Following HRC Recommendation, Administration Clarifies when Bullying Violates Federal Education Anti-discrimination Laws.
Washington– The Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – applauds the guidance issued today by the Department of Education (DOE), which addresses how Title IX protects LGBT students from gender-based or sexual harassment. The administration’s action comes on the heels of an August letter from HRC to the Secretary of Education, outlining how DOE guidance and other federal initiatives can strengthen the fight against bullying in our nation’s schools. The same letter was also sent to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder.
In order to fully protect LGBT young people, HRC continues to call on the administration to go beyond today’s interpretation of existing law and come out in support of two important pieces of legislation: the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act. The Student Non-Discrimination Act would explicitly prohibit discrimination by schools against public school students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Safe Schools Improvement Act would require schools and districts receiving federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Today’s guidance from the Department of Education is an unequivocal reminder that our nation’s schools are already obligated to respond to incidents of bullying on the basis of a young person’s sexual orientation or gender expression,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “Now more than ever, the President has an opportunity to put a decisive end to the unequal treatment of LGBT students and push Congress to pass landmark legislation.”
Consistent with HRC’s recommendations, the Department of Education’s letter – addressed to over 15,000 school districts, as well as institutions of higher learning that receive federal funding – stipulates that school administrators are required by Title IX to protect LGBT students from gender-based and sexual harassment, regardless of the actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation of the harasser or their target.
The administration’s legal guidelines arrive amidst a persistent climate of fear that prevents many LGBT young people from gaining equal access to a safe learning environment. In a 2009 survey of 7,261 middle and high school students, the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network found that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Meanwhile, only 14 states have laws prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and/or bullying against students based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Under current federal education law, sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected, as a status, from discrimination at school.
To help stop the name-calling, bullying and gender stereotyping that so many students face every day, the HRC Foundation has also developed the Welcoming Schools initiative. This innovative program gives elementary school administrators, teachers and parents across the country the tools to prevent bias-based teasing and harassment among elementary school students. It helps kids learn respect and tolerance early on, to prevent violence later in middle and high school.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.