August 12th, 2016
Do you remember middle school or high school? Many of us have strong memories associated with our adolescent years and oftentimes they are not great. Teen years can be difficult; you are going through changes and trying to figure out who you are. This transitional period can be particularly difficult for teens struggling with their sexual or gender identities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published findings showing that LGBT teens are at increased risk for bullying and suicidal thoughts. Data shows that LGBT teens are twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts and one study even demonstrates suicide attempt rates as high as 25%.
It stands to reason, then, that school counselors, teachers, and other school employees play a large role in aiding these transitioning youths by helping them to understand confusing and conflicting thoughts they may be having.
Laws Restrict Educators’ Ability to Counsel LGBT Youth
Oklahoma recently proposed a bill that would prohibit school employees including teachers and school counselors from providing guidance to students if the information is about human sexuality, unless the employee notifies the student’s parents first. Fortunately, OK HB3044 did not survive the legislative process, but this is only one of numerous proposed laws we are seeing now with alarming frequency.
Many states have in fact passed laws that, while seemingly not as extreme as OK HB3044, can still have devastating affects on the psyche of a developing mind. In Alabama, for example, Alabama State Code § 16-40A-2(c)(8) requires that sexual education classes teach that, from a public health perspective, homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle and is punishable as a criminal offense. The state of Arizona similarly prohibits the promotion of a LGBT lifestyle as it relates to educating kids on AIDS.
The CDC reports that schools are key components of a safer and more enriching educational experience for the LGBT community. In particular, sexual education classes should incorporate inclusive terminology rather than exclusive language. As we see above, many programs are designed in a way that could certainly scare a child who may be confused about his or her identity. In any event, the laws stated above do very little to advance education. Despite the fact that the CDC names educators as one of the first lines of defense against bullying and suicidal tendencies in LGBT kids, state law remains largely discriminatory.
LGBT Discrimination in Higher Education
Discrimination against LGBT youth does not stop at the middle or high school level. In fact, higher education also sees its fair share of proposed legislation that would prohibit a public university from reprimanding organizations that discriminate against the LGBT community. It probably comes as little or no surprise that faith-based colleges often discriminate against the lesbian, gay, homosexual, and transgender demographic; however, we are seeing a push against this open discrimination in a California bill that would prevent such acts.
With one of the most polarizing elections in history looming before us, we can be sure of one thing. Depending on who wins we are likely to see a shift in LGBT laws either for better or for worse. At Universal Life Church, we are dedicated to keeping you informed regardless of the impending political changes ahead.
(photo courtesy of Keanna Smith)