With the recent Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage, transgender people entering mainstream pop culture and controversial legislation regarding inclusion and the rights of LGBTQ people (something Indiana knows all too well), it was only a matter of time until these issues reached the classroom.
But a recent study released by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network shows most school districts in the country don’t have anti-bullying policies in general, and even fewer have specific policies to protect LGBTQ students.
When it comes to Indiana districts with anti-bullying policies, 79.7 percent of districts have a policy on the books. The national average is 73.3 percent.
But when you dig into the policies in Indiana, very few of them specifically cover LGBTQ students. Only 3.1 percent of policies cover lesbian, gay and bisexual students. Less than one percent of policies add transgender students to that list.
This probably stems from the fact that the state’s anti-bullying law exists doesn’t break down into specific groups of students that are protected.
The other notable data from the study looks at preparing and holding teachers accountable if they know about or witness bullying. In Indiana, only 11 percent of school districts in the state with anti-bullying policies require professional development around the policy. So even if a school has a policy in place, the teachers rarely receive training on how to implement it. And only one percent of those schools have any sort of reporting system in place.
(To read about a group of students trying to inform their teachers about LGBTQ issues, check out one of our previous stories.)
On a national scale, the U.S. Senate took up this issue Tuesday when Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) proposed an amendment to the new version of No Child Left Behind his chamber is considering. The addendum would have DONE WHAT to help reduce the amount of bullying toward LGBTQ issues, but both Democrats and Republicans voted against the amendment.
Evie Blad of Education Week explains what the proposed amendment would have done and why it failed:
The Student Non-Discrimination Act, proposed by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has been proposed in previous sessions of Congress and endorsed by the White House. It would have amended the ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind, with the aim of protecting students from harassment based on “actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Supporters of the measure—including the co-sponsor of the proposed ESEA overhaul, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington—made passionate pleas for its passage, telling stories about cruel harrassment of young gay students on the Senate floor Tuesday.
“The Student Non-Discrimination Amendment would afford LGBT students similar protections that currently exist for students who are bullied, based on race, gender, religion, disability, and country of national origin,” Murray said. “So unless you think LGBT students don’t deserve protection from discrimination the way other students do—this should be an easy one to support.”
But a growing number of federal courts, as well as the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education have all said that Title IX’s protections for sex and gender extend to sexual orientation and gender identity, said Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., the associate executive director and general counsel for the National School Boards Association.