Library: LGBT Youth & Schools Resources and Links

There's a lot of information about schools issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth both on the ACLU's website and elsewhere on the web, but sometimes it can be difficult to find your way to the resources you need online. We've gathered some of the best information we have plus great stuff from other organizations and websites on this page to help you find things that can help you learn more about your rights and what you can do to make your school a safer, more welcoming place.

General Resources

Equal Access Act/Gay-Straight Alliances


  • Open Letter to Schools About Addressing Anti-LGBT Bullying: An open letter to school administrators about why they are legally obligated to protect students from anti-LGBT bullying. You can print this out and give a copy to your school.  A printable PDF version is available here.
  • The Cost of Harassment: A Fact Sheet for LGBT High School Students: An overview of the nearly four million dollars' worth of successful harassment lawsuits brought by LGBT students against the schools that did nothing to help them. A printable PDF version is available here.

  • Tips: What You Can Do To Make Schools Safer: A few ideas about things schools, students, and parents can do to reduce harassment.

  • 2013 GLSEN National School Climate Survey: The most recent national survey from GLSEN about attitudes towards LGBT students in our nation's schools, the prevalence of harassment and bullying towards LGBT students, and school safety.
  • Bullied: A Student, a School and a Case That Made History: A documentary from our friends at the Southern Poverty Law Center about Jamie Nabozny, a Wisconsin student who sued the school that turned its back on him when he was mercilessly harassed and assaulted by classmates because he is gay. Jamie's case set an important legal precedent that protects LGBT students in public school to this day. The 40-minute documentary film is available at no charge to schools and educators.

  • The Principal’s Perspective: School Safety, Bullying and Harassment: A study of 1,580 public school principals by GLSEN in collaboration with the National Association of Secondary School Principals which found that half of principals view bullying as a serious problem at their schools, yet they appear to underestimate the extent of harassment that LGBT students experience.

  • Teaching Tolerance: A program of the Southern Poverty Law Center with lots of information and resources on how to reduce bigotry and bias and foster communities that value diversity.

  • Bullying and LGBT Youth: Facts and statistics from Mental Health America (formerly known as the National Mental Health Association) about the harmful effects of anti-gay bullying and harassment in schools.

  • A website that collects all of the federal government's resources on bullying in one place.

  • U.S. Department of Education "Dear Colleague Letter" on bullying and harassment: An open letter from the federal government that makes it clear that schools have a legal obligation to address anti-gay harassment. The letter includes studies and case law to demonstrate schools’ responsibility to equally protect all members of their student body.

  • Questions and Answers on OCR's Complaint Process: Information from the United States Department of Education on how to file a federal harassment complaint with the department's Office of Civil Rights.

  • Claim Your Rights (PDF link): A step-by-step guide on how to file an OCR complaint from our colleagues at GLSEN.

  • California Safe Schools Coalition: Focused on the state of California, but many of this organization's resources could be useful in other states, especially the information at its Tools section.

  • Make It Real: An organizing guide from GSA Network for California students who want to use the California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000 to reduce harassment in their schools.

  • Safe Schools Coalition: A coalition of organizations based in Washington state that serves schools, students, and parents throughout the U.S., with extra focus on Washington. Their site features training materials, information, and an extensive links section.

Free Speech/Free Expression/Prom

  • Speaking Out with Your T-Shirt: T-shirts are a common way for students to express their views, and schools often try to censor this form of speech, especially when it's about LGBT people. If you're thinking about wearing an LGBT-positive t-shirt to school and you expect trouble, here's what you should know and what to expect. A printable PDF version is available here.
  • Open Letter to Schools About LGBT Censorship: A letter to principals and educators explaining the legal requirement that schools allow students to wear clothing or accessories with slogans or symbols that express support for LGBT people. You can print this out and give a copy to your school.

  • Open Letter to Schools About Gendered Dress Codes: Having a dress code for boys that is different than it is for girls is illegal, whether that's the everyday dress code or the requirements for prom, graduation, or other special event.  This explains why to school officials.

  • Open Letter to Schools About Disciplining LGBT Students for Displays of Affection: This letter explains to schools why they shouldn't LGBT publish students who hold hands or display affection in other ways any more harshly than they do straight students for the same behavior.

  • Open Letter to Schools about Day of Silence: A letter to principals and educators explaining Day of Silence, ways to support students who are participating, and obligations schools have to protect students' safety and freedom of speech. 

  • Open Letter to Schools about Ally Week: A letter to principals and educators explaining Ally Week, ways to support students who are participating, and obligations schools have to protect students' safety and freedom of speech. 

  • Open Letter to Schools about LGBT Students' Dates for School Events: Every year, the ACLU receives calls from students whose schools have told them that they cannot bring a same-sex date to prom or homecoming, or that they can bring their date of choice but can't participate in all the same ways that their heterosexual and cisgender classmates can.  This letter explains to schools that this is illegal.

  • Know Your Prom Night Rights! A Quick Guide for LGBT High School Students: There are laws protecting your right to be yourself at the prom, and this handout can help you learn about them so that you too can be safe and have fun on the big night!

  • First Amendment Center: Research coverage of key First Amendment issues and topics, daily First Amendment news, a unique First Amendment Library and guest analyses by respected legal specialists from the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University.

  • Wikipedia's entry on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Summarizes the details of the amendment and includes the full text of the amendment.


Transgender/Gender Nonconforming Student Resources

Help for Youth Considering Suicide

Elsewhere on the Web

  • The Trevor Project: A national suicide and crisis prevention resource for LGBT youth, including a 24-hour hotline (866-4-U-TREVOR/866-488-7386), as well as a Q&A forum, a live chat, blog, and many other resources for youth, educators, and parents.

  • A non-profit suicide prevention informational and educational resource whose website offers support and links to articles pertaining to LGBT youth suicide. The site's homepage also has links to multiple suicide prevention hotlines (with both talk and text options) and resources for suicide survivors and the family and friends of suicidal individuals.

  • Hetrick-Martin Institute: HMI, the home of the Harvey Milk High School, provides multiple resources pages with links to guidance on dealing with bullying and other LGBT youth specific issues.

  • It Gets Better Project: The It Gets Better Project was created to show young LGBT people the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach – if they can just get through their teen years. The It Gets Better Project wants to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone — and it WILL get better.

  • ACLU Staffers' "It Gets Better" Videos: We made our own videos to contribute to the It Gets Better Project, featuring several LGBT staffers from the national ACLU's New York and Washington, D.C. offices.

Web Filtering at Your School

  • Don't Filter Me: Web Content Filtering in Schools: Our campaign to end viewpoint-discriminatory web filtering that blocks access to LGBT-positive web content in public schools.

  • Letter to School Officials Regarding Web Filtering: This letter explains to public schools that using web filtering software the blocks students' access to pro-LGBT websites is illegal and unconstitutional. You can print this out and give a copy to your school. 

  • M86 filtering fact sheet: If your public school district uses the M86 web filter and is blocking positive LGBT websites, this fact sheet tells you how to get your school to fix it.

  • Websense filtering fact sheet: If your public school district uses the Websense web filter and is blocking positive LGBT websites, this fact sheet tells you how to get your school to fix it.

  • Blue Coat filtering fact sheet: Blue Coat’s web filtering software has a category called “LGBT.” Blue Coat created this category in 2007 to separate non-sexual LGBT websites from sexually explicit ones, in order to make the non-sexual LGBT content more accessible for students. But some schools and libraries have blocked this category in the mistaken belief that the category was designed to include sexually explicit websites. In order to dispel this confusion, Blue Coat has updated its definition of the LGBT category.  Read about the updates here.

Info for LGBT College Students

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