Recent/rising anti-Trans legislation, family separation through I.C.E. detention, and challenges to the Indian Childhood Welfare Act highlight ways in which the state enacts/perpetuates violence against working class/poor, Black and Brown, and/or trans, queer, and gender non-conforming caregivers and communities. Emerging educational research provides counterstories to ‘parent involvement’ that reveal that building authentic partnerships with families is the most effective way to engage students, but how schools’ climates/cultures are anathema to family-centered collectives that authentically value and act upon these families’ cultural wealth. We engage in qualitative individual interviews with members of Black and Brown Queer, Trans, and Gender Non-Conforming families with children in PK-12 schools and pre-service teachers to examine the lived experiences of these families in schools in Southern Nevada and if/how pre-service teachers are prepared to think about/engage with them.

We Will Hold Each Other Through The Fires

Artist: Micah Bazant. This image was created in 2021 with the Oakland Healing Clinic Collective. A love letter to the burning world.

Illustration with the words “We will hold each other through the fires” in a purple sky above a red moon. A fat two spirit Indigenous person with braids holds a young child. They scatter pink flower petals into a small pool of water that reflects a different world of green trees and a white moon. They are surrounded by a raging wildfires and protective ancestor spirits.


As of the first half of 2023, 45 states have proposed anti-LGBTQ bills, 491 anti-LGBTQ bills are currently being tracked, and, of these bills, 228 are related to schools and education (Peele, 2023; ACLU, 2023). On June 6, 2023, in the first week of Pride Month in the United States, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) declared a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans for the first time in its forty-year history (HRC, 2023). The onslaught of anti-Trans and anti-LGBTQIA+ bills coincide with the restricting of teaching “Critical Race Theory” or “CRT”, erroneously used as catchalls for any content that discusses race and racism and/or is written by Black and Brown authors. This includes HB 7, or the “Stop W.O.K.E Act,” passed in Florida which restricts the teaching of race and racism and other systems of oppression, and related concepts such as privilege, in schools, and HB 377 in Idaho, which bans teaching CRT and restricts how teachers engage in topics related to race and gender (ACLU, 2023; Marrun et al., 2023; Reilly, 2022). The masternarrative of “parental rights” that undergirds much of this legislation focuses exclusively on the “rights” of cis-white able-bodied heterosexual parents while further excluding, silencing, and criminalizing Black and Brown and/or Trans/Queer families, caregivers, and communities who are more likely to experience state-sanctioned violence that threatens to break apart their families.

In 2021, Nevada passed AB 261 “which creates inclusive curricular standards for K-12 education” and “require[d] Nevada’s education agencies to ensure students are instructed on the history and contributions to the arts, humanities, and sciences of LGBTQ+ individuals, as well as folks who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, people with disabilities, immigrants, refugees, and religious minorities” (GLSEN, 2021, para. 1; NAB, 2021). Nevada is also one one of a handful of states that not only has school antibullying and harassment laws protecting LGBTQ students from discrimination in schools (‘safe school laws’) but also specific guidance for trans students (Alexander & Brogan-Kator, 2017; MAP, 2023). Shortly before the passage of AB 261, a school climate report for LGBTQ students in Nevada by GLSEN found that most LGBTQ students experienced anti-LGBTQ victimization in their schools and regularly heard anti-LGBTQ remarks, and that only 15% of LGBTQ students had access to LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum (GLSEN, 2019, para. 3). The most common forms of discrimination reported by students was being prevented from using their chosen name or gender pronouns and using the bathroom that aligns with their gender (GLSEN, 2019).

While defeated, in 2023 Nevada had two anti-LGBTQ bills proposed, SB288 and AB374; of particular note, AB 374, was focused on education and sought to ban Trans-athletes in youth and college sports in the state (NAB, 2023; NSB, 2023). Last year, Douglas County School President Susan Jansen proposed an anti-trans policy which would require students to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their assigned sex at birth and ban Trans girls from participating in girls’ sports despite only 0.3% of Douglas County school students identifying as Transgender (Hernández, 2023). While Clark County School District’s (CCSD) has Policy 5138, which involves the creation of an official Gender Support Plan by the Gender Support Team, to change a students’ name and pronouns, it has drawn criticism from students because it emphasizes the rights of parents over students (CCSD, 2018; Mariano & Kim, 2021). Considering the high rates of homelessness for LGBTQ+ youth because of family conflict, this policy is disconnected from the reality that many LGBTQ+ youth may not have the acceptance and support of their families (NNY, 2022). To date, there are no studies that examine the experiences of Queer and Trans Caregivers of PK-12 students in Nevada, and very few studies in the U.S. which examine Queer and Trans Caregivers’ of Color experiences in schools specifically (Goldberg & Byard, 2020).

Our study: 1) centers the experiential knowledge of Black and Brown Queer, Trans, and Gender Non-Conforming families with children in PK-12 schools in Southern Nevada; and, 2) examines pre-service teachers understandings of, and preparedness to engage with and support, these families and their children.

Research Questions

What do pre-service teachers know about proposed anti-LGBTQI+ bills (e.g., AB374 and SB288) and their impacts on education in Nevada and nationally?

How do Black and Brown Queer, Trans, and Gender Non-Conforming caregivers and their children (in PK-12 schools in Southern Nevada) cultivate Queer and Trans joy and build/imagine communities of care?

How do pre-service teachers in Southern Nevada understand their preparation to engage “complexly diverse” (Walls, 2017) families, especially relative to the Nevada Educator Performance Framework’s (NEPF) standard #4 focused on family and community engagement?

How do Black and Brown Queer, Trans, and Gender Non-Conforming caregivers and their children (in PK-12 schools in Southern Nevada) navigate anti-LGBTQIA+ climates and engage in complexly-defined “resilience” 2 (Asakura, 2019; Love, 2020; Walls, 2017)?


This study engaged a hybrid conceptual framework–Queered Caregiver Justice (QCJ)–intersectionally constructed from Queer Critical Race Theory (QueerCrit), carceral protectionism, and a critical Trans framework.


Qualitative semi-structured individual interviews were conducted with two cohorts: 

  1. 8-10 undergraduate early career educators (ECEs) in Southern Nevada; and, 
  2. 8-10 Black and Brown Queer, Trans, and Gender Non-Conforming Families (caregivers of children in PK-12 schools in Southern Nevada).*

*Caregiver cohort members were recruited through the project’s race-, Queer-, Trans-, and Gender Non-Conforming-conscious community partners, Frankie Perez and  The Center.

Preliminary Results

  • Teachers’ interviews revealed a disconnect between policies around LGBTQ+ students in Nevada and practice. While Nevada has a “model curriculum” according to GLSEN for LGBTQ+ curriculum, students were not receiving this preparation in their teacher education programs or field work placements. Students were not directly familiar with specific laws or school district policies around LGBTQ+ students.
  • Their interviews also revealed that while coursework may discuss LGBTQ+ families, this was often surface-level (if discussed at all), and most of their learning came from other sources such as social media. These discussions were not intersectional (e.g., Black and Brown queer, trans, and gender non-conforming) but single identity focused. Furthermore, teachers discussed that veteran teachers were insufficiently prepared in gender affirming and culturally sustaining (Paris and Alim, 2017) ways to engage with trans, gender-non conforming, and queer students and families. 
  • Teachers also discussed both their awareness of parental rights discourses and how they impacted them. This ranged from calling home to report a student’s transition to a parent to instances of colleagues being reported to administration to students being removed from the classroom by a parent because of content (e.g., Black Lives Matter sticker on a water bottle). 
  • Black and Brown queer, trans, and gender non-conforming caregivers discussed how they engaged in education at home not only around LGBTQ+ issues, but other topics such as Black History Month, which were not discussed in their children’s classrooms.
  • These families also discussed how assignments were not inclusive of their family composition (e.g., acknowledging LGBTQ+ history, family tree projects), how they experienced surveillance from teachers/administrators around their caregiving, and difficulty identifying spaces that would be safe to attend. Overall, there was a lack of representation of LGBTQ+ in the curriculum and school.

Conclusion & Recommendations

So far, our preliminary findings reveal a serious gap between laws, policies, and practices and teacher education. Many teachers were unaware of what these were including AB 261 which has stipulations around the teaching of LGBTQ+ curriculum. This highlights the need for teacher education programs to evaluate how they are preparing teachers to teach the histories and contributions of not only LGBTQ+ people, but other minoritized groups as well. 

Our interviews with Black and Brown queer, trans, and gender non-conforming caregivers revealed the forms of community cultural wealth (Yosso, 2005) they share with children including navigational capital in the midst of ongoing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and forms of resistant capital. These interviews have also revealed that families struggled to find other families with similar experiences to their own, navigated surveillance from schools around their caregiving, and that teachers often did not know how to engage with these families in ways that were gender-affirming (e.g., misgendering a caregiver) and culturally sustaining.

We Will Hold Each Other Through The Waters

Artist: Micah Bazant. This image was created in 2021 with the Oakland Healing Clinic Collective. A love letter for my trans, disabled fam and all who know that the conquest of genders, bodies + spirits has always been part of the colonization of lands and waters. We fight as one for land back, climate justice, disability justice and trans liberation.

Illustration with the words “We will hold each other through the waters”. Two trans creatures comfort each other in an underwater storm. One has blue skin, gills, and a hot pink fish tail. The other has brown skin, is in a power wheelchair, and has turquoise hoops, lips and eyelash gems. They hold hands and stars radiate through their connection. In the background are black oil blobs, dying kelp, and bleaching coral.

Research Team

Danielle Mireles

Principal Investigator

Katelyn Ohana

Co-Principal Investigator & AARL Fellow Researcher

Joseph Castellaños

Co-Principal Investigator

Wynn Tashman

Co-Principal Investigator

Maddie Sweet

Co-Principal Investigator

Norma A. Marrun

Co-Principal Investigator

Christine Clark

Co-Principal Investigator


This research was made possible thanks to generous funding from the Nevada Department of Education to support the Nevada Institute on Educator Preparation (NITEP), the Nevada Institute on Educator Preparation, Retention, & Research (NIEPRR), and the Nevada Educator Preparation Institute & Collective (NV-EPIC).