July 12, 2022

Patrick Wall: ‘I’m terrified’: As new laws take effect, LGBTQ students and allies fear the consequences

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Don’t Say Gay laws are being rolled out across the country, and as Patrick Wall reports at Chalkbeat, students, teachers and parents are afraid.

Cindy Nobles, a mother of four in Jacksonville, Florida, watched with mounting dread this spring as the local school board rewrote a guide meant to support LGBTQ students. She feared that every stricken passage left vulnerable children a little less safe.

The Duval County school district had reissued the guide on the heels of an alarming 2019 survey, which showed that more than 60% of the district’s lesbian, gay, and bisexual high schoolers felt sad or hopeless. Nearly 1 in 3 of those students said they had attempted suicide — twice the rate of their straight peers.

But after Republican state lawmakers passed a bill this March restricting lessons about gender identity and sexuality, Duval County gutted its LGBTQ guide. Officials released a draft in May that condensed the 37-page document into eight pages of an employee manual, and removed most references to transgender students.

“It was butchered,” said Nobles, who is president of Jacksonville’s PFLAG chapter. Now, as more school districts rush to comply with the new law, Nobles is convinced that student safeguards are in jeopardy.

“I’m terrified at the moment,” she said.

For LGBTQ kids, just stepping out into the world as your authentic self can be treacherous. Family members could shun you, classmates bully you, and bigots harass you or worse. Youth of color and transgender kids face added resistance. At the school Nobles’ youngest child attends, a trans boy was barred from the boys locker room and a trans girl was assaulted on campus.

Yet, instead of shielding such students, conservative lawmakers across the U.S. are trying to prohibit practices meant to make LGBTQ youth feel safe and supported at school.

Just this year, legislators have introduced more than 300 bills targeting LGBTQ Americans, with many seeking to limit transgender kids’ access to medical care, school bathrooms, and sports teams, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Other proposals would ban books that “normalize” LGBTQ “lifestyles,” restrict what students can learn about sexuality and racism, or require parental permission for kids to choose their pronouns or join LGBTQ clubs. Republicans say the restrictions restore parents’ authority and defend students from indoctrination.

On July 1, anti-LGBTQ laws affecting young people took effect in six states, including Florida.

Read the full piece here.

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