Issues

Safe Schools

 

State law in Illinois and federal policies strive to make our schools safe for all students, regardless of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender-related identity or expression. Still, parents, the school community and government create the tone and share the responsibility for actively protecting all students and creating a safe learning environment.

Anti-bullying Protections

The Illinois Prevent School Violence Act prohibits bullying in schools and explicitly includes bullying on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender-related identity or expression. The Act defines bullying as any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or electronically, directed toward a student.

Examples of prohibited conduct include, but are not limited to, harassment, threats, intimidation, stalking, physical violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence, theft, public humiliation, and destruction of property. Bullying is prohibited in school, on school property, in school vehicles, at designated school bus stops (at applicable times), during any school-sponsored or school sanctioned education program, event, or activity, and through the use of a school computer or computer network.

Protections for Transgender Students

In July 2013, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice underscored the federal government’s position that school districts cannot discriminate against transgender students without violating federal law. According to the Departments, gender-based discrimination, including discrimination based on a student’s gender identity, transgender status, and nonconformity with gender stereotypes, is a form of discrimination based on sex.

Protecting Students in Non-conforming Dress

Students are protected in schools that receive federal funding by both Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 and Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Both of these titles prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. The Department of Justice and the Department of Education have both stated that discriminating against students who do not conform to sex stereotypes is a form of sex discrimination. This protects transgender students, students who do not conform to sex stereotypes, and students who are perceived to not conform to sex stereotypes.

 

Gay-Straight Alliances

Bullying causes a stressful environment and emotional strain, which can increase the risk of suicide. Gay-straight alliances are a helpful resource for LGBT youth. GSAs provide a safe, supportive environment for LGBT students and work to make schools safer and more welcoming for all students. Gay-straight alliances or similar groups cannot by legally prohibited by an Illinois public school.

The federal Equal Access Act prohibits “the restriction of limited open forum on basis of religious, political, philosophical, or other speech content.” This applies to all public secondary schools which receive federal funding. Though the Act provides exceptions for the school to maintain “order, discipline, well-being, and attendance concerns,” these are likely to fail as a reason for prohibiting a gay-straight alliance.

Resources

Publications

Know Your Rights Safe Schools Pamphlet

Safe Schools Brochure CoverMuch of this information is in the Equality Illinois “Know Your Rights” pamphlet, which is designed for personal and organizational use by Equality Illinois. You can see and download it HERE.

Resources

Skilled, trained counselors are available to offer support 24/7:

    • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
      1-800-273-TALK(8255)
    • The Trevor Project Lifeline
      1-866-488-7386
    • GLBT National Youth Talkline
      1-800-246-PRIDE(7743)
    • It Gets Better Project
      itgetsbetter.org
    • The Illinois Safe Schools Alliance offers assistance with any safe schools-related topics
      (312) 368-9070