"The mistreatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students is worse today than many might realize, with unacceptable complicity by school personnel that continues to exacerbate the problem," according to Stuart Biegel, co-author of a groundbreaking new report released today. The report, Safe at School: Addressing the School Environment and LGBT Safety through Policy and Legislation, presents a series of recommendations and model legislation to make public schools safer for LGBT students.
The new report is authored by Biegel and Sheila James Kuehl and is a collaboration between the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder School of Education and the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School, with financial support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
Safe at School documents the persistence of hostile and unsafe school environments that can result in lower educational outcomes and higher rates of depression and suicide for LGBT students. Citing an extensive body of research, it also takes note of the growing legal exposure that schools face when they do not act to change these hostile environments. The authors note and respond to the lack of resources and institutional support that school administrators, teachers, and educational support professionals sometimes face in their attempts to make schools more welcoming to LGBT students.
The report contains a series of policy recommendations to ensure schools are welcoming and safe for LGBT students. These recommendations cover areas such as school climate, curriculum, and the particular role of school sports in defining a school's culture.
Safe at School also contains model legislation, offering a range of options for state legislatures to adopt, including general prohibitions against bullying, harassment and intimidation in schools, as well as sections that address teacher education and professional development. "The addition of a Model State Code to the analysis and recommendations in the report will encourage state legislatures to adopt a comprehensive and tested set of statutes to help remedy the problems of discrimination in our schools," said co-author Sheila Kuehl, a former State Senator from California.
The authors explain that the overarching purpose of all their recommendations is to make schools safe and improve the quality of life for everyone within our education system. "In this area, educators are not required to change their personal values or religious beliefs," said co-author Biegel. "However, all students must be treated with equal dignity and equal respect by school officials, both under the law and as a matter of morality and common decency."