Know Your Rights, NH Students!
What are my rights as an LGBTQ+ student?
All New Hampshire public school students have the right:
- To be safe in school without being bullied,
- To be protected from discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status.
- 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 New Hampshire public and many private school students have the right:
- To form a Genders & Sexualities or Gay/Straight Alliance or 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).
- If you are over the age of 14, 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.
Are there any laws protecting gay and transgender students from bullying in New Hampshire?
Yes. In 2010, the New Hampshire General Court enacted a revision to the Pupil Safety and Violence Prevention Act that specifically recognized that pupils who are LGBTQ+ or perceived to be LGBTQ+ are one of the groups that have historically been targeted for bullying. New Hampshire now has one of the strongest anti-bullying laws in the country.
The 2010 law requires that each school district and charter school adopt a written policy prohibiting bullying and cyberbullying that includes:
- a procedure for reporting the bullying;
- a procedure for notifying the parents or guardian of a victim within 48 hours of the incident report that can be waived if the school feels that doing so is in the best interests of the victim or perpetrator;
- a procedure for investigating the incident in a timely manner, and, for any substantiated incident of bullying, the school must create a remediation plan that may include appropriate disciplinary action against the perpetrator, steps to reduce future incidents or retaliation and, if appropriate, offer assistance to the victim or perpetrator. The remediation plan must also be communicated to the parents or guardians of all the students involved in the incident;
- a plan for communicating, training, and educating students, staff, and parents about the anti-bullying policy.
You can find detailed information about New Hampshire’s anti-bullying law here: Bullying & Cyber-Bullying | Department of Education
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 New Hampshire have guidance schools should follow to protect transgender students?
Yes, in 2015 the New Hampshire School Boards Association created a model policy for school districts to follow to protect transgender and gender non-conforming students. See: JBAB – TRANSGENDER AND GENDER NON-CONFORMING STUDENTS.
The model policy includes 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.
Unfortunately, as of 2020 only 48 of the 196 school districts and charter schools have adopted such a plan, according to a report by the New Hampshire ACLU: The Case for Lived Equality in the Classroom
Does the New Hampshire anti-discrimination law also protect public school students?
Yes, New Hampshire law Section 354-A:27 states:
“No person shall be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination in public schools because of their age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, color, marital status, familial status, disability, religion or national origin. . .”
For more information about the New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights 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 or by phone at 800-455-4523 (GLAD) to discuss options.
Do students have the right to form Genders & Sexualities or 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 New Hampshire have a law that bans conversion therapy?
Yes, in 2018 New Hampshire passed N.H. Rev. Stat. § 332-L which prohibits any licensed mental health professional from performing conversion therapy on a minor.
State and national medical, mental health, and child welfare organizations all oppose the practice of conversion therapy, a practice that 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 appropriate licensing agency.
RESOURCES FOR LGBTQ+ YOUTH:
More information about New Hampshire’s anti-bullying law: Bullying & Cyber-Bullying | Department of Education
More information about freedom from discrimination in education: Right to Freedom from Discrimination in Public Workplaces and Education
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: EAA FAQs
News Hampshire LGBTQ+ Youth Resources: New Hampshire LGBTQ+ Youth and Families Resource Guide
Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) (LGBTQ Youth Services)
LGBTQ National Help Center Talk line: (800) 246-7743
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.