GLSEN Changing the Game

Administrator Blog: Imran Abbasi

My name is Imran Abbasi (he/him/his), I am an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, and I sit on the local board of GLSEN Upstate NY and on GLSEN National’s Educator Advisory Council (EAC). I have been an educator for over 20 years, and an administrator for 11. My work in school administration has led me to understand the importance of administrators in enacting positive change for all students, and specifically for LGBTQ+ students.

In my role as a high school principal, I’ve been a witness to the positive impact that sports can have on both student athletes and the entire school community. To maximize this impact, sports teams must create an inclusive environment, and school administrators must be willing to support them in that endeavor.

First, administrators must establish a good relationship with their school’s Athletic Director, so they can work together to select coaches that will commit to maintaining inclusive values. When I was in the process of hiring new athletic staff at my school, I made sure to include expectations around inclusion and non-discrimination in the job posting. In the interview process, I made sure to include scenario-based questions about how each candidate would handle different issues. For instance, in the interview process, you may want to ask a candidate “What steps would you take to ensure that LGBTQ+ athletes feel safe and included during overnight trips?” If you know that your school or community has specific needs or challenges, you may want to craft questions that relate directly to those needs as well.

If athletes or coaches are expressing bigotry or behaving inappropriately in practices or at games, you as an administrator have a responsibility to step in. If you attend a game and notice that coaches are arguing excessively with officials, or that players are using homophobic language, set up a meeting with the coach to come up with a plan to address things. Even though administrators will not be at every practice or every game, they can do a lot to create a culture of accountability and inclusivity.

Administrators have a lot of power to create an open and inclusive culture where all students can feel comfortable participating in sports. By holding coaches accountable for athletes’ behavior as well as their own, creating an inclusive school community, and paying attention to the group dynamics on teams, administrators can do a lot to ensure that every student feels safe, affirmed, and welcomed on their teams.

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Imran Abbasi lives in Upstate NY with his wife and two kids. Currently, he works as a Director of Social Studies, World Languages and ENL and is a PhD student at the University at Albany.