https://www.lambda-bb.de/beratung/). If they need support with questions about sexual identity, they can speak to Christopher Langhans at secondary (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or to Dino Antunovic and Tanya Mokdad at primary (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and externally to Lesben- or Schwulenberatung (professional counselling: https://lesbenberatung-berlin.de/Beratung.html; http://www.sbberlin.info/post.php?permalink=erstberatung) or to Lambda (peer counselling: https://www.lambda-bb.de/beratung/).

First name and gender: If students use a first name and/or gender that differ(s) from those registered in their ID card, they (or their legal guardians) can get in touch with Dino Antunovic or Lex Kartane at primary (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or with Christopher Langhans or Kai Linke at secondary (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). We advise the students and inform all relevant parties at school about the name and/or gender change. Since the information about names and gender will not always be current on class lists and WebUntis, it is helpful if teachers find age-appropriate ways to ascertain the students’ current names and pronouns at the start of the school year or when they first meet them. They should then use the current names and pronouns within the school community in accordance with the students’ wishes.

Confidentiality: Students generally decide for themselves whether and how the people in their environment are informed about a coming out. If students explicitly state that they do not want their legal guardians to be informed about name and pronoun changes within the school community or about same-sex relationships, teachers and educators are not legally obligated to share this information with legal guardians. However, as a school we cannot guarantee confidentiality about names and pronouns that are commonly used within the school.

Forms: All school documents where gender has to be entered offer all four official options in Germany (m/f/d/o: male/female/diverse/no entry) and they can be entered accordingly.

Representation in the classroom: Whenever gender and sexual development is addressed, inter, trans, and non-binary gender identities, homo-, bi-, pansexuality, and other queer sexual identities should be treated as equal variants to cis identities and heterosexuality. This is particularly relevant for crossdisciplinary sex education and social learning. In the social sciences, the historical and current manifestations of cis_hetero_sexist oppression of LGBTQIA+ people and their struggles for emancipation should be addressed where possible. In the languages and the arts, works by LGBTQIA+ people should be covered, and LGBTQIA+ people should generally be adequately represented in class materials. In the languages, moreover, linguistic issues of gender equity should be addressed for the respective language. In the sciences and in mathematics, the contributions of LGBTQIA+ scientists can be named as such. In all of this, care should be taken not to portray individual religions, worldviews, or cultures as inherently more cis_hetero_sexist than others. At the same time,care should also be taken to ensure that teaching materials reflect the actual diversity of LGBTQIA+ people in terms of other characteristics such as ethnicity, religion, world view, disability, chronic illness, age, language, and social status. 

Physical Education (Primary): 

In Lesson
In Primary sports lessons groups and internal sport competitions there is no need to separate groups based on gender. Grouping and making teams based on gender should be avoided. For students entering puberty consider the appropriateness of contact sports. 

Changing Rooms
Students should feel comfortable changing in the rooms that they feel best represents their self-affirmed gender identity.  For students that do not feel comfortable changing in shared facilities, on request a private changing room should be offered. This also applies to swimming lessons.

In the case of sport teams traveling to sport venues, competitions, outside of the school, contact needs to be made in advance to ensure there are appropriate changing facilities available for students and their self-affirmed gender identity.  

PE Kit
Gender neutral tracksuits, t-shirts, shorts, and sport shoes should be worn during participation. Students participating in swimming should wear swimming specific clothing. 

Physical Education (Secondary): If needed, all students can discuss with their physical education teacher how their changing needs can be accommodated based on the locker rooms available. Furthermore, PE groups should not be divided up by gender. All students can change groups at any time if needed. Where students have to be assessed based on gender, the grading chart recommended for the gender listed on the ID card will normally be used. Once students have changed their first name and/or gender for internal school use, the student's preferred chart can also be used. 

Grouping students by gender: Grouping students by gender should generally be avoided, as this often reinforces gender stereotypes. If sorting students into girl and boy groups cannot be avoided, inter, trans, and non-binary students should be asked in advance which group they want to be assigned to. Alternatively, a third group can be offered for all students who would like to work in a mixed-gender group.

Bathrooms: Each building at NMS has at least one gender neutral bathroom. Inter students may use the gender-segregated bathrooms in which they feel most comfortable at any time. Trans and non-binary students may do so once they have changed their first name and/or gender for internal school use. (We still need a gender neutral bathroom for students at Primary.)

Class trips: Inter, trans, and non-binary students should be asked in advance with whom they would like to share a room and whether they need a lockable single shower and/or a gender-neutral toilet. If it is theoretically possible that a pregnancy could occur in the desired room constellation, the consent of the legal guardians of all students involved should be obtained before the class trip for students under 16. If Inter, trans, and non-binary students need a mixed gender dorm, a lockable single shower, and/or a gender-neutral toilet, its availability must be confirmed in advance with the accommodation and, if necessary, a more inclusive accommodation must be sought. If a single room is available in the accommodation, this can be offered to inter, trans, and/or non-binary students, but they must not be forced to stay in a single room against their will.

Slurs: Slurs that are offensive to LGBTQIA+ people as well as the use of the word "gay" as a slur will not be tolerated at NMS, and this prohibition will be enforced by the teachers wherever possible.

References:
Rahmenlehrplan Teil B: Fachübergreifende Komptenzentwicklung
Berliner Landes-Antidiskriminierungsgesetz
Schlau NRW: Trans* und Schule: Infobroschüre für die Begleitung von trans* Jugendlichen im Kontext Schule in NRW
The guidelines are here.


NMS Recommends: A Rainbow of Books
Want to read more good books with queer characters? Or with characters of color? How about queer characters of color? Jewish working class characters? Feminist characters with disabilities? Would you know where to look if you wanted to find the books you’re interested in? 

Check out this list of books that feature at least one perspective that is often marginalized in society and in publishing and that at least one person from the NMS community enjoyed reading. It not only includes books from many different perspectives, but also books of different genres, from different geographic locations, in different languages (so far only English and German, though), and for readers of different ages. You can even borrow some of these books from one of our school libraries! The list is searchable via the search function in Google docs, and, as a bonus feature, the document also includes an #OwnVoices-list of books specifically by Black authors that the librarians at the Primary compiled for Black History Month.

Kai Linke
NMS teacher


07.12.2022 Nelson-Mandela-Schule · Staatliche Internationale Schule Berlin | Nelson Mandela School · State International School Berlin