May 15, 2014

Today, a diverse group of 46 education, civil rights, youth development, and mental health organizations have signed on to a letter lead by GLSEN and a coalition of other members thanking the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR)  for continuing their work to ensure that all students have equal access to education, regardless of background, circumstances, or identity. OCR recently clarified that Title IX protections against sex-based discrimination extend to discrimination based on gender identity and failure to conform to sex stereotypes.

GLSEN, the coalition members, and undersigned organizations will continue to ask OCR to clarify the scope of Title IX’s prohibition on discrimination based on a student’s gender identity, transgender status, or gender transition. The specific request is clarifying that the law:

  • Requires schools to respect students’ gender identity for all purposes;
  • Protects the private nature of a student’s transgender status;
  • Requires existing dress code policies to be enforced based on a student’s gender identity and gender expression;
  • Ensures access to all school programs, activities, and facilities based on gender identity; and
  • Obligates schools to offer participation on athletic teams based on gender identity. 

You can find a copy of the letter in its entirety here

April 15, 2014

Last week, Breitbart Texas, a website that provides news services made available by Breitbart News Network launched a transphobic attack on a Texas substitute teacher who was suspended because of her gender identity.

On April 8, Lumberton Independent School District suspended Laura Jane Klug, who worked as a fifth grade substitute teacher, after parents complained to school officials about Klug's gender identity.

Breitbart Texas released the story on April 9, using scare quotes to mock Klug's gender identity and touted that Klung is "an emotionally disturbed and confused older man.”

In letters to members of Lumberton Independent School District’s Board of Trustees, the GLSEN Houston chapter and the board chairs of Equality Texas and the Equality Texas Foundation yesterday called for the reinstatement of Klug and ask that they take appropriate measures to ensure that school personnel have access to professional development that fosters a culture of inclusion and respect for all people in schools.

We are proud to say that the because of the hard work by local community members and GLSEN Houston in supporting our educators and students, Laura Klug was reinstated and will be returning to work this week. Because of dedicated leaders at GLSEN Houston and Equality Texas, we are beginning to see positive change in our communities.

 

 

July 09, 2014

Minnesota passes lawAfter over 11 hours of impassioned debate led by mostly Republicans on the House Floor this week, the state of Minnesota became the 16th state to pass a comprehensive and enumerated bullying prevention law that protects students who are most vulnerable to being bullied or harassed because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, and gender identity or gender expression. As we come together to celebrate this victory with our partners including OutFront Minnesota, we are excited to share GLSEN’s safe schools work over the past decade to secure LGBT-inclusive bullying prevention bills in 20 states.

In Minnesota, our investment in this long-term process included helping to form and support the Minnesota Safe Schools for All Coalition, a group of more than 120 education, LGBT, and youth-serving organizations who support passage of comprehensive legislation to strengthen policies against bullying and harassment in Minnesota schools. We have supported the coalition by providing model language and drafting legislation; providing Minnesota state-level school climate "snapshots" for use by local advocates; mobilizing support from corporate, government, and legislative partners as well as other national organizations positioned to assist.

Recently, GLSENs Office of Public Policy was a major sponsor of Minnesota’s Youth Summit and visited the state on several occasions when suicides in Anoka Hennepin schools called attention to a crisis among LGBT youth there.

The ground-breaking work in Minnesota highlights a great example of GLSENs long-term work in partnership with Equality Federations and advocacy groups across the nation to create a safe and supportive school climate for all students to learn and succeed.

 

 

April 04, 2014

Minnesota is one step closer to becoming the 17th state to enact a comprehensive anti-bullying law that explicitly protects students from bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Thanks in large part to GLSEN supporters in Minnesota and the local statewide of OutFront Minnesota, the Minnesota Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act passed the Senate floor last night with a vote of 36-31. Fifteen amendments were considered during the five-hour floor vote. The coalition of lawmakers supporting the bill held strong and passed a comprehensive bill that would make all students safer in Minnesota.

GLSEN will continue our work with the Safe Students for All Coalition in Minnesota, a coalition group we helped form 10 years ago, to ensure that an LGBT-inclusive bill will also pass the House, with a vote likely early next week, and eventually become law. 

February 06, 2014

A bill to allow more religious expression by students in Virginia public schools is scheduled to go before a house subcommittee today. A similar version of this bill passed the senate earlier this year, but advocates are still calling for action.

The Richmond area chapter of GLSEN sent out an alert this morning asking for people to “support the right of students to engage in free speech activities,” but realize “this legislation will result in school sanctioned religious speech that is both inappropriate and dangerously unconstitutional.”

The language of the bill, HB 493, details how public schools could, if passed, create policies to allow students to express religious beliefs.

“The policy shall declare each such school event to be a limited public forum, provide a neutral method for the selection of student speakers, and require each school principal to provide a disclaimer in advance of each such school event that the school division does not endorse any religious viewpoint that may be expressed by student speakers.”

Don’t let the innocuous language of the bill fool you, however, according to GLSEN, the bill’s goal of religious freedom hides a more sinister mission.

“The bill would… disrupt campaigns, activities, and programs such as the Annual Day of Silence. The public school system should not be in the business of promoting speech that violates the First Amendment, nor should they seek policies that would coerce students to participate in particular beliefs. ” said Richmond GLSEN in the alert.

Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) released a statement condemning this kind of legislation last month when a similar bill, SB236, passed the Senate floor.

“This bill purports to promote religious freedom for all, but rather would give the religious majority the opportunity to promote its own sectarian religious beliefs to the exclusion of others – intended or not,” said Senator Ebbin . “Prayers are unlikely to be from anything but the majority religion. It’s about who is called on to speak, who is not called on to speak … and who is forced to listen.”

The ACLU of Virginia echoed Ebbin’s concerns saying the bill was unnecessary and would tread in unconstitutional territory.

“It would subject students to religious coercion in a limitless range of settings, including those which the Constitution already prohibits, e.g., prayers over the loudspeaker at football games and reciting Bible verses during morning announcements,” said the ACLU in a release about the bill.

The Senate version passed by a 20-18 vote across party lines, but before Lt. Gov Northam and AG Herring’s Senate seats were filled. The Senate bill is expected to pass the conservative House, but its final fate will be determined by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The Governor could veto the bill, and with the now-full senate stacked 10-10 even on party lines and Democrat LT. Gov. Northam, an override of the Veto could fail.

Today’s house committee vote would put HB 493 before the House which it will surely pass, but the bill is expected to fail the now even Senate with Northam casting the tie breaking vote.

Article by Brad Kutner

Editor in Chief at GayRVA.com based in Richmond, VA.
Original text can be found here

January 22, 2014

GLSEN and its West Michigan Chapter applaud State Representative Brandon Dillon in introducing a No Name-Calling Week Resolution, which was adopted by the State Legislature today. The resolution declares January 20-24, 2014 as No Name-Calling Week in Michigan.

GLSEN's No Name-Calling Week, this year celebrating its 10th anniversary, is held yearly to encourage and inspire schools to celebrate kindness, engage in ongoing discussions about acceptance, and seek out solutions to end bullying and name-calling of all kinds. 

January 14, 2014

GLSEN is deeply disappointed to hear that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed Assembly Bill No. 4091, which would have eliminated an unjust barrier requiring transgender people to have undergone sexual reassignment surgery prior to receiving an updated birth certificate. GLSEN's Central New Jersey chapter worked actively with a coalition of advocates in support of this bill. Their testimony can be found here.

Despite this disappointment, GLSEN and GLSEN Central New Jersey chapter look forward to supporting the coalition efforts in support of AB 4091 and similar bills protecting and supporting youth in our schools. 

View the testimony from GLSEN Central New Jersey here: 

GLSEN Central New Jersey SB 2786 statement 1

SB 2786 statement 2

January 09, 2014

This post originally appeared on Spark Action

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) students are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system.

According to the Center for American Progress, approximately 300,000 LGBT students are arrested or detained each year. Of that figure, 60 percent are black and Latino youth. The numbers are even more devastating when you compare the percentage of LGBT youth to the overall youth population. Although LGBT youth represent 5-7 percent of the nation’s youth population, they represent 13-15 percent of those in the juvenile justice system.

According to a report put out by the Center for American Progress (CAP), increased levels of incarceration are a consequence of various issues; some of them interrelated, ranging from victimization in schools, to abandonment by families and communities.Others are caught in the vicious cycle of the juvenile justice system because they identify as LGBT. They find themselves in juvenile detention facilities as a result of discrimination, abuse, and harassment in their schools. These situations which LGBT students encounter in schools force them to skip class or school all together to escape harassment in schools or out of fear for their own safety. 

GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey found that approximately one-third of LGBT students have skipped school over safety concerns related to bullying or harassment. As a result, CAP's report indicates that many LGBT youth end up in the courtroom on criminal charges because of being truant.

This is where the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) comes in as a critical piece of legislation. Youth of color and LGBT youth of color continue to receive disparate treatment throughout the juvenile justice system, from arrest to adjudication to confinement.  The JJDPA will go a long way in ensuring that juveniles in the system are protected by federal standards for custody and for care, while also ensuring that the interests of community safety are met.

The JJDPA protects youth who have run away from home or skipped school from being detained in juvenile detention facilities. The JJDPA also has provisions designed to protect youth from psychological abuse, physical assault, and isolation by ensuring that youth are not detained in adult jails.

Finally, the JJDPA requires states to address the disproportionate contact of youth of color at all points in the juvenile justice system. With youth of color making up one-third of the total youth population but two-thirds of youth in contact with the juvenile justice systems, this provision requires states to gather information and assess the reason for disproportionate minority contact. All youth would benefit from the protections outlined in the JJDPA, particularly LGBT youth and LGBT youth of color.

December 12, 2013

Earlier this year we lauded the efforts of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) after they proposed key additions to Civil Rights Data Collection that would, for the first time, require districts to report incidents and allegations of harassment or bullying of K-12 students on the basis of sexual orientation and religion (the office already collects data on bullying based on gender, race and other categories).

The CDRC instrument is a critical source of civil rights data for other government agencies, educators, researchers and the general public in the effort to promote equal educational opportunities for all students. In addition, the data collected by OCR is used to assist with enforcement efforts in schools and districts. Last week however, OCR indicated that it will delay mandatory implementation of such data collection, along with several other new proposed questions not related to LGBT issues. The data collection will be optional, however, which could still result in OCR collecting data on anti-LGB bullying for the first time.

OCR said it made the decision to delay some of the questions for three main reasons: to address concerns raised by school districts about the burden of additional data collection (OCR plans to make the tool more user-friendly and provide necessarily technical assistance), to ensure districts have the time needed to provide comprehensive and accurate data, and because the public comment period on all of the proposed new questions is still open. As such, most districts have not been collecting this type of information from the start of this school year and would not be able to provide accurate data for 2013-2014.

As a result of these concerns, data collection on sexual orientation-related and religion-related bullying is slated to be optional for this school year but would be required in the next CDRC data collection in 2015-2016.

It’s very disappointing that the rollout wasn't better handled and frustrating that these hurdles weren't better anticipated. The Department’s decision to delay these new requirements, however, is understandable considering where things currently stand. 

In the meantime, OCR will be collecting a second round of comments, and we encourage our partners and allies to submit statements supporting the mandatory data collection on incidents of bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and religion. In addition, we encourage local advocates to request that school districts who have been collecting data about sexual orientation- and religious-based bullying report this data to OCR though the optional questions for 2013-2014.

OCR’s mission is to ensure access to equal educational opportunity for all students. The new data items represent critical areas of access. GLSEN will work to ensure that school districts report complete and accurate data to OCR in 2015-16. We will also continue to provide districts with the effective tools to combat bias-based bullying and harassment, including model policies, professional development and appropriate curriculum.

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