For Educators > Tips for Administrators

Because of the current high visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues, administrators will at some time probably have to face a variety of related situations. Examples include:

  • Teachers and/or students coming out of the closet;
  • Discussions of LGBT issues in classrooms;
  • Staff/students wanting to put up a display case around LGBT issues;
  • Teachers putting up a poster in their classrooms;
  • Counselors/teachers putting up hotline numbers including those of gay and lesbian community centers;
  • Requests for speakers representing the LGBT community;
  • Protests against ROTC programs or military recruiters on campus;
    Instances of harassment against LGBT teachers and students;
  • Same-sex couples wanting to go to the prom; and
  • LGBT parents.

The suggestions that follow have been drawn from real life scenarios and hopefully will be helpful.

  • Administrators should have a firm policy of nondiscrimination at their school site.
  • Harassment against LGBT teachers or students should not be tolerated, whether it is between students, students and teachers, or among teachers themselves.
  • Disclosing one's sexual orientation is a right that most teachers and students have if they choose to exercise it. Administration should respect this right, and protect both staff and students from a hostile environment to the extent that they can.
  • Court cases have generally upheld the right of same sex couples to attend school dances as long as their behavior is not disruptive. The conventional wisdom is "don't make a big issue out of it.”
  • Discussing LGBT issues in a classroom is not the same as having a lesson on sex or human reproduction as some people charge. Teachers should be careful that the classroom discussion does not lapse into sexually explicit conversation.
  • If a parent complaint should arise, ask them to put their complaint in writing, specifically stating their objections and the reasons for them. The administrator can then, calmly but firmly, review the complaint in view of the suggestions mentioned above.

 

THE RIGHTS OF LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER STUDENTS

Q. Does the right of association under the Constitution extend to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) student organizations at state-supported colleges and universities?
A. Yes

Q. Does freedom of association for LGBT students and their organizations extend to public schools?
A. Yes. Students have a presumptive right to freedom of association and freedom of speech that is protected under the Constitution. Students have a right to exercise their freedom of expression on any issue, however controversial, so long as their expression does not "materially and substantially" disrupt the work and discipline of the school.

Q. If a school allows noncurricular clubs, must it also allow a lesbian and gay rights group?
A. Yes. In addition to the constitutionally based free speech claim that such a group would have, a federal law passed in 1984 (Equal Access Act) prohibits a public high school that already allows noncurriculum related student groups to meet on school premises from discriminating against other students who wish to have meetings based on the "religious, political, philosophical or other content" of their speech.

Q. Can a public high school forbid participation by openly gay students in general student activities?
A. Several federal court decisions have held that LGBT students have a constitutional right to be out at school, to attend school dances and proms with same-sex partners, and to dress in accordance with their gender identity. The Constitution protects students’ rights to freedom of expression (which has been held to include things like taking a same-sex partner to a prom) and freedom of association, as well as students’ rights to equal treatment regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. School officials who interfere with these rights may not only create liability for their schools, but may be personally sued and found liable to pay the student both damages and attorneys’ fees.

Source: Lambda Legal. Check http://www.lambdalegal.org/know-your-rights/proms-dances-and-dating/youth and http://www.lambdalegal.org/know-your-rights/youth for more information


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