Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQA) Youth in School

While June was officially Pride Month, the importance of creating safe, supportive and inclusive school environments for all children including LGBTQA students must be a year-round effort. Evidence suggests that a school’s failure to provide a safe, supportive and non-discriminatory environment for transgender and gender non-conforming students can result in significant harm to the child.

LGBTQA Youth Are At Greater Risk Of Bullying Than Cis-Gendered Youth

The 2017 National School Climate Survey found that more than half of LGBTQA students (59.5%) reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, 46.6% because of their gender expression and 35% because of their gender. 34.8% of LGBTQA students missed at least one entire day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable. The report found that:

  • 83.7% of transgender students were bullied/harassed at school because of their gender; and
  • 69.9% of gender non-conforming students were bullied/harassed at school because of their gender.
LGBTQA Students Do Not Feel Comfortable Being Themselves

The 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report found that:

  • Only 27% of LGBTQ youth can “definitely” be themselves in school as an LGBTQ person;
  • 58% of youth reported that they don’t feel safe using the restroom or locker room that best reflects their gender; and
  • 65% of responders said they try not to use the bathroom while at school altogether.

Being in an unwelcoming environment, being bullied, and not feeling safe on a daily basis can take its toll on a youth’s mental health. At times, mental health needs are so significant that they adversely impact educational performance.

So what can you do?
Know your rights!

Your child’s rights at school

ALL children have an equal opportunity to participate in school without regard to sex. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) bans discrimination on the basis of sex by public schools. Title IX does not define the term sex. In 2016, the United States Department of Education and Department of Justice issued guidance making it clear that the prohibition against sex discrimination covers discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. This guidance was based on and is “consistent with courts’ and other agencies’ interpretations of Federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination.” Unfortunately, this guidance was withdrawn on February 22, 2017. This issue will continue to be litigated in the courts. Connecticut isn’t waiting for the federal courts.

What has Connecticut done to protect our LGBTQA Youth?

In 2011, Connecticut passed Public Act 11-55 (P.A. 11-55) that codified gender identity and expression as a protected class under the state’s anti-discrimination statutes. P.A. 11-55 defines gender identity or expression as:

“a person’s gender related identify, appearance or behavior, whether or not that identity, appearance, or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth . . . .”

On February 23, 2017, the day after the Trump Administration rolled back the federal guidelines that protected transgender students in public schools, Governor Malloy signed Executive Order No. 56 ensuring that all children have an equal opportunity to participate in school without regard to their gender identity or expression. In addition, Governor Malloy and the State Department of Education (“SDE”) delivered a memo to every public school superintendent in the state, which outlined Connecticut’s discrimination laws and explained that additional more formal guidance would be forthcoming.

Can my LGBTQA Child Access Special Education Services?

Under the Individual’s with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, schools must provide students with disabilities a free appropriate public education. In order to qualify for special