All Students Deserve Safe and Affirming Schools

Supporting LGBTQ Youth

LGTBQ students face unique challenges in our schools. They are more likely to face bullying and harassment leading to poor grades, higher dropout rates and homelessness. Safe and affirming schools are a core element of student success.

Momentous Supreme Court Decision Supports LGBTQ Rights

On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that LGBTQ employees — including all LGBTQ educators — are protected under federal law from discrimination at work based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

This is a momentous decision. As the Court put it, “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” Over 100 federal statutes prohibit sex discrimination, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and the Court’s ruling should apply to those statutes as well. The following Q&A addresses key questions about the decision, its consequences, and how we can work to guarantee full LGBTQ equality.

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In Response to COVID-19: A Checklist to Support LGBTQ Students During Distance Learning 

According to HRC’s 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report:

  • 67% of LGBTQ students hear their families make negative comments about LGBTQ people.
  • While some students are open about their LGBTQ identity at school, only 21% are out at home.
  • Privacy and confidentiality are critically important for LGBTQ youth, especially for those who do not have supportive families. Extreme rejecting behaviors can have dire consequences: Approximately 40% of the homeless youth population in the United States identify as LGBTQ, most as a result of rejection by immediate family members.
  • Additionally, LGBTQ youth of color often face additional stress and adverse impacts on their health and well-being as a result of bias around their intersecting identities.

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5 Things Educators Are Doing to Support LGBTQ Rights Now

Educators are on the leading edge of campaigns, initiatives and legislative efforts to create safe and affirming schools and support LGBTQ student rights.

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Now here’s what you can do: Join educators around the country in signing our pledge to stand up against hate and bias.
SIGN THE PLEDGE ›

Below are links to summaries of some of the myriad ways educators are standing with LGBTQ students, and working to ensure they feel supported and welcome in our schools and communities.

  1. Fostering Safe and Affirming Schools for All Students
  2. Helping to Shape LGBTQ-inclusive Curriculum and Textbooks 
  3. Training Other Educators to Raise their Voices for LGBTQ Students
  4. Backing Legislation That Supports LGBTQ Students’ Rights 
  5. Supporting School Naming Initiatives That Honor Legacies of LGBTQ Activists & Leaders 
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A 2015 survey by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that “LGBTQ students experience pervasive harassment and discrimination, but school-based supports can make a difference.” The results of GLSEN’s 2017 National School Climate Survey will be released in Fall 2018.

Additional Info: 

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Students Mobilize in Support of Transgender Rights Policy

In 2015, the biennial “Youth Risk Behavior Survey” released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) drew attention to the alarming number of LGBTQ students who had contemplated and made a plan for suicide. The suicide numbers were even higher for transgender students, although the CDC did not separately survey transgender students.

In Frederick County, Maryland, the survey sparked a student-led movement that resulted in the Frederick County School Board convening a meeting to discuss the issue. A number of transgender students told their stories and shared their experiences. The student movement led to the implementation of the school district’s first-ever comprehensive transgender rights policy — Policy 443: Creating Welcoming and Affirming Schools for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students.

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Additional info:

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Legal Guidance on Transgender Student Rights

What legal rights do transgender students have?

  • The right not to be disciplined or be treated differently because they are transgender or gender non-conforming.
  • The right to be treated with respect and not harassed or bullied because they are transgender.
  • The right to equal educational opportunities, including the right to use locker rooms and restrooms that are consistent with a student’s gender identity, and to participate equally in athletic or extracurricular activities and other school events.
  • The right to transition at school, which means that students have the right to express their transitioned gender.
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Which laws protect transgender students?

  • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
  • The Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution
  • The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
  • The Due Process Clause of the U. S. Constitution
  • State and local laws

Read more in NEA’s comprehensive guide: “Legal Guidance on Transgender Students’ Rights.”

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Educators Shape LGBTQ-Inclusive Textbooks

With the passage of the California FAIR Education Act in 2011, educators laid the groundwork for an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum. In the summer of 2017, NEA members who advocated for the passage of FAIR were among the select group of committee members who reviewed and decided whether publishers made the grade for LGBTQ inclusive content in their textbooks.

“The whole idea was to make sure that LGBTQ kids see themselves in the social science books. People just like them made history. It’s good for them, it’s normalizing and reduces bullying. It’s really good for everyone,” said C. Scott Miller, California Teachers Association (CTA) member and liaison to the Equality California Board.

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California is the first and only state to mandate that students be taught about the contributions of LGBTQ people in social sciences classes. That means the educators in the state will play a vital role in driving the creation of LGBTQ curricula for K-12 classes in California and potentially around the country.

Additional Info:

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Take Action

Building Power in Our Communities

Ready to get active and be the superhero our students deserve in the fight for racial, social and economic justice in public education? Then join the NEA EdJustice League!

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Resources

 

What Do You Say?

What do you say to "That's so gay" and other anti-LGBTQ comments? What can caring adults do? Stop it, don't ignore it, educate, and be pro-active!

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Support Trans Students

"Schools In Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools" offers recommendations and resources based on research and best practices that have been tested in the field.

View the Guide

Jump Start Your GSA

Learn how to establish or re-establish a Gay-Straight Alliance, identify your mission and goals, and assess your school's climate. Jump start your GSA to create safer schools for all!

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