LGBTQ students and youth should not be engaged in a guessing game at school trying to determine if they are protected equally by the law. The classroom is a place for focused learning, but a patchwork of state non-discrimination laws and lack of comprehensive federal protections have left LGBTQ students (as well as parents, teachers, school administrators and school board members) uncertain about their safety and freedom from discrimination and harassment.
Nearly one in 6 Gen Z respondents to a recent Gallup survey said they are queer or transgender. For those youth, President Joe Biden made a real difference in their day-to-day lives when he issued his executive order to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County. That landmark executive order is a crucial step in addressing discrimination against LGBTQ people, but it is still vital that Congress pass the Equality Act. Even the most supportive school staff and administrators can only do so much: levels of stress, anxiety, and rejection are not just about the school environment, they are about the persistent challenges of recognition in daily life.
Making protections permanent for transgender students would mean that civil rights guidance could not be issued by one administration just to be rescinded by another. It would ensure LGBTQ youth are treated fairly in all educational programs or activities, including playing on gender-separated sports teams or attending events with dress codes like school dances or graduation ceremonies. Passing the Equality Act would affirm LGBTQ students' right to exist and protect their safety, helping to reduce missed classes or days of school over experiences with or fear of harassment.
No student should face prejudice in the classroom — our schools should be safe and welcoming places of learning. Feeling supported and accepted is critical to thriving in education, and while schools must update and enforce their policies individually, federal law should guarantee equality for students. By explicitly including sexual orientation and gender identity in these fundamental protections, LGBTQ students and youth can be assured that they will be treated equally and have the support.
We urge you to pass the Equality Act.