School Actions in Regards to LGBT Students

November 12, 2013
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It is estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students, according to the National Education Association. New York State has a policy that public schools are required to follow in order to make their students feel comfortable and safe in school and this policy goes for every child no matter their ethnicity, religion, disability, or sexual orientation. It is becoming evident that society is becoming more accepting of LGBT people and that schools are evolving into safer places for LGBT students to prosper and thrive in school.

The policy set forth by New York State is called the New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act, but is referred to as the Dignity Act. The Dignity Act was made a law on September 2010 and took effect in July of the year 2012. According to the New York State Education Department, The Dignity Act states, “New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act (The Dignity Act) seeks to provide the State’s students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function.” According to the Dignity Act ,every student should be safe and free from anything that is allied to bullying in anything that is associated with school. Under the Act, incidents of discrimination or harassment on school grounds must be reported to the NYSED (New York State Education Department).

There has recently been much acceptance of LGBT rights. On Oct. 28, 2009 President Obama signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law; however, there are still many troubles LGBT students face in school. According to the article, “For LGBT teens, acceptance is everything” by Elizabeth Landau on CNN Health, Landau found through a Pediatrics study that “looking at students in grades 7 through 12, lesbian, gay and bisexual youth were up to three times more likely to have experienced school expulsions, police stops, juvenile arrests and adult convictions than heterosexual teens.” This refers to more than the impact LGBT students face in school and goes on to describe the hardships they face in their life because of their sexual orientation; and goes to show that although there has been acceptance of the LGBT community there are certainly still many steps for this community to be fully accepted.

Through all of these obstacles LGBT students and people in general have to face they’re not alone because they have many allies. The Harvey Milk School, a public high school located in the East Village of New York City is designed for LGBT students. According to the school’s mission statement “Harvey Milk High School (HMHS) is a… school open to all New York City students who are seeking an alternative educational experience… while freely expressing individuality and identity. HMHS provides students a... learning community in a safe, nurturing setting” The Harvey Milk School is a great safe haven for LGBT students but it is not the only school that ensures a safe learning community.

The iSchool although not designed to cater to the needs of LGBT students, is committed to providing support for the LGBT community and keeping its students safe. Malcolm Gray, an iSchool graduate told, “The school develops a sense of trust and community between everyone.” The iSchool’s many classes and project-based modules are designed to be a safe learning environment in which students can have discussions about conflicts in the real world.

Amy Strassler is an iSchool teacher who teaches history subjects. In most of her classes students learn about the history of the United States or another country involving the United States. “Everyone should feel safe in school whether they are LBGTQ, a different race, a different religion, size, funny looking, etc. So, it should be the same privileges for all and those who don't respect that, should be subject to a discipline code. I don't think groups that often have it tough should get more privileges, because then the other people will resent them,” Strassler states.

A survey of iSchool’s students revealed that a majority of those sampled are accepting of LGBT rights and issues. Nisa Luciano, a sophomore at the iSchool, expressed surprise that anyone wouldn’t accept LGBT students. “Yes... of course LGBT students should be safe and comfortable”, she said. Luciano added that if needed, “LGBT students should be entitled to early dismissal for safety because it’s not fair that their safety will be jeopardize.”

Sebastian Lopez, another sophomore at the iSchool, strongly supports LGBT rights. “I believe LGBT students should feel safe in school... I feel like they [are] more targeted and isolated,” he states.

Growing up LGBT in America has become a more common thing however; many LGBT teens still feel targeted and misunderstood by classmates, friends, etc. Hotlines and other resources are always mentioned to teenagers for help based on a range of many different issues they might be facing but, sometimes these hotlines aren’t enough. According to steps schools can take to have their students feel safe and comfortable in school are, to establish a harassment policy that specifically includes issues surrounding sexual orientation. Schools should also ensure that students know where to go for information and resources regarding sexual orientation and sexual identity. also proposed that schools should try to introduce a curriculum that includes LGBT people and information about sexuality. However, if none of these proposals can be done the students could vouch for a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at their school. GSA is a student run club that provides safety and acceptance for LGBT students and is a great way to make students feel safer and more accepted in school.

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