Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and workers sometimes face discrimination and harassment at their school and workplace. Specifically, in schools, many officials and staff know very little about how the law requires them to protect LGBT students. And sometimes they do know that they’re breaking the law. Here is some information about your rights and what to do if your school is not treating you fairly.
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. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THIS ACLU HANDOUT.
Your school or workplace does NOT have the right to “out” you to anyone without your permission, even if you’re out to other people at school.
If a teacher, counselor, or any other school official or worker threatens to tell your parents or anyone else that you’re gay and you don’t want them to, make it clear that this is against your wishes. If they still do it or threaten to do so, you should contact your local ACLU affiliate or the ACLU LGBT Project.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH
Sometimes schools try to silence students who are open about their sexual orientation. But you have a Constitutional right to be out of the closet at school if you want to be. Sometimes schools punish students for talking about being gay. Sometimes schools censor students for wearing gay-themed t-shirts, even when the shirts aren’t obscene and other students are allowed to wear t-shirts expressing their views on political or cultural issues. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS ON SCHOOL DRESS CODES.
PROM, HOMECOMING, AND OTHER SCHOOL EVENTS
If you’re a girl, can you go to homecoming with another girl? If you’re a boy, can you run for Prom Queen? Yes! The First Amendment and your right to equal protection guarantee you the right to express yourself by bringing a same-sex date to the prom or homecoming. Similar protections should apply if you are a boy and want to run for Prom Queen or if you’re a girl and want to run for Prom King.
If you go to a public school and school officials try to tell you that you can’t bring a same-sex date to prom, you can contact your local ACLU affiliate or the ACLU LGBT Project.
GENERAL TIPS ON WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT YOUR SCHOOL OR WORKPLACE IS TREATING YOU WRONG BECAUSE OF YOUR SEXUAL ORIENTATION OR GENDER IDENTITY
Be respectful and follow the rules
Don’t give your school / work 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 LGBT 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. In Georgia, contact LatinoLinQ, the only statewide organization providing support to the LGTBQ community
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!