Know Your Rights, CT Students!
What are my rights as an LGBTQ+ student?
All Connecticut public school students have the right:
- To be safe in school without being bullied,
- To access information about LGBTQ+ subjects including educational websites,
- To dress and present yourself in a manner consistent with your gender identity,
- To free speech and expression. This means you have the right to express ideas that may offend other people and you have the right to disagree with others, as long as you express those ideas in a respectful way.
All Connecticut public and many private school students have the right:
- To be protected from discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or HIV status,
- To form a Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) that gets treated the same as every other non-curricular group. This means equal funding, access to facilities, and the ability to choose your group’s name.
Outside of school you have the right:
- To be protected from discrimination based on your actual or perceived sexual orientation, HIV status, or gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations (like restaurants or stores).
- To give your own consent to get tested for HIV without your parents’ permission. For more specific information, see the “HIV/AIDS” Issue Area.
- To report to the police anyone in or out of school who physically harms you, threatens you, or vandalizes your property.
Federal law also protects you from discrimination at school
You are protected from discrimination in public schools or other schools that receive federal funding because of Title IX. Title IX is a federal civil rights law, and it prohibits discrimination based on sex – including sexual orientation or gender identity – across the country.
Does Connecticut have a law to protect public school students from bullying?
Yes. The law improved significantly in 2011 with the passage of Public Act 11-232, An Act Concerning the Strengthening of School Bullying Laws (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 10-222d). Per the law, bullying is defined as repeated written, oral, or electronic communication, or physical acts or gestures by one or more students repeatedly directed at another student, that:
- causes the bullied student physical or emotional harm or damages their property;
- places the bullied student in reasonable fear of being harmed;
- creates a hostile school environment for the bullied student;
- infringes on the bullied student’s rights or substantially disrupts the education process or the school’s orderly operation.
The law also recognizes that students who are LGBTQ+ or are perceived to be LGBTQ+ or who associate with LGBT students are often the target of bullying (Conn. Gen. Stat. sec. 10-222d(a)(1)).
Per the law, each school board must develop a “safe school climate plan” that:
- prohibits bullying on school grounds, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, at a school bus stop or on a school bus, through electronic means (i.e. cyberbullying)
- prohibits discrimination and retaliation against an individual who reports or assists in the investigation of an act of bullying
- enables students to anonymously report acts of bullying
- enables parents to file written reports of suspected bullying
- requires school employees who witness bullying or receive reports of bullying to report it
- requires schools to investigate all reports of bullying and have a prevention and intervention strategy
- requires that both the parents of the bully and the parents of the victim be notified about bullying and told about the measures the school has chosen to take in response
- requires the school to notify the police about any acts of bullying that may constitute criminal conduct
- requires schools to maintain a publicly available list of the number of verified bullying incidents and to report this annually to the Connecticut State Department of Education
- requires all school employees to complete annual training on identifying, preventing and responding to bullying and to youth suicide.
Can schools regulate anti-bullying policies outside of school grounds?
Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court in Mahanoy Area School Dist. V. B. L. in addition to concluding that students have broad speech and expression rights outside of school, also stated:
“Circumstances that may implicate a school’s regulatory interests [outside school] include serious or severe bullying or harassment targeting particular individuals; threats aimed at teachers or other students . . .”
Does Connecticut have guidance schools should follow to protect transgender students?
Yes, Connecticut has created guidance for school districts on the rights, responsibilities and best educational practices for transgender and gender non-conforming students.
The guidelines include the following:
- Schools should respect a transgender student’s name and pronouns;
- Schools should respect transgender students’ privacy regarding any medical information, previous names, etc.;
- The name and gender on a student’s records should conform to the student’s gender identity;
- Transgender students should be able to use the restroom, locker room, and changing facility that accord with their gender identity;
- In any sex-segregated activities (including athletics), transgender students should be able to participate in a manner consistent with their gender identity.
For more information on this guidance, see “Guidance on Civil Rights Protections and Supports for Transgender Students”:
Does the Connecticut anti-discrimination law also protect public school students?
Yes, Connecticut Gen. Stat. Sec 10-15c prohibits discrimination against public school students in activities, programs and courses of study based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression as well as race, color, sex, religion and national origin. For more information about the Connecticut anti-discrimination law and how to file a discrimination complaint, see the “Discrimination” Issue Area.
Are there federal laws that protect students?
Yes, Title IX prohibits discrimination against students based on sex in any school or college that receives federal funds. In light of the Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which determined that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are forms of sex discrimination, the federal Department of Education, which enforces Title IX, has stated that it will interpret any sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination as sex discrimination.
To file a complaint with the federal Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, see: How to File a Discrimination Complaint with the Office for Civil Rights.
Complaints can be made to your school Title IX coordinator, as well as to:
Office of Civil Rights
The U.S. Department of Education
John W. McCormack Post Office & Courthouse, Room 222
Post Office Square
Boston, MA 02109
Additionally, some kinds of discrimination and harassment may violate a student’s constitutional rights.
What can I do if I’m being discriminated against or bullied at school?
There are many ways to approach the issue. One is to ask for support from a friend, teacher, or counselor and talk to the people who are bothering you. That is not an option, however, if you don’t feel safe doing so.
Take a look at your school policies and notify whoever is supposed to be notified— usually a vice principal or Title IX coordinator. You should document any incidents of harassment or discrimination in writing with at least the date and time. Once you meet with the right officials, write yourself notes about what you told them and on what date and ask when they will be getting back to you with a response. If they don’t help you or don’t follow through, you may wish to write to the principal and superintendent and ask for them to end the discrimination.
If this fails, you may also wish to consider legal action against the town by contacting the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities or the federal Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.
This is a complicated area of law as well as being emotionally challenging. Contact GLAD Answers by filling out the email form at GLAD Answers to discuss options.
Do students have the right to form Gay/Straight Alliances in their schools?
Yes, as to high school students; probably, as to middle school students. A federal law known as the “Equal Access Act” requires that all federally funded secondary schools provide equal access to extra-curricular clubs. So long as a school has at least one student-led extra-curricular club, it must allow additional clubs to organize, and must provide them with equal access to meeting spaces, facilities, and funding without discriminating based on a club’s purpose, be that purpose religious, philosophical, political, or otherwise (20 U.S.C. § 4071).
Does Connecticut have a law that bans conversion therapy?
Yes, in 2017 Connecticut passed Public Act 17-5, An Act Concerning the Protection of Youth from Conversion Therapy.
State and national medical, mental health, and child welfare organizations all oppose the practice of conversion therapy, a practice which seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Extensive professional literature shows the practice to be both ineffective in changing sexual orientation or gender identity and harmful to youth. Young people who have been subjected to conversion therapy are at increased risk of depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, and illegal drug use.
Under the law’s provisions, any licensed health professional who practices conversion therapy would be subject to discipline by the Department of Public Health up to and including the loss of their professional license.
YOU HAVE RESOURCES
Parents’ Guide to Bullying and Harassment in Connecticut: Parents Guide to Bullying and Harassment in Connecticut
FAQ on Connecticut Non-Discrimination Laws: Guidelines for Connecticut Schools to Comply with GENDER IDENTITY AND EXPRESSION NON-DISCRIMINATION LAWS
FAQ on Protections and Supports for Transgender Students:
Title IX Protects Students from Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: US Department of Education Confirms Title IX Protects Students from Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Legal Guidelines Regarding the Equal Access Act: Legal Guidelines Regarding the Equal Access Act and the Recognition of Student-Led Non-Curricular Groups (MS Word).
FAQ About Equal Access Act: Equal Access Act FAQs.pdf
Connecticut Youth Resources: outCT YOUTH RESOURCES
Triangle Community Center: (203) 853-0600
650 West Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06850
Circle Care Center: (203) 852-9525
618 West Ave, Norwalk, CT 06850
New Haven Pride Center: (203) 387-2252
84 Orange St, New Haven, CT 06510
True Colors: Sexual Minority Youth and Family Services (860) 232-0050
30 Arbor St #201a, Hartford, CT 06106
Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective: (860) 278-4163
1841 Broad St, Hartford, CT 06114
Connecticut TransAdvocacy Coalition: 860 255 8812
P.O. Box 111, Farmington, CT 06034
Trans Educational Student Resources TSER@transstudent.org
The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386
Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860
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.