WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today (March 6) praised the settlement reached between the federal government, LGBT students, and the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota, resolving complaints of sex- and sexual orientation- based harassment of students.
The resolution is due to incredible work by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education and the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center that represented six student plaintiffs.
“This settlement is a wakeup call for school districts that are ignoring bullying and harassment of LGBT students,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “These schools must change their ways. As a community, we are making great progress on Capitol Hill and in state houses across the country, but that doesn’t always translate to easier lives for LGBT students. We must address bullying and harassment early to prevent these tragedies.”
The consent decree requires the district to take steps to prevent and address bullying experienced by LGBT students, including the appointment of an Equity Coordinator to ensure proper implementation of the district’s sexual orientation-based harassment policies and procedures. While the consent decree requires the district to revise its dangerous gag policy, which barred teachers and administrators from addressing sexual orientation and gender identity, the school district revised this policy in mid-February.
Through its “Welcoming Schools” program, the HRC Foundation provides a comprehensive guide for elementary schools with tools, lessons, and resources to embrace family diversity, avoid gender stereotyping, and end bullying and name-calling. Currently, 74 schools in 24 school districts across the country are implementing the Welcoming Schools program. For more information, visit http://www.welcomingschools.org/.
“We need a comprehensive approach to dealing with bullying and harassment beginning with an LGBT-inclusive approach appropriate for early age groups,” said Solmonese. “We encourage schools to begin to address these issues with our Welcoming Schools program that has shown success in districts across the country.”
Over 85 percent of LGBT students report being harassed because of their sexual or gender identity and the suicide rate for LGBT students continues to be three to four times higher than that of their straight counterparts. Currently only 14 states have enacted laws prohibiting harassment and/or bullying of elementary and high school students based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Thirty others have laws prohibiting bullying in schools but list no categories of protection. Last week, hundreds of HRC members went to the U.S. Capitol to advocate for passage of both the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act, bills that address bullying and harassment in our nation’s schools.
Courtesy of the Voice