WASHINGTON As schools and school districts across the country face hostile protests of LGBTQI+ inclusive education, students who are experiencing discrimination, bullying and harassment based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression now have a new resource to help defend their rights. "Safe Schools for All'' is a unique resource to help make schools safe and inclusive of all students and is rooted in guidance from the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education.
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), GLSEN, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and PFLAG National, four of the nation's leading LGBTQI+ organizations, collaborated to create SafeSchoolsForAll.org for students, parents, and supporters to take action against bullying, harassment and discrimination.
According to GLSEN's 2019 National School Climate Survey, 86% of LGBTQ students experienced harassment or assault based on their sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity. Of that majority, 57% of students did not report the incident to school staff because of doubt that effective intervention would occur or fear the situation would only worsen once reported.
"Bullying has overwhelmingly negative effects on a student's educational outcome and mental health," said Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, Interim Executive Director of GLSEN. "We know that bullying leads to lower GPAs, increased absences, and higher levels of depression, so it is imperative to show support and create safe and inclusive school environments. With positive support and resources like 'Safe Schools for All' available, our goal is for all LGBTQI+ students to have a thriving educational experience while feeling safe sharing their identity without judgement or harassment."
In states and school districts across the country, LGBTQI+ students have witnessed their rights come under attack. From legislation to prohibit transgender athletes from participating in school sports to protests to ban LGBTQI+ affirming books, student clubs, plays, and displays from schools and libraries, the attack on protections for LGBTQI+ students has been relentless since the 2020 election. This has translated in many instances to anti-LGBTQI+ bullying and harassment on K-12 school campuses, from Illinois to Oregon to Tennessee, and beyond.
"When adults act badly by bullying school board officials and staff, kids take note and continue the behavior in the classroom. This is a trend PFLAG families across the country have been working to end," said Brian K. Bond, Executive Director of PFLAG National. "Until LGBTQI+ people are fully protected from discrimination by federal law, resources like 'Safe Schools for All' are necessary and useful tools to protect our LGBTQI+ loved ones."
Earlier this year, the Office of Civil Rights issued a public notice clarifying that LGBTQI+ students are protected under Title IX from discrimination at school based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. "Safe Schools for All" outlines Title IX protections and steps to take, including filing a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights, when students experience anti-LGBTQI+ bullying, harassment or discrimination. Students, families and administrators can also turn to the site to find a host of resources to help improve their school climate and support LGBTQI+ students.
"Schools have a responsibility to investigate claims of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, made by students who face hostility because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity, or transgender status," said Jennifer Levi, Transgender Rights Project Director of GLAD. "It's the law. It's also an essential step in improving school climate for all students. We hope that 'Safe Schools for All' will be an accessible tool for both families and administrators in protecting the health, safety, and well-being of all students."
Steps students can take when they experience bullying, harassment, or discrimination:
Notify a teacher or school leader. File a formal complaint with the school, school district, college, or university.
Document the incident. Write down the details about what happened, where and when the incident happened, who was involved, and the names of any witnesses.
Ask for support. Seek support from your school to accommodate for language and disability accessibility needs including translating or interpreting information. Counseling and other mental health support can be helpful for a student who has been harassed or bullied.
Consider filing a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.
"Study after study has shown that bullying and harassment in schools has long-lasting and dangerous repercussions for the mental health and well-being of students particularly LGBTQI+ youth," said Imani Rupert-Gordon, Executive Director of NCLR. "By working with our partners to create the 'Safe Schools for All' resource website, it is our hope that we can work with administrators, teachers, staff, students and their families to create learning environments that are free of harassment and discrimination, and promote the personal safety of every student in every school in the United States."
About GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation. Anyone living in New England who experiences discrimination or harassment at school or who needs additional information about filing a complaint can contact GLAD's free Legal Information Line, GLAD Answers: GLADAnswers.org or GLADAnswers@GLAD.org .
GLSEN works to create safe and inclusive schools for all. GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression. Each year, GLSEN programs and resources reach millions of students and educators in K-12 schools, via action at the national, state, and local level. Since 1990, GLSEN has improved conditions for LGBTQ+ students across the United States and helped launch an international movement to address LGBTQ+ issues in education.
About the National Center for Lesbian Rights
The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. Since its founding, NCLR has maintained a longstanding commitment to racial and economic justice and the LGBTQ community's most vulnerable.
About PFLAG National
PFLAG is the first and largest organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people, their parents and families, and allies. With nearly 400 chapters and nearly 250,000 members and supporters crossing multiple generations of families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas across America, PFLAG is committed to creating a world where diversity is celebrated and all people are respected, valued, and affirmed. To learn more, visit pflag.org, like us on Facebook (/pflag), watch us on YouTube (/pflag), or follow us on Twitter (@pflag) or Instagram (@pflag).