Safe and Inclusive Schools

We Need Federal Protections for Black LGBT Students

Every student has a right to an equal and safe education. The fact remains, that too many of our schools have become unsafe places where students are subjected to severe harassment and bullying. According to Russlyn Ali, the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education, in-school victimization “fosters a climate of fear and disrespect that can seriously impair the physical and psychological health of its victims and create conditions that negatively affect learning, thereby undermining the ability of students to achieve their full potential.”

Schools can be dangerous places for Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students, justifying the need for clear federal protections from harassment and bullying. Acts of bullying and harassment can no longer be seen as “kids being kids.” In its National School Climate Survey of LGBT students, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) reported on the harassment and bullying that many LGBT students regularly endure at school.

Creating Space to Acknowledge & Affirm Intersectional Identity

In response to the aforementioned opportunity, between June 10 2016 – June 13, 2016 the National Black Justice Coalition, in partnership with the White House Initiative (Initiative) on Educational Excellence for African Americans and the National Education Association (NEA), hosted the inaugural White House Summit on African American lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) Youth in Washington, DC.  The Summit hosted nearly 200 participants, and provided a platform for African American LGBTQ students to make recommendations to adults, educators, and advocates to ensure all students feel safe, engaged and supported – in school and in life.  The four-day Summit consisted of a series of webinars including educators and LGBTQ youth leaders, a youth pre-convening, the Summit, a White House reception, and a stakeholder breakfast.

Key Findings:
  • Nearly 85% of students reported that they had been verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and nearly 64% of students had been verbally harassed because of their gender expression.
  • Black LGBT students face high rates of physical harassment: four in ten said they had been physically harassed at school in the last year because of their sexual orientation, and more than one quarter said they had been physically harassed because of their gender expression.
  • Bullying and harassment of Black LGBT youth in schools contributes to high rates of absenteeism, dropout, adverse health consequences and academic underachievement. When left unchecked, such bullying and harassment can, and has led to, dangerous situations for young people.