This Monday marks an historic first for the federal government. The Departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Justice are hosting a two-day federal summit to focus specifically on the unique needs and challenges facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. This is the first-ever federal summit to focus specifically on LGBT youth. In announcing the summit, the Department of Education wrote:
LGBT youths are a uniquely vulnerable population in America’s schools. Because they suffer at a higher rate than many of their peer groups from physical violence, bullying, anxiety and depression, LGBT youths are more prone to exhibit high-risk behaviors such as substance abuse, sexual risk-taking and running away from home. The summit, hosted by the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, will bring together students, educators, administrators, and heads of federal and nonprofit agencies to provide information and seek solutions to these issues.
I have the honor of representing the ACLU as a participant at the summit, so be sure to check back for a wrap-up blog with summit highlights later in the week.
In the meantime, I hope you’ll all join me in supporting the ACLU’s highest LGBT youth/students priority in Congress — the Student Non-Discrimination Act. No federal law explicitly protects students on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) have sponsored the Student Non-Discrimination Act in Congress to finally fill this gap in our civil rights laws.
The legislation would establish a comprehensive federal prohibition against discrimination, including harassment, in K-12 public schools based on a student's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, providing LGBT students with long overdue and much needed explicit federal protections. The legislation also protects students who associate with LGBT people, including students with LGBT parents and friends. Congress should pass this very important legislation to ensure that all of America's children have access to a safe and supportive learning environment.