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“It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but eventually you bruise.” Comprehensive approaches are urgently needed to make school environments welcoming for LGBT students and staff, and to allow students to learn and socialize with peers without fearing exclusion, humiliation, or violence.
Above all: Human Rights Watch conducted research for this report between November 2015 and May 2016 in five US states: Alabama, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah.
Schools can be difficult environments for students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but they are often especially unwelcoming for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth.
A lack of policies and practices that affirm and support LGBT youth—and a failure to implement protections that do exist—means that LGBT students nationwide continue to face bullying, exclusion, and discrimination in school, putting them at physical and psychological risk and limiting their education.
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.
In Alabama, Texas, Utah, and five other US states, antiquated states laws restrict discussions of homosexuality in schools.
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.
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.