Every Student Deserves to Be Safe and Supported at School
School should be a place where every student is safe to learn, participate in extracurricular activities, and have fun with friends, classmates, and teammates.
But students who are transgender, nonbinary, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, or intersex still face discrimination, bullying, and harassment at school because of who they are.
If you are a student who is LGBTQI+, we want you to know that the organizations represented on this website and many others, as well as your federal government, have your back.
Know Your Rights
Title IX Protects LGBTQI+ Students From Mistreatment at School
Title IX is our federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.
The federal Department of Education Office of Civil Rights issued a public notice in June of 2021 clarifying that transgender, nonbinary, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) students are protected from discrimination at school under Title IX.
Title IX protects students against discrimination in all aspects of their education, including:
- recruitment, admissions, and counseling;
- financial assistance;
- protections from sex-based harassment, which encompasses sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence;
- treatment of pregnant and parenting students;
- equal access to classes and activities
In a recent fact sheet, Confronting Anti-LGBTQI+ Harassment in Schools: A Resource for Students and Families, the Educational Opportunities Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education announced their commitment to protecting LGBTQI+ students at school:
Public elementary and secondary schools, as well as public and private colleges and universities, have a responsibility to investigate and address sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, against students because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity. When schools fail to respond appropriately, the Educational Opportunities Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education can help by enforcing federal laws that protect students from discrimination – both can also provide information to assist schools in meeting their legal obligations.
What You Can Do if You Experience Bullying, Harassment, or Discrimination
- Notify a teacher or school leader (for example, a principal or student affairs staff) immediately. If you don’t get the help you need, file a formal complaint with the school, school district, college, or university. Keep records of your complaint(s) and responses you receive.
- Write down the details about what happened, where and when the incident happened, who was involved, and the names of any witnesses. Do this for every incident of discrimination, and keep copies of any related documents or other information.
- If you are not proficient in English, you have the right to ask the school to translate or interpret information into a language you understand. If you have communication needs because of a disability, you have the right to receive accommodations or aids and services that provide you with effective communication.
- Counseling and other mental health support can sometimes be helpful for a student who has been harassed or bullied. Consider seeking mental health resources if needed.
- Consider filing a complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice at civilrights.justice.gov (available in several different languages), or with the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education at www.ed.gov/ocr/complaintintro.html (to file a complaint in English) or www.ed.gov/ocr/docs/howto.html (to file a complaint in multiple languages).
Where and How to File a Complaint
If you have experienced school-based bullying, harassment, or discrimination, you can file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.
Things to know about filing a complaint:
- You are entitled to file a claim. Nearly every public school receives some level of federal funding and is therefore covered by Title IX. That means public school students who experience, bullying, harassment, or discrimination may file a claim with the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.
- Time is of the essence. A complaint must be filed within 180 days of when the bullying, harassment, or discrimination occurred.
- Your confidentiality is assured. Every claim remains confidential and will not be shared without permission.
- A third party may file a claim on behalf of another person. In other words, the person making the complaint doesn’t have to be the one who experienced the harassment. A friend, family member, or school faculty member can file the complaint.
- Title IX makes it unlawful for the school to retaliate against anyone who has made a complaint, or testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation or proceeding under the law.
- You should complete the entire form-when filling out the report. Make sure to fill out the entire form. Incomplete information may result in a dismissal of your complaint.
How to file a complaint:
An electronic complaint form and detailed information about filing a complaint are available on the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education website.
Read the instructions and click “Continue to Complaint Form” at the bottom of the page to get started.
Who Can Help
If you need more information, guidance on filing a complaint, or support in making sure your school is safe and supportive for everyone, these organizations can help:
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation. Anyone living in New England who experiences discrimination or harassment at school or who needs additional information about filing a complaint can contact GLAD’s free Legal Information Line, GLAD Answers: GLADAnswers.org or GLADAnswers@GLAD.org
GLSEN is a national 501©3 non-profit organization, leading the movement to create safe and inclusive K-12 schools and learning environments for all since 1990. We envision a world in which every young person learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, and in turn, is respected and accepted themselves. To make that vision a reality, we support local volunteer chapters, lead cutting-edge research, and create resources, like model school policies, that affirm and protect LGBTQ+ students and empower educators and advocates working to create safe, welcoming schools. We know that in order to achieve our mission we must advance intersectional equity, racial, gender, and disability justice outcomes in education systems. Learn more and connect at www.glsen.org.
National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)
Serving all members of the LGBTQ community and allies, NCLR’s Legal Information Helpline provides basic information about laws that affect ALL LGBTQ people. If you feel like you’ve been discriminated against or need legal assistance, contact NCLR: nclrights.org/get-help
PFLAG is an organization of LGBTQ+ people, parents, families, and allies who work together to create an equitable and inclusive world. We are hundreds of thousands of people and hundreds of chapters from coast to coast who are leading with love to support families, educate allies, and advocate for just, equitable, and inclusive legislation and policies. Since our founding in 1973, PFLAG works every day to ensure LGBTQ+ people everywhere are safe, celebrated, empowered and loved. Learn more, find support, donate, and take action at pflag.org.