By Amanda Menas
Nearly half of all LGBTQ+ students live in states where they are not protected from discrimination or bullying. They could turn to federal legislation, but with a secretary of education who has time and time again turned her back on them, stripped their Title IX protections, and refused to discuss the high rates of suicide among transgender students, where can they go?
Regardless of how the Department of Education and Secretary Betsy DeVos are failing to enforce protections, LGBTQ+ students to have legal rights under Title IX and deserve a safe learning environment.
The Center for American Progress researched the changes that have resulted from DeVos’ policies.
Complaints or discrimination and harassment against LGBTQ+ students today are nine times less likely to result in any corrective action by the schools. While under the Obama Administration investigations into complaints where still low, changes to Title IX legislation have decreased the likelihood that victims will come forward or that schools will be held accountable. NEA President Lily Eskelsen García says Secretary DeVos’ changes “deny schools the flexibility and incentives to prevent and address harassment early in age-appropriate ways.”
Today, complaints are more likely to be dismissed. Under the Trump Administration, 91.5 percent of complaints were closed or dismissed as compared to 65.4 percent prior to 2016. With transgender and gender non-conforming students already avoiding sex-segregated areas of campuses, the changes Secretary DeVos has made are simply failing to protect our students. Educators are in a unique position to interrupt abusive behaviors or discrimination against students based on their sex or gender identity but are hindered from acting when cases are closed too soon.
DeVos’s changes to Title IX protections have a chilling effect on students’ interests in filing complaints, which are already underreported, and harms the capacity of those students to have a healthy learning environment. Only 1.8 percent of students who file complaints today see any action. Prior to 2016, 15.6 percent of students could expect a change to occur if they sought to report harassment or discrimination.
After years of improvements to levels of acceptance of LGBTQ+ students by their peers, schools are now seeing fewer positive changes to their learning environments. Between 2015 and 2017, the National School Climate Survey reported that schools are becoming more hostile against LGBTQ+ youth. Moving forward, bills like the Equality Act will ensure our transgender students have access to their preferred restrooms, as well as protections for the civil rights of all LGBTQ+ students.