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Kryss Shane: “Equity”

We can never know what a student is capable of when we cut off their opportunity to access and try new things. This includes cost-prohibitive robotics clubs, funding being cut to drama and choir classes, and a lack of computer software for photography or coding lessons. What if the next world expert is in your […]

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We can never know what a student is capable of when we cut off their opportunity to access and try new things. This includes cost-prohibitive robotics clubs, funding being cut to drama and choir classes, and a lack of computer software for photography or coding lessons. What if the next world expert is in your class but never knows it because the school doesn’t prioritize or have funding for something they’d be amazing at? Why do we work so hard to preserve sports or some classes but not all? Let’s be more mindful in how we honor the needs of all students, even if it means reallocation of funds by the district or the government.


As a part of my interview series about the things that should be done to improve the US educational system I had the pleasure to interview… Kryss Shane MS, MSW, LSW, LMSW (she/her) is the author of The Educator’s Guide to LGBT+ Inclusion, the first book of its kind to guide educators, administrators, and school staff to become able and empowered to make their schools more LGBT+ inclusive.

With over 25 years of experience guiding the world’s top leaders in business, education and community via individual, small group and full-staff trainings, Kryss been featured as America’s go-to Leading LGBT+ Expert in The New York Times, ABC News, Yahoo!, and CNN. Her writing has also appeared in the Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership, Huffington Post, International Council of Professors of Educational Leadership, The New Social Worker Magazine, and many more.

She is also the author of Creating an LGBT+ Inclusive Workplace: The Practical Resource Guide for Business Leaders, which provides best practices and professional guidance for creating LGBT+ inclusive workplaces, including creating safer working environments, updating company policies, enhancing continuing education and training, and better supporting LGBT+ people in the workplace training and other tangible ways to support LGBT+ people in the workplace.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?

It seems that most people who work in mental healthcare have a personal story or experience that draws them to this field. Growing up in small town Ohio, I was someone who was always the support person and the go-to person for my friends, but I never considered making a career of it until much later. I was always a believer in equality, and this led me to begin to become mindful of ways in which minority groups weren’t represented in my middle school and high school textbooks and in the media, I was enjoying. This led me to speak up a lot in class, asking questions that many teachers had no answers to because their education also lacked inclusion. I never saw myself as any sort of ally or activist or educator, I thought those were people who were much older and fancier than I was because those titles seemed reserved for these storied activists like Malcolm X or Marsha P. Johnson, larger than life individuals, not someone from small town Ohio!

Anyway, as I became increasingly more aware of the discrimination against LGBT+ people and people within the intersectionality (since any person of any background or identity can also be LGBT+ identified), I began to realize this problem in my community and in families. This led me to earn my bachelor’s degree at The Ohio State University in Human Development and Family Sciences.

Simultaneously, I was volunteering a ton with LGBT+ organizations. Over time, my volunteer work grew, and many began asking why I didn’t do this as my profession. It hadn’t dawned on me before then that I could. This realization sent me into my first master’s degree program, where I graduated from Barry University in Social Work, where I focused my studies on LGBT+ issues. As years passed though, I was always bothered by how often textbooks in schools still lack representation of marginalized groups. This led me to go back to school, where I earned my 2nd master’s degree, from Western Governors University in Education, specializing in Curriculum and Instruction. I am currently working toward my doctorate in Educational Leadership from University of the Cumberlands, where I get to bring my LGBT+ work through the lens of leaders in our world, thus making me better at educating others and teaching them how to improve their allyship and activism. I am also working in undergraduate and graduate social work departments Columbia University and Brandman University, and writing articles, book chapters, and books that focus on the minority populations that have been too long left out.

This is what led me to write The Educator’s Guide to LGBT+ Inclusion, the first book of its kind to guide educators, administrators, and school staff to become able and empowered to make their schools more LGBT+ inclusive. I wanted to do more and reach more with the insights, education, and experiences I’d gathered, so that everyone could come together in their own space, in their own time, to have access to learning better so they can do better.

That also includes Creating an LGBT+ Inclusive Workplace: The Practical Resource Guide for Business Leaders, which provides best practices and professional guidance for creating LGBT+ inclusive workplaces, including creating safer working environments, updating company policies, enhancing continuing education and training, and better supporting LGBT+ people in the workplace training and other tangible ways to support LGBT+ people in the workplace

I still don’t see myself as ever being able to be at the likes of some of those incredible leaders but now I get the privilege of being surrounded by people like Andrea Shorter, Dimitri Moise, and Jazz Jennings, which only further inspires me every day.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I always hope that the most interesting story is the one yet to come! That said, I’ve been told more than once that something I wrote helped someone heal and I’ve been told that something I said was repeated or posted to social media to help spread the message. Those two compliments are pretty much EVERYTHING to an author/educator! It taught me that I wasn’t talking/writing into a void, that people are listening and do want to do better!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Always! In addition to my 2nd book just coming out, I am always working as a curriculum consultant, writing or reviewing work and textbooks for inclusion. Plus, I am teaching at a number of universities. Lastly, I am in the last year of a doctoral program, focused on Leadership, specializing in Education!

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are the authority in the education field?

Though I have 25+ years of experience, multiple advanced degrees, and though I am the author of a #1 Amazon book in an area of LGBT+ inclusive education and many call me an authority, I hesitate to ever call myself THE authority, as there is always more to learn and more to do better!

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. From your point of view, how would you rate the results of the US education system?

Nope! (laughs) this is a terrible thing to rate as a unit as there are so many people working so hard in a system that doesn’t support them. The rating of most educators is so much higher than the rating of broken systems!

Can you identify 5 areas of the US education system that are going really great?

  1. Covid insights -covid has shown parents how much work goes into teaching, perhaps allowing some to, for the very first time, see the amount of effort put in by educators.
  2. Educators- while there may be a few bad actors, most are incredibly dedicated and truly care about students and their success.
  3. Technology- for those with access, this allows connections to learning tools and materials throughout the world!
  4. Possibility- nothing in education is permanent, so there is always the possibility for systems to improve and the process to become healthier and more just for everyone involved.
  5. Youth- open minds and open hearts within students never let us forget that anything is possible!

Can you identify the 5 key areas of the US education system that should be prioritized for improvement? Can you explain why those are so critical?

  1. Equity- kids shouldn’t learn based on what district they are in, they should all have access to every tool needed to learn.
  2. Educator pay- no educator should be working a 2nd or 3rd job to make ends meet.
  3. Gun control- it should not be considered political to make every school safe for every kid.
  4. Inclusive sex ed- every child should learn science-focused medically-accurate information that includes information for LGBT+ identities. Anything else is biased and sets kids up for lifelong problems.
  5. Funding at every level (federal, state, local)- We cannot keep putting more money into military and prisons than we do into education and expect to have youth who grow up with well-rounded knowledge.

How is the US doing with regard to engaging young people in STEM? Can you suggest three ways we can increase this engagement?

  1. We must be mindful of how we talk about STEM topics; we cannot refer to them as “terrifying” or “complex” and think students will be immediately interested. When our language is encouraging, more will try and, as a result, some will find a skill or an interest!
  2. Bigger prioritization of STEM; schools need to put as much into math teams or science fairs as they do into football games, students cannot understand the importance of subjects not treated as important by their school districts.
  3. More music, dance, and theater in schools; so many studies show how these styles of art and movement benefit STEM topics too. Every time we cut a program, we harm all students in all subjects.

Can you articulate to our readers why it’s so important to engage girls and women in STEM subjects?

It isn’t just girls and women, it’s non-binary and gender fluid, and agender, and all non-white non-male people. We need to do better in showing and telling stories of successes who aren’t the old white men of our textbooks!

How is the US doing with regard to engaging girls and women in STEM subjects? Can you suggest three ways we can increase this engagement?

  1. Better inclusion in textbooks being used; kids can’t see themselves in a role if they never see anyone who looks or loves like them in that role.
  2. More intentional hiring of educators or public speakers in these roles so kids have daily engagement with people who do not look like them and who excel in these fields.
  3. Consistent media representation, which would allow kids to watch tv shows or films with characters who are relatable and have STEM careers. Not everyone grows up to be a doctor or lawyer, yet so many shows focus on these careers. Even with them, we can certainly let the industry know that we want more scenes about forensic or medical science or other STEM topics!

As an education professional, where do you stand in the debate whether there should be a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) or on STEAM (STEM plus the arts like humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, design and new media)? Can you explain why you feel the way you do?

We can never know what a student is capable of when we cut off their opportunity to access and try new things. This includes cost-prohibitive robotics clubs, funding being cut to drama and choir classes, and a lack of computer software for photography or coding lessons. What if the next world expert is in your class but never knows it because the school doesn’t prioritize or have funding for something they’d be amazing at? Why do we work so hard to preserve sports or some classes but not all? Let’s be more mindful in how we honor the needs of all students, even if it means reallocation of funds by the district or the government.

If you had the power to influence or change the entire US educational infrastructure what five things would you implement to improve and reform our education system? Can you please share a story or example for each?

1. Ongoing education for everyone at every level, with specific mandatory inclusion training- You can’t help if you are ignorant. Seek out authors and speakers and activists and listen. If it hurts you to hear it, dig deep into whether this is hitting a truth you haven’t yet examined. Be brave and examine it. When you know better, you can do better. When you know yourself better, you can be better. [author’s note: Kryss’ book, “The Educator’s Guide to LGBT+ Inclusion” offers a guide for anyone working in education or working with/raising children.]

2. More paid platforms for people to share their stories, whether it be students, educators, parents, etc.- When people in a marginalized community are kind enough to share their experiences and their stories with you, listen. Do not turn it into a story about you or try to be “devil’s advocate.” It’s a gift they are giving to you, be grateful and be quiet so you can take it in… even when they are students and you are the teacher, they can still teach you a ton!

3. Proper payment for work being done- We have to stop expecting people in marginalized communities to offer guidance or quotes or work for free. Stop telling people that it will be “great exposure” and pay them, including students, even if it’s with awards or public praise rather than money (due to the power dynamics of student/teacher relationships). Showing that you value them and their work is vital to being a part of ending systemic racism in the workplace, in academia, and in society.

4. Better understanding and use of Privilege by those with it- Figure out what aspects of your life give you a break in life and use them to support others without that access. Maybe this means mentoring someone, maybe it means donating money to the student club ro group, maybe you show up to protest, maybe you write letters or emails to politicians in support of inclusive laws. Whether it’s financial, time, passion, writing skills, knowledge, or anything else in your wheelhouse of awesome or in your categories of privilege, participate in supporting those who are working toward change.

5. More systemic prioritization of marginalized communities to counter the oppression outside of schools- Black people and Brown people and LGBT+ people are not simply skin colors, sexual orientations, or gender identities. They are full whole people. Do not assume that every person with this identity wants to speak on behalf of everyone. Do not assume that everyone in a marginalized community wants to talk about their identity. Don’t assume that a person’s professional expertise is in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Get to know a person as a whole person, not as a walking talking representation of just one facet of who they are or as a poster child for one aspect of how they identify.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“We are in a race between education and catastrophe” -Janet Jackson

No one pays enough attention to Black women and, in this case, this Black woman was quite clear in this messaging more than 30 years. Yet here we are, some of us still shocked that ignorance leads to violence, to denying science, to horrific legal battles, and to the degradation of our society the more rampant it is. This reminds me why it matters that we show up, why it matters that we work so hard to be heard, and why every lightbulb moment we create lessens the ignorance in the world.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

(Note: Ever the activist, before answering, Kryss reminds us that not everyone is a “he” or a “she.”) There are so many in the activism world whom I’d love to have that time with. I think it would be unfair of me to name a Black person, as right now they are so busy in the movement along with still having to deal with the grief and the stress and the fear of existing while Black in America and then any down time isn’t my place to ask for. For me then, I think it’d be very cool to sit down with Dr. Biden. She has been incredibly vocal in her support of so many communities within the world of education and she always does an excellent job balancing when to use her platform and privilege to speak and when to use it to amplify the voices of others.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My website: ThisIsKryss.com

Twitter: @itsKryss

Instagram: @ThisIsKryss

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kryssshane/

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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