Know Your Rights for LGBTQ Students

Document Date: March 15, 2015

You have the right to be yourself! Here is some basic information about LGBTQ students’ legal rights in public schools.

Freedom of Expression: Some schools try to silence students who express their opinions about LGBTQ issues. If you go to a public school, you have a constitutional right to express your views and identity.

Gay-Straight Alliances or Gender-Sexuality Alliances (GSAs): A GSA is a noncurricular student-led club — just like Chess Club or Fellowship of Christian Athletes — for students with a shared interest in LGBTQ issues. Federal law requires public high schools that allow any other noncurricular clubs to allow GSAs and treat them no differently from other clubs.

School Dances: Public schools can’t stop you from bringing a same-sex date to prom or homecoming who otherwise is allowed to attend, nor can they tell you that you can’t dress a certain way or run for prom king/queen because it doesn’t fit traditional gender roles.

Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students: Transgender and gender nonconforming students often face discrimination over dress codes, access to restrooms and locker rooms, and their chosen names and pronouns. Contact the ACLU LGBT Project if you want help making sure your school treats you with respect and keeps you safe.

Harassment: If you’re being harassed or threatened, go to the principal or another official right away. Keep detailed notes with dates of all incidents. Put the school on notice that it has to protect you.

Privacy: Schools should not out you to anyone without your permission, even if you’re out to some people at school.

By ACLU and GLSEN, last updated May 2018.

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