“No Promo Homo” Laws

What are laws stigmatizing LGBT people in the classroom?

Laws stigmatizing LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people in the classroom, also known as “no promo homo” laws, are local or state education laws that expressly forbid teachers from discussing gay and transgender issues (including sexual health and HIV/AIDS awareness) in a positive light – if at all. Some laws even require that teachers actively portray LGBT people in a negative or inaccurate way. These statutes only serve to further stigmatize LGBT students by providing K-12 students false, misleading, or incomplete information about LGBT people.

How are these laws applied? 

While these laws generally are written to apply only to sexual health education, they are often vague can be misapplied by schools to limit other parts of the curriculum, school events and programs, and even extracurricular activities. To the extent these laws are used to limit the activities of supportive student groups, such as Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), they may conflict with the Equal Access Act. 

What are some examples of stigmatizing state laws?

There are currently 8 states that have these types of laws: Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. Click here to view a map of No Promo Homo law and laws that prohibit enumeration. Here are several state examples:

  • In Alabama, in terms of sexual health education, “Classes must emphasize, in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.” Alabama State Code § 16-40A-2(c)(8).
  • In South Carolina, students are told that “the program of instruction provided for in this section may not include a discussion of alternate sexual lifestyles from heterosexual relationships including, but not limited to, homosexual relationships except in the context of instruction concerning sexually transmitted diseases.” S.C. Stat. § 59-32-30(5).
  • Arizona mandates that “no district shall include in its course of study instruction which…(1) promotes a homosexual life-style…(2) portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style…(3) suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.” AZ Rev. Stat. § 15-716(c).

How do these laws affect students?

These laws foster an unsafe school atmosphere. GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey shows that LGBT students in states with stigmatizing laws are more likely to hear homophobic remarks from school staff, are less likely to report incidents of harassment and assault to school staff, and are less likely to report having support from educators. Moreover, when incidents occur and educators do intervene, they do so less effectively in these states. 

What is the current state of these laws?

Although several of these stigmatizing laws still exist, they have been repealed in a number of states and school districts. For example, North Carolina and several other states repealed existing “no promo homo” provisions in the process of revising their larger sexual health education laws. At the district level, the Anoka-Hennepin school district in Minnesota revised their Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy, a similar law that applied to all school curriculum, after being sued by several students who claimed the school did little to address rampant bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Efforts to pass new stigmatizing laws such as Tennessee’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill have also been largely unsuccessful. 

For more information:

If you would like to learn more about these types of stigmatizing laws, please contact GLSEN’s Public Policy Office at (202) 621-5819 or by email at policy@glsen.org

 

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