Non-discrimination Policies in School Settings

Non-discrimination Policies in School Settings

Research Paper

Fatima Awn

Professor Price

WGST 405

University of Michigan Dearborn

Non-Discrimination Policies in School Settings

The policy I found that inspired me to research “Non-discrimination Policies” was the Non-discrimination policy for Atlanta Public Schools. The Atlanta Public Schools Non-discrimination Policy was surprisingly very short, and basically one sentenced. It basically says “we will not discriminate against anyone” but with a little more detail as to who everyone is. They also did not state anything to do with pregnancy as well. There are some women in high school that do get pregnant and in this statement it doesn’t include them in non-discrimination. Also the parents of the students were not mentioned and this made me think about how public policies effect families. Well in public schools, or schools for young children, their families are very much involved. I feel that the policy should have something to include about not discriminating against families that are in any situation to be discriminated against or for being responsible for anything with their children based on their parents. For example, if a child has two gay parents, the policy does state that they will not discriminate against any sexual orientation, but what about the children of that couple? I believe it should have a statement regarding them as well. I really want to also focus on young children in the LGBT community, and how even though LGBT is mentioned in the policy, this community is still faced with terrible discrimination and that is why these statements need more detail and conclusions. Their statement is missing a lot and not looking over many points that need to be looked over. This policy is for families with children at such a young age to basically adults and should talk in more detail about that range. So that being said, I wanted to find out about children that are put in a higher chance of being discriminated against, such as the LGBT community, in public schools and how they are treated, what they go through and what is done about it. Most, if not all, schools do carry a non discrimination policy yet from the research I gathered, many children are facing bullying and judgment.

For the last 30 years, schools were a platform for all types of people to express and participate in our “cultural wars”. The division between conservatives, liberals and progressives is nothing that is hidden, we see it every day, not only in our schools. But where this division happens, debates also happen, specifically about issues that contrast with each party, such as, sex education, the LGBT community, gender identification, and so forth. (Griffen, Ouellett) In earlier times, Homosexuality was treated as a disease but now we know it is not. Being part of the LGBTQ community is not something people wake up and decide, it is who they are, just as you are you. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality off of its list of mental disorders yet they are still treated as mentally different or abnormal, even at younger ages. (Griffen, Ouellett) They not only face discrimination from their peers, but also from their elders and strangers. The youth that are part of the LGBT community face verbal, and sometimes physical, abuse, harassment and rejection from their community.

“A 2005 survey of 3450 students ages 13-18 in the United States by The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network found: 33 percent of the respondents report that students in their school are frequently harassed for their sexual orientation, 52 percent hear students make homophobic remarks regularly, 36 percent reported bullying or name calling based on sexual orientation as a serious problem and lastly, 90 percent of the LGBT teens have been verbally or physically harassed or assaulted during the past year because of their perceived appearance, gender, sexuality orientation, expression, ethnicity, disability or religion.” (Meyer, Strader)

Not only are children who are part of the LGBT community facing this problems, but children whose parents are part of that community are facing similar issues. The bulling they face may not be from others not liking them, but simply others having homophobia and taking it out on the child.

“Nearly half (47%) indicated that they they heard negative comments from peers about their parents, or from school staff (28%). Nearly a quarter (23%) reported being mistreated by the parents of other students because they had an LGBT parent. 22% indicated that they had been discouraged from talking about their family status at school by a teacher, principal, or other staff person. Smaller numbers reported being physically harassed or assaulted at school for having an LGBT parent (12%), or because of their own actual or perceived sexual identity (11%).” (Edkins, Peter, Taylor)

These statistics are not only shocking, but they are what real people like you and me face all while there are rules against it written down. These non-discrimination policies are looked over so quickly because it is such a norm, and has been a norm, to not accept the LGBT community, or anyone that is “different” in that case. Since there are so many different types of people, with different types of views, these policies should have more detail about how non-discrimination should happen and how every type of person should act. These views should be addressed, without crossing lines. In 1998, Tierney and Dilley identified issues that LGB people face in education since the 1990’s. This study is a little earlier in time, but I feel that it still applies and needs to be looked over. Their literature focused on K-12 schools as a site of harassment and violence done towards LGB students. This research called for policy changes, intervention and legal responsibilities that schools have for providing a safe environment for the LGBT community. “Their philosophy was that LBG students, teachers and families are members of every school and community and they are entitled to basic civil rights of respect and fair treatment. (Griffen, Ouellett) By 2002, ten states had put in action for laws or policies that ban discrimination or harassment that is based on sexual orientation or gender identity. ((Griffen, Ouellett) Even with policies and movements done throughout these early years, there is still harassment and discrimination happening and these policies are too broad to put anything in action. Without being more specific, people that are apposed to the idea of LGBT have nothing to fear from discrimination. I mean, if you tell a child don’t touch the hot stove without a them knowing the consequence, they will still touch the hot stove.

A big part of children feeling uncomfortable going to school is not only knowing peers will be mean, but not getting the acceptance they deserve from their teachers. The policies that are given to schools to follow should be followed first by the faculty. It is their job to make sure the students are their most comfortable and their safest. Even though heterosexual peer support to the LGBT students is most import for promoting a positive school experience, having teaching who care about them and what they are going through was a very close second. (Meyer, Strader) The students that are part of the LGBT community know that was they are going through is not okay, and when they see that an elder that is teaching them is not caring of what is happening, it is self demeaning and really hurts that person. To think that even someone that is supposedly teaching me what I need to know in life, is not participating and how I am supposed to feel in life is really strong. “The average GPA of sexual minority students who could not identify any supportive faculty was 2.8. The average GPA of participants who could identify supportive faculty was 3.1 and those students were more than twice as likely to plan to attend college.” (Meyer, Strader) With the confidence that the support brings to them, better grades follow and a better future to plan for after that. In some cases, schools have a tendency of policing gender, usually from their own beliefs at home. Since this is some of the cases, I believe that the non-discrimination policies are missing specifics such as stating to not speak about your personal beliefs if it includes discrimination. A huge problem with that, and especially with some “old school” conservative teachers, is the Christian Right. They are strongly opposed of the LGBT community and try to get support for their movement through fear, anger and disgust towards gay people. (Russo) These people don’t understand that being part of the LGBT is not a choice and isn’t something that can just be changed, its not like choosing what you want for dinner and I feel that should also be stated in the policy. It should say that being part of the LGBT is who they are and should be respected no matter what opposing views you have. Along with what I stated in the previous paragraph, discrimination slides past these policies such as bullying and religious conflicts because the policies lack protection. Not only will it affect their school work, it will affect their mental health and may even cause suicidal thoughts. “Several research studies suggest that sexual minority youth are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than those of their heterosexual counterparts. Gay and lesbian youth suicides make up 30% of the 5,000 completed youth suicides annually.” (Russo)

In the United States, discrimination is illegal yet is still done every day, everywhere. With the basic policies we have in place, I am not surprised they are looked over so easily.

“Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was enacted to prohibit gender discrimination against participants in education programs. Also, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, on May 24, 1999, that schools could be held liable for violating Title IX federal civil rights law for willingly ignoring sexual harassment of one student by another”. (Russo)

I think that our policies should state these laws, and let the people attending their schools and working at their schools know and study it. I, personally, did not know that it was put into the federal law and would not have known if I did not research it. School administrators know this, so why doesn’t their policy state it? All the policy says is “Do not discriminate” when it should say “Do not discriminate because it is against the law”. Now, I know there are laws about everything and they are still not followed, but I feel that if that were added to the policies they will be taken a little more seriously, not only at schools, but starting in the home and being taught before going into the public.

Schools not only need to make laws more noticeable, but they also need to really focus on making their schools a place that practices social justice. By doing so, the schools will better the atmosphere and push towards a safer environment for the LGBT community. When you approach the issues I have been researching, you will also face intersectional issues and the problems brought on by heterosexism. (Griffen, Ouellett) “A social justice perspective on research incorporates alternative methodologies that are sensitive to privileging and othering in the research process as well as in the educational setting in which we conduct our research. By incorporating this perspective, the research experience not only can provide information about schools but also serve as a catalyst for social change in schools. (Griffen, Ouellett) If the policy were to speak on issues of intersectional, such as race, income levels, ethnicity and include sexual orientation I feel it would be easier to follow along and easier for the policy to be followed because those are other topics that we know are discriminated against. Being part of the LGBT is one thing, but being poor, of color and part of the LGBT is something else and should be stated as well. Intersecionality is something that needs to be recognized so discrimination can be helped to be avoided, especially in places outside of our home and in the most public areas, such as schools.

Work Cited


Peter, T., Taylor, C., & Edkins, T. (2016).

Are the kids all right? the impact of school climate among students with LGBT parents. Canadian Journal of Education, 39(1), 1-25. Retrieved from http://0-search.proquest.com.wizard.umd.umich.edu/docview/1781322914?accountid=14578

Meyer, E. J., & Stader, D. (2009)

Queer youth and the culture wars: from classroom to courtroom in Australia, Canada and the United States. Journal of LGBT Youth, 6(2/3), 135-154.

Russo, R. G. (2006).

The extent of public education nondiscrimination policy protections for lesbians,    

gay, bisexual, and transgender students. Sage Publications: 41, (115-150)

Griffin, P.,Ouellett, M. (2003).

From silence to safety and beyond: historical trends in addressing lesbian, gay,

bisexual, transgender issues in K-12 Schools.” Equity & Excellence in Education: 36, (106)


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