|Source: NorCal ACLU|
By Sam Piha
As discrimination against LGBTQ+ youth is on the rise, it’s important to know that there are federal and in some cases, state laws, that protect LGBTQ+ youth from harassment and restrictions. State protections vary from state to state.
Below is a brief review of LGBTQ+ youth rights and advice to LGBTQ+ youth by the ACLU and GLSEN (last updated May 2018): “You have the right to be yourself! Here is some basic information about LGBTQ students’ legal rights in public schools.
- Freedom of Expression: Some schools try to silence students who express their opinions about LGBTQ issues. If you go to a public school, you have a constitutional right to express your views and identity.
- Gay-Straight Alliances or Gender-Sexuality Alliances (GSAs): A GSA is a noncurricular student-led club -- just like Chess Club or Fellowship of Christian Athletes -- for students with a shared interest in LGBTQ issues. Federal law requires public high schools that allow any other noncurricular clubs to allow GSAs and treat them no differently from other clubs.
- School Dances: Public schools can't stop you from bringing a same-sex date to prom or homecoming who otherwise is allowed to attend, nor can they tell you that you can't dress a certain way or run for prom king/queen because it doesn't fit traditional gender roles.
- Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students: Transgender and gender nonconforming students often face discrimination over dress codes, access to restrooms and locker rooms, and their chosen names and pronouns. Contact the ACLU LGBT Project if you want help making sure your school treats you with respect and keeps you safe.
- Harassment: If you're being harassed or threatened, go to the principal or another official right away. Keep detailed notes with dates of all incidents. Put the school on notice that it has to protect you.
- Privacy: Schools should not out you to anyone without your permission, even if you're out to some people at school.”
The NORCAL ACLU adds:
“If you suspect that your school is mistreating you because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, here are some basic rules to help you out:
- Be respectful and follow the rules!
- Don't give your school any excuses for treating you badly by behaving badly yourself. This can make things harder to solve in the long run. Explain your grievances in a mature, respectable and respectful manner.
- Document everything!
- Keep a record of the ‘Six W’s” each time you are harassed:
- WHO was involved,
- WHAT happened,
- WHERE it happened,
- WHEN it happened,
- WHO you reported it to, whether they did anything about it, and when,
- And if there were any WITNESSES.
Keep copies of anything in writing that you file with the school and be sure to write down the date (or even better, ask them to stamp it as received, with the date). Also take notes about any additional conversations you have with school administrators and any actions they take (or fail to take) and be sure to write down the dates for those too.
File a complaint! Your school is required by law to have a clear and publicized process for filing complaints of harassment. If the process is not posted around campus like it should be, ask what this process is, and follow it—you may also remind your school of their obligation to post these materials. Your school must keep your identity confidential and protect you from retaliation.”
For more information or assistance, you can contact your local and/or the national ACLU.
In an effort to speak out against recent political attacks on LGBTQ+ youth, we have posted several LIAS blogs and authored a briefing paper entitled, Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth in Afterschool Programs and Opposing Anti-LGBTQ+ Attacks. Feel free to share these resources with your network.
Lights On Afterschool
To learn more about Lights On Afterschool, register an event, access event planning tools, or to find out what’s going on in your area, visit afterschoolalliance.org.