Original Research - Topical Collection: Troubling normative constructions in careers

School principals’ responses in creating an inclusive schooling space for gender and sexual diverse learners

Henry J. Nichols
African Journal of Career Development | Vol 5, No 1 | a95 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajcd.v5i1.95 | © 2023 Henry J. Nichols | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 May 2023 | Published: 16 October 2023

About the author(s)

Henry J. Nichols, Department of Education Foundations, Faculty of Education, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


Background: Numerous policies and initiatives of South African Department of Basic Education mandate principals to ensure inclusive school spaces to support and cater for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer or questioning (LGBTIQ) learners. Yet, heterosexual and cisgender youth are still valorised by principals as the only gender and sexual category in schools.

Objectives: Drawing on the social justice leadership theory, this article aimed to add to the conversation on how school principals in their leadership positions can enable a safe and inclusive schooling space for learners with diverse gender identities and sexual orientations.

Methods: Principals are mandated to collaborate with the community and parents such as the School Governing Body (SGB), thus the attitudes and responses of these principals through the narratives of parents of LGBTIQ children were examined. As part of a qualitative study, individual interviews were conducted with six parents in the Free State and Gauteng provinces of South Africa, and the data were analysed thematically.

Results: The results of this study showed that the principals did not comply with any of these policy requirements or responsibilities and willingly ignored them.

Conclusion: Expanding LGBTIQ content in educational leadership training is a necessary step to convince school leaders that LGBTIQ awareness and inclusion are necessary for creating a positive and inclusive schooling climate.

Contribution: This study provided reasons for principals to disrupt normative ideas of gender and sexual diversity and the effect of their silence and ignorance.


principals; LGBTIQ youth; gender and sexual diversity; heteronormativity; cisnormativity; inclusive education; social justice leadership

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 5: Gender equality


Total abstract views: 769
Total article views: 703

Crossref Citations

No related citations found.