National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute Releases Education Policy: Issues Affecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Tran

November 17, 2003

3%-6% of Youth Claim Same-Sex Attraction or Experience

Violence and Harassment against LGBT Students Widespread

13 States Take Steps to Ban Anti-Gay Discrimination or Harassment

Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications

November 18, 2003, New York City - Violence and harassment against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students is widespread, but a growing number of states are taking steps to make schools safer for LGBT students and the children of LGBT parents, according to a report released today by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute. Eight states and the District of Columbia have passed laws banning discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation. Three states and the District of Columbia ban discrimination against students on the basis of gender identity. At least five other states have adopted anti-harassment or nondiscrimination regulations covering sexual orientation. Nonetheless, anti-LGBT bias and violence remains widespread, according to a comprehensive review of the social science research.

Education Policy: Issues Affecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth offers the first in-depth analysis of state and federal laws such as the "No Child Left Behind Act" and a comprehensive overview of current research in the school experiences of LGBT youth. It also examines policy interventions aimed at making schools safe and affirming environments for all students as well as recent federal policy changes that complicate these efforts.

"This report makes clear that-with a few sterling exceptions-schools are failing in their responsibility to create safe environments and our youth are paying an awful price for this failure," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "With adolescents questioning their sexuality or coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender at younger ages than ever before, policymakers and educators must act now."

"This report will be a critical resource for those seeking a better understanding of LGBT youth and a commitment to ending the harassment and violence too many of these young people face on a daily basis," said Sean Cahill, Ph.D., Director of the Task Force Policy Institute and co-author of the study. Task Force Policy Analyst Jason Cianciotto, MPA, co-authored the report. The Policy Institute is the LGBT community's premiere think tank.

Education Policy analyzes: the particular issues facing LGBT youth of color, homeless youth and youth in foster care; the extent of homophobic and gender-based harassment in elementary school; the impact of anti-LGBT harassment on school performance and health; and the social science literature on LGBT youth and children of LGBT parents, including estimates of how many secondary school students are LGBT or have LGBT parents.

Education Policy also provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of state policies aimed at protecting LGBT youth, as well as the impact of recent policy innovations. Specifically it examines:

* Court interpretations of Title IX, the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause, the Equal Access Act, and other state and federal statutes in 15 lawsuits by gay and lesbian students charging that school districts failed to stop anti-gay harassment (these suits cost school districts at least $2.3 million in damages)

* State nondiscrimination and anti-harassment laws and regulations, and nondiscrimination language in teachers' union contracts

* The impact of safe schools programs, gay-straight alliances, and staff training

* Parental notification laws and laws limiting discussion of homosexuality in schools

* The "No Child Left Behind Act's" (NCLB) promotion of school vouchers, charter schools, single-sex education, standardized testing, and Internet filtering; provisions related to parental rights and the "promotion and encouragement" of homosexuality and heterosexuality and amendments related to the Boy Scouts and military recruitment in schools under NCLB

Eight LGBT youth who have stood up for their equal rights are profiled in Education Policy. Research on resiliency factors that correlate with health and strong academic performance among LGBT youth is also reviewed.

Finally, this study offers a research agenda targeted to academic and government-based researchers to fill the many gaps in knowledge of LGBT youth, children of LGBT parents, and the effectiveness of policy interventions like safe schools programs.

"In spite of the problems and challenges LGBT youth face in so many schools, this report shows that they are leading the fight to create better and safer school environments for all students," said Policy Institute Director Sean Cahill. Cahill expressed the Task Force's gratitude to the many experts and scholars who contributed to the report as well as the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the National Youth Advocacy Coalition (NYAC), and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), which have led the fight to end anti-LGBT discrimination and violence in schools.

Access the Education Policy: Issues Affecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth report here.

Other available Task Force resources are the May 2003 report, Campus Climate for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender People: A National Perspective and the editorial No Child Left Behind? both available in the Task Force online publications library at


The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.