Friday, September 17, 2010

Report: LGBTQ students face harassment, but we can help

A recent study revealed some unsurprising, but nonetheless saddening data showing what hardships LGBTQ students must deal with.

...Nine of 10 [LGBTQ middle and high school students] reported experiencing harassment at their school within the past year based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and two-thirds said they felt unsafe at school because of who they are. Nearly one-third skipped at least one day of school within the previous month because of concerns for their safety. Perhaps not surprisingly, locker rooms and bathrooms were locations of particular worry for LGBT students. Surely we as a country can and must do a better job of protecting these students and ensuring their rights to a first-class education free of fear of discrimination and harassment.

The report also included a list of factors in schools that have been shown to lead to better educational outcomes for LGBT students, as well as reductions in harassment, including the presence of supportive student clubs like GSAs, inclusive curriculum (a discussion of important LGBT figures in history, like Harvey Milk, for example), and supportive educators.

Despite the fact that LGBT students remain a particularly vulnerable population in schools, there is no explicit federal prohibition against discrimination and harassment of students based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Similar protections already exist for students based on race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin, and it is long overdue for Congress to act to protect LGBT students.

Fortunately, there is legislation currently pending in Congress — the Student Non-Discrimination Act — that would protect students from discrimination and harassment in public schools based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and would provide victims with legal remedies. And the bill includes protections against anti-LGBT harassment, which is particularly important in light of the findings in the latest National School Climate Survey.

To find out more info as well as how to contact your member of Congress to encourage her or him to support the Student Non-Discrimination Act, click here.

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