Is Your School LGBT Friendly?
According to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), there are two types of laws that states can enact to protect LGBT students in school. One of these is an anti-bullying policy that specifically talks about sexual orientation and gender.
The second kind of “safe school law” is a nondiscrimination law which forbids any type of discrimination based on a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Under such a policy, ideally all students would be treated with an equal amount of respect and fairness.
Illinois has both nondiscrimination laws and specific anti-bullying laws in place at its schools. In the past year, Illinois has passed anti-bullying laws and expanded to over 125 Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) in Illinois. For students without a GSA in their school, the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance works to promote safe and healthy development for LGBT youth in all Illinois schools.
The positive impact of these LGBT-specific programs is clear: Research has been done specifically on schools that have Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), student organizations that aim to provide a supportive community for LGBT youth, versus schools that do not have these organizations. The results show that LGBT students who attended schools with GSAs, whether they were part of the organization or not, gained mental health benefits, a decreased suicide rate and other positive psychological and social benefits (GLSEN 2012).
“No Promo Homo”
However, not all states have such supportive policies. In fact, some states have policies that may decrease the resources available to LGBT students. Specifically, “no promo homo” policies seek to get rid of any instruction relating to the LGBT community. This means that schools in these states will not teach their students anything relating to LGBT issues, from LGBT history to LGBT sexual health topics. Research has shown that students who go to school in states with “no promo homo” laws report having fewer LGBT-specific resources (Kosciw et al 2009). This could mean having less supportive staff, fewer Gay-Straight Alliances, no out mentors, or other lack of resources
How To Get involved
Is there a GSA in your school? What are your district’s policies on LGBT discrimination? Find out more about Connecting with the LGBT Community in your area! In Illinois, check out the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance to find out more about GSAs near you. Nationally, get connected to Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network to find out about national campaigns and general advice. Also, feel free to sign up here to read about more GSA tips, find a GLSEN chapter near you and more!
*This post was written by IMPACT Journalism intern Rachel G.
All Images from GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network)
GLSEN (2012) Teaching Respect. Report published Spring 2012. http://www.glsen.org/binary-data/GLSEN_ATTACHMENTS/file/000/002/2062-1.pdf
Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Diaz, E. M., Bartkiewicz, M. J. (2010). The 2009 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools. New York: Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. http://pennsec.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/2009-National-School-Climate-Report-Full.pdf
Walls, N. E., Kane, S. B., Wisneski, H. (2009). Gay-Straight Alliances and School Experiences of Sexual Minority Youth. Youth Society, 41. 307.