Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students face discrimination and harassment at school all too often. Unfortunately, many school officials know very little about how the law requires them to protect LGBT students. And sometimes they do know that they're breaking the law, but they think that students won't question their actions. That's why it's important for you to learn about your rights and what you can do if your school isn't treating you fairly!
If you ever suspect that your school is treating you wrong because of your sexual orientation or gender identity:
Be respectful and follow the rules
Don't give your school any excuses for treating you badly by behaving badly or losing your temper.
Keep detailed notes about everything: dates, where things happened, who was there, who said or did what, and any other details that might come in handy. If the school gives you anything in writing or if you submit anything in writing yourself, keep copies. If you have to fill out any forms or submit anything in writing, keep copies of those things. The more you document what you’re going through, the better your chances of getting it addressed.
There are groups all over the country for LGBTQ youth, and if you live somewhere that doesn't have one, you can probably find an online discussion forum where you can be yourself and get reassurance that you're not alone.
Don't just believe what school officials tell you
A lot of the time, school officials either don't know what the law requires them to do or they’re just betting that you won't question what they say. Don’t take their word for it!
Anti-LGBTQ harassment is one of the most pervasive, frightening, and potentially damaging threats LGBTQ students face in our public schools. If you're being bullied, called names, threatened, or physically harmed at your school because of your sexual orientation, you don't have to take it!
Under the U.S. Constitution, public schools have to address any harassment against LGBT students the same way they would address harassment against any other student. And a federal education law called Title IX bars public schools from ignoring harassment based on gender stereotyping. What this all means is that public schools can’t ignore harassment based on appearance or behavior that doesn’t “match” your gender: boys who wear makeup, girls who dress “like a boy,” or students who are transgender. Nor can school officials tell you that you have to change who you are or that the harassment is your fault because of how you dress or act.
If anyone at school is harassing or threatening you, it’s crucial that you report it to a principal or counselor. Then the school has been put on notice and can be held legally responsible for protecting you. And keep notes about all incidents of harassment and interactions with the school about it. There are tips on how to effectively do this at the end of this handout.
If you've reported harassment to your school and they've done little or nothing to stop it, contact the ACLU of South Dakota or the ACLU LGBTQ Project.
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