We see the articles and news stories on celebrating Pride Month and driving ideals of inclusion, diversity, and acceptance. However, we don’t see stories quite as often throughout the year that uplift the stories of Black LGBTQAI+ youth in public schools.
Over 2.3 thousand youth who identify as LGBTQAI+ are homeless or in foster care in the United States. Black LGBTQAI+ students are the highest numbers of children displaced from their families into unstable living conditions.
I have always advocated for the voices of Black students who are overlooked, disserviced, and thrown away by public schools. These students are often done the same way in their homes and communities.
Black LGBTQAI+ youth are subjected to emotional, verbal, mental, and unfortunately sexual and physical abuse due to sometimes living in unstable living conditions. It’s not only time for us to rethink foster care for Black LGBTQAI+ youth but also how we support them in public schools.
Like public school suspension rates and special education programs, Black youth are disproportionately represented in foster care. A national study found that 11.2% of teenagers in foster care are LGBTQAI+ youth, which is twice the rate found in the general population. (see chart below)
Being Black is one battle to fight in public schools, but being Black and identifying at LGBTQIA+ can be even more difficult. Georgia is one of the eighteen states and four territories of the U.S. that have no explicit protections against discrimination in foster care based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, Georgia has no anti-LGBTQAI+ school law or regulation.
- 11% – 11 % of LGBTQ population lives in states with “Don’t Say Gay” regulations that prohibit teachers from discussing LGBTQ issues
- 2% – 2 % of LGBTQ population lives in states that prohibit enumeration in anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies
- 87%– 87 % of LGBTQ population lives in states that have no anti-LGBTQ school laws or regulation
Black youth aren’t protected as citizens with the senate not passing the voting rights, anti lynching or police reform bills that would help alleviate hate crimes against Black Americans. Additionally, Black LGBTQAI+ students aren’t protected at home or in foster care, aren’t protected from hate crimes, voting rights, and police brutality due to the lack of legislation in Georgia and across the nation. Georgia has no laws protecting LGBTQAI+ students in which Black students are disportionately represented.
Georgia, like many states, needs better policies and restorative strategies about improving the learning experiences of Black LGBTQAI+ students who are also disproportionately targeted by suspensions. They are also likely to be punished more severely than white students who identify at LGBTQAI+ for minor misbehavior, contributing to the achievement gap and higher dropout rates for Black students.
The rates for Black students and other students of color are significantly higher than those of white students. For example, Black students lost 103 days per 100 students enrolled, 82 more days than the 21 days their white peers lost due to out-of-school suspensions.
For PRIDE month, educational leaders should be urgently working to ensure that when schools reopen, our public school environments are welcoming for LGBTQAI+ students and staff.
Policies that set precedents to protections against bullying, harassment and hate crimes towards students allowing them the same interactions with other peers without fearing exclusion, humiliation, or violence.
In order to begin protect Black LGBTQAI+ students, school board leaders should consider:
- Advocating for Georgia to repeal outdated and stigmatizing laws that deter and arguably prohibit discussion of LGBTQAI+ issues in schools
- Implement local and state policies protecting LGBTQAI+ students and staff from bullying, discrimination and hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity
- Ensure that policies support multicultural curricula that includes resources for LGBTQAI+ students
- Include students, teachers and stakeholders in the policy work to make existing policies meaningful by enforcing protections and investing funding to enhance social emotional learning strategies
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.