Know Your Rights!
The United States Constitution, federal and state law all protect your rights in public school. Don't assume your teachers and principal always know what the law says—it is up to you to learn your rights and stand up for them.
To find out about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students' rights to free expression, privacy, equal protection, access to school facilities, and your right to form a gay-straight alliance, visit the ACLU LGBT Project's What's Your Problem? webpage. For more information about these and other rights for Texas students, download a copy of the ACLU of Texas Youth Rights Manual (check pages 33-34 for most LGBT issues).
If you think your public school has violated one of these rights, you can take action by filing a grievance. Be careful—many school districts have a strict deadline to file a grievance after your rights are violated, so check to be sure you meet it. Also, keep a copy of any grievance you file and any response you receive. If you need help filing your grievance, contact the Texas GSA Network.
You have a right to be safe from harassment at school. In Texas public schools, harassment can include threats to cause you harm or bodily injury, sexually intimidating conduct, damaging your property, physically confining or restraining you, or other malicious acts like name-calling that are severe enough to substantially harm your physical or emotional health or safety.
Texas law requires public schools to prohibit, and take steps to prevent, student harassment. Several federal courts have also said that when schools know a student is being harassed because he or she is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), that have to take action to stop the harassment. To learn more about your right to be safe from harassment, visit the ACLU LGBT Project's What's Your Problem? webpage, and ask your school for a copy of its specific anti-harassment policy (usually called Board Policy FFH).
If you have been harassed because of your gender identity or sexual orientation or because of what others think your gender identity or sexual orientation is, the first thing you should do is make sure you are safe. After that, you should report the harassment to your public school. Be careful—many school districts have a strict deadline to file a report after harassment occurs, so check to be sure you meet it. Also, keep a copy of any harassment report you file and any response you receive.
The ACLU of Texas is the state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union. It is a nonprofit organization that works in the Texas legislature, courts and communities to protect Texans' civil liberties—including LGBT students' rights to be free from discrimination and harassment—under the United States Constitution and federal and state law. For more information about the ACLU of Texas, visit www.aclutx.org.