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One of the most effective steps that schools, school districts, and states can take to improve school climate and make schools safer is to enact safe schools laws and policies. When GLSEN uses the term "safe schools laws" we are referring to two distinct types of laws that protect LGBTQ students in K-12 schools: enumerated anti-bullying and nondiscrimination laws.
Enumerated Anti-Bullying Laws Protecting LGBTQ Students by State
The first type of safe schools law is fully enumerated anti-bullying laws. These are laws that specifically prohibit bullying and harassment of students based on sexual orientation and gender identity. These laws most often use both terms: "bullying" and "harassment" but in some cases may use only one. The map below indicates those states (21 in total plus the District of Columbia) which have anti-bullying laws which specifically protect students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. These states are Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
Non-Discrimination Laws protecting LGBTQ Students by State
The second type is nondiscrimination laws which many states have passed to provide protection from discrimination to LGBTQ students in schools. There are some nondiscrimination laws that protect from discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity. The map below details those states which have nondiscrimination laws which apply to schools and protect students on the basis of sexual orientation (blue in the map below) (Wisconsin) or sexual orientation as well as gender identity (gold in the map below, 14 states plus the District of Columbia). California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia provide protection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, while Wisconsin provides protection on the basis of sexual orientation only.
"No Promo Homo Laws"
GLSEN also tracks negative laws that may harm or stigmatize LGBTQ students. One example of such laws are "no promo homo" laws, local or state education laws that expressly forbid teachers from discussing gay and transgender issues (including sexual health and HIV/AIDS awareness) in a positive light-if at all. Some laws even require that teachers actively portray LGBT people in a negative or inaccurate way. These statutes only serve to further stigmatize LGBT students by providing K-12 students false, misleading, or incomplete information about LGBT people. There are currently 6 states that have these types of laws: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. Learn more about how "no promo homo" laws might affect you.
GLSEN opposes state laws that purport to prevent bullying and harassment, but which prohibit local school districts from having enumerated anti-bullying policies. As we discussed above, enumeration is essential to implement anti-bullying measures that effectively protect all students. There are two states which prohibit school districts from having enumerated policies: Missouri and South Dakota.