Know Your Rights, MA Students!
IF YOU ARE A PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENT, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO
- Attend school safely, free of bullying, harassment or discrimination.
- Have your affirmed name and pronouns used.
- Dress and express yourself in a manner consistent with your gender identity.
- Use the bathroom and locker room consistent with your gender identity.
- Take a date of any gender to prom.
- Access information about LGBTQ issues and people at school.
- Participate in school sports & activities.
- Keep your school and medical records confidential.
- Ask your school to amend their records to reflect your current name and gender.
- Understand your school’s discipline procedures if you are being disciplined.
Any school, public or private, which receives federal funds may not discriminate on the basis of sex or HIV status. Sometimes the harassment of a gay or transgender student will be sexual harassment, which is forbidden by the federal law known as Title IX.
The Supreme Court’s decision on June 18 regarding DACA serves to reinstate DACA following the 2012 criteria. These cover new applications and renewals. In both instances, an applicant had to have arrived in the U.S. before turning 16 and be no older than 30 when first applying for the program. For example, a person who arrived in the U.S. at age 5 and was 25 years old when the program started in 2012 would meet the age requirement. Other requirements included no criminal convictions and current enrollment in high school or a diploma from a U.S. high school.
BULLYING AND HARASSMENT
Schools must keep LGBTQ youth safe from bullying, harassment and violence by teachers and staff, or other students.
Bullying is defined as: an act (including an electronic one) directed against a student by another student or group of students that:
- is repeated over time
- is intended to ridicule, humiliate or intimidate; and substantially interferes with a student’s right to a safe education regardless of whether it happens on or off school grounds.
Harassment is defined as: verbal, written, visual or physical conduct (including by electronic means) motivated by a student’s or a student’s family member’s actual or perceived race, creed, color, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability (which includes HIV status) that is intended to:
- substantially interfere with educational performance or access to school resources; or
- create an intimidating or hostile environment.
Schools must adopt anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies, and each year students and parents must be given notice of those policies. This also applies to some private schools.
IF YOU EXPERIENCE BULLYING OR DISCRIMINATION
Contact GLAD Answers, our confidential legal information line.
- Talk to a trusted teacher or counselor.
- Look at your school’s policies (usually in a student handbook or online), find out who to notify, and file a report.
- Document any incidents you experience.
SCHOOL CLUBS AND GSAS:
In general, students have a right to form LGBTQ-related school clubs. This is because of the Equal Access Act, which can be read here.
CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS FOR SPEECH, EXPRESSION, DRESS, LEARNING
When a school system treats an LGBTQ student differently from others, that may constitute prohibited discrimination under existing law. In addition, the U.S. Constitution protects freedom of expression, academic freedom and your right to learn. For example:
- The right to express yourself on issues relating to sexual orientation or gender identity and expression within constitutional limits;
- The right to learn about LGBTQ issues and have access to pedagogically and age-appropriate information and resources about LGBT issues and people
IF YOU ARE INVOLVED WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
LGBTQ youth have the right to safe and appropriate placements in the child welfare system, free from discrimination and harassment based on their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
LGBTQ youth have the right to be free from harassment and abuse based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in foster care placements. This means that youth should be protected from both physical and emotional harm in their placements, and should be placed with caretakers who will ensure their safety and wellbeing outside the home.
LGBTQ youth have the right to be open about their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
Transgender youth have the right to be identified by the name and pronouns that accord with his or her gender identity and to wear clothing consistent with his or her gender identity.
LGBTQ youth have the right to be free from religious indoctrination that condemns or disparages their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
LGBTQ youth have the right to equal treatment and to access appropriate services for their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression while in the child welfare system.
LGBTQ youth must have access to appropriate medical or mental health care, and should not be forced to undergo improper or disreputable services damaging to their wellbeing, such as reparative or conversion therapy.
LGBTQ youth should be treated equally to heterosexual and gender conforming youth, including with regard to age appropriate displays of affection.
LGBTQ youth should have access to supportive materials and resources.
GET MORE INFORMATION AND LEGAL HELP
For more information about your rights and protections, and for referrals, you can contact GLAD Answers, GLAD’s free & confidential legal information line.