Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Katherine Mansfield


Even though America has seen an increase in the level of acceptance for people who identify as LGBTQ and/or gender non-conforming, certain aspects within society continue to hinder their rights, especially within public education. Specifically, there are insufficiencies regarding content of and attitudes toward including LGBTQ issues in teaching and leadership training programs. Add to that, the deficits in most Family Life Education (FLE) programs in elementary schools as they lack adequate coverage of developmentally appropriate teaching and learning about gender and sexuality. Taken together, it remains questionable whether the needs of LGBTQ and/or gender non-conforming children can truly be met.

The purpose of this qualitative case study was to examine the policy discourse concerning teaching and learning gender and sexuality issues during early childhood at an elementary school in Virginia. Another purpose was to understand how educators perceive developmentally appropriate timing and content for these topics as well. A combination of critical policy analysis and critical advocacy research was utilized to compare and analyze the written policy discourse as presented within Virginia’s FLE policy to educators’ (teachers, counselors, principals) interpretation and enactment of these written discourses in their classrooms and schools. Findings revealed specific ways the written, spoken, and enacted discourses diverged and coalesced and how these similarities and differences inform future policy and practice. A critical analysis of the written discourses (and silences) suggest Virginia’s FLE curriculum and instruction maintains heteronormative undertones, while the spoken and enacted discourses indicates concern for expanding elementary students’ understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ and/or gender non-conforming children and non-normative family structures. Implications of findings include suggestions for future research and changes in policy and practice that aim to create more inclusive classrooms and schools.


© Stefanie R. Hudson

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission