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Often, LGBT students also lacked teacher role models.In the absence of employment protections, many LGBT teachers said they feared backlash from parents or adverse employment consequences if they were open about their sexual orientation or gender identity.As students and teachers describe in this report, they also chilled discussions of LGBT topics and themes in history, government, psychology, and English classes.Many LGBT youth have organized gay-straight alliances (GSAs), which can serve as important resources for students and as supportive spaces to counteract bullying and institutional silence about issues of importance to them.As transgender and gender non-conforming students have become more visible, too, many states and school districts have ignored their needs and failed to ensure they enjoy the same academic and extracurricular benefits as their non-transgender peers.This undermines a number of fundamental human rights, including LGBT students’ rights to education, personal security, freedom from discrimination, access to information, free expression, association and privacy.As this report documents, however, these clubs continue to encounter obstacles from some school administrators that make it difficult for them to form and operate.When GSAs were allowed to form, some students said they were subject to more stringent requirements than other clubs, were left out of school-wide activities, or had their advertising defaced or destroyed.
But the experience can be particularly difficult for LGBT students, who often struggle to make sense of their identities, lack support from family and friends, and encounter negative messaging about LGBT people at school and in their community.Students described how hearing slurs, lacking resources relevant to their experience, being discouraged from having same-sex relationships, and being regularly misgendered made the school a hostile environment, which in turn can impact health and well-being.Acanthus R., a 17-year-old pansexual, non-binary transgender student in Utah, said it was “like a little mental pinch” when teachers used the wrong pronouns.bullying and harassment, exclusion from school curricula and resources, restrictions on LGBT student groups, and other forms of discrimination and bigotry against students and staff based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
While not exhaustive, these broad issues offer a starting point for policymakers and administrators to ensure that LGBT people’s rights are respected and protected in schools.The research focused on public schools, including public charter schools, rather than private schools that enjoy greater autonomy to act in accordance with their particular beliefs under US law. Whenever possible, interviews were conducted one-on-one in a private setting.