Lambda Legal Applauds as US Department of Education Issues Guidance on Combatting LGBTQI+ Harassment in School

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June 23, 2021

Today, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice issued a resource guide for students and families to confront anti-LGBTQI+ bullying and harassment in schools. The DOJ Civil Rights Division and ED’s Office for Civil Rights issued this guide on the same day as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a student free speech case that students did enjoy robust free speech protections but underscored that schools did have a duty to address bullying and harassment and to ensuring a safe educational environment.   

Lambda Legal Counsel and Students’ Rights Strategist Paul D. Castillo released the following statement: 

“Today, we experienced a two-fer in the work to protect student free speech and to protect LGBTQI+ students from bullying and harassment both on- and off-campus. In Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., the Supreme Court did the right thing by recognizing and upholding students’ off-campus free speech rights -- particularly important for LGBTQI+ students who are often punished inappropriately for expressing and affirming who they are -- while at the same time acknowledging that schools do have an ongoing legal obligation to address bullying, harassment, and threats of violence, whether on or off-campus. 

“And then, on the heels of that ruling, the Departments of Education and Justice issue important guidance sending the clear and unambiguous message that: schools and teachers have a responsibility to ensure a safe environment for all students, including LGBTQI+ students; that discrimination against students on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity violates Title IX; and that the federal government will vigorously enforce these nondiscrimination protections. The guidance notes that LGBTQI+ students are protected ‘in all aspects of their education,’ underscoring in particular actions that exclude transgender students from athletics and school restroom facilities consistent with their gender identity.

“On the same day as the U.S. Supreme Court underscores schools’ responsibility for ensuring a safe educational environment, this critical guidance details what that environment should look like, and what protections LGBTQI+ students have.”

Read the guidance here.