All youth should be able to participate in schools and communities that are safe and welcoming, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
This category evaluates a range of measures concerning the safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ youth, including safe school laws, laws to protect youth from dangerous and discredited conversion therapy, and laws to address youth homelessness. Recognizing that schools play an especially important role in the growth and development of young people, we looked at a number of measures relating to bullying prevention and school safety.
a. Positive Laws & Policies
These items indicate state laws that protect youth from bullying and harassment, generally by requiring individual school districts to have anti-bullying policies in place. Credit was given for laws that are enumerated, meaning they specifically list characteristics that are frequently the target of bullying and harassment, while providing anti-bullying protection for all students.
Enumeration is especially important to protect LGBTQ+ students, as research has demonstrated that non-enumerated policies are no more effective to protect vulnerable students than having no policy in place. State laws are only indicated by this item if they provide protection based on both sexual orientation and gender identity.
The second item indicates states with model policies and guidance documents, generally created by the state Department of Education, that enumerate sexual orientation and gender identity.
The “Alternative Discipline” item indicates state laws that specifically include language that supports alternative forms of discipline that focus on education, remediation, prevention, and providing support for the target of bullying, rather than exclusionary discipline, criminalization, or “zero tolerance” policies for bullying and harassment.
Finally, the “Cyberbullying” item indicates that the state’s anti-bullying law covers incidents of bullying and harassment that occur electronically, through the internet or another medium. States and individual school districts vary widely on the degree to which anti-cyberbullying enforcement extends beyond the walls of the school. This category does not assess these distinctions, but simply whether the law addresses bullying and harassment through electronic means.
SCHOOL SUICIDE PREVENTION POLICIES
This item indicates state laws that require public school districts to have policies that focus on suicide prevention and intervention.
PROTECTION FROM CONVERSION THERAPY
This item indicates laws designed to protect LGBTQ+ youth from conversion therapy through licensing restrictions that prevent licensed mental health service professionals from conducting conversion therapy on youth under age 18.
LAWS TO ADDRESS LGBTQ+ YOUTH HOMELESSNESS
This item indicates state laws that specifically address homelessness among LGBTQ+ youth. For example, requiring homeless youth service providers to have non-discrimination policies in place, adequate cultural competency training, enhanced data collection to better understand disparities among this vulnerable population, and ensure homeless transgender youth are able to receive appropriate services based on their gender identity and expression.
LGBTQ+-INCLUSIVE SEX EDUCATON LAWS
This item indicates state laws or regulatory guidance that requires any sexual health education provided to students be specifically inclusive of LGBTQ+ youth.
LGBTQ+-INCLUSIVE JUVENILE JUSTICE POLICIES
This item indicates state laws, regulations, or policies designed to protect LGBTQ+ youth in juvenile justice settings from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
b. Negative Laws & Policies
TRANSGENDER EXCLUSION IN SPORTS
This item indicates either legislation, regulations from the state Department of Education, or authoritative guidance from the state organization that regulates intramural secondary school sports excluding transgender students reasonable opportunity and access to participate in school sports.
INEQUALITY IN AGE OF CONSENT FOR SAME-SEX COUPLES
This item indicates state laws that create different standards for the age of consent in same-sex and different-sex couples. Many states have a so-called “Romeo and Juliet” exception to age of consent laws, which prevents violation of these laws as long as the couple is within a particular age range; however, for some states this exception only applies to different-sex couples.
SCHOOL LAWS THAT CRIMINALIZE YOUTH
This item refers to anti-bullying laws that have either the mandatory, one-size-fits-all discipline or zero-tolerance policies, or the laws that specifically criminalize either bullying or cyberbullying. The item does not apply to general laws that extend anti-harassment protections to an electronic medium unless they refer specifically to schools, bullying, or cyberbullying.
ANTI-BULLYING LAWS THAT PROHIBIT ENUMERATION
This item indicates state anti-bullying laws that specifically prohibit school districts from listing characteristics that are frequently the target of bullying and harassment. This undermines the protection of the law for vulnerable populations such as LGBTQ+ youth.
LAWS THAT RESTRICT INCLUSION OF LGBTQ+ TOPICS IN SCHOOLS
This item indicates state laws that prohibit educators from discussing LGBTQ+ topics in schools or that require that any discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in schools be presented in a negative way. While these laws generally pertain only to sexual health education, they are frequently interpreted in a broader way by school districts. In some states these laws are not operative, but because of the negative impact they can have on LGBTQ+ youth, even if they are not officially enforced, they are still noted as present.