LGBT+ Rights on Campus

Students Have Rights, Protect Yourself

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LGBT+ Rights on Campus

Madeleine Fischer, Staff Writer

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For many LGBTQ students, understanding one’s rights can be essential to ensuring equal treatment and safety on campus. These rights, which activists have fought quite hard for over the last 20+ years, are applicable to all students, but provide specific protections to LGBTQ and ally students. These protections are enshrined in the California Education Code (CEC), which is essentially a code of conduct that California schools that receive federal funding (with some exceptions) must follow. Luckily for Edison students, the CEC is very much applicable on campus and at school events.


  1. The Right to a Discrimination- and Harassment-Free Environment:

As dictated in Education Code Sections 200-220, every student has the right to attend school without being discriminated against or harassed for their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. If you are being harassed or discriminated on campus by students, staff, volunteers, or parents, your school h -as a legal obligation to put an end to it. In order to ensure these protocols are followed, your school must have a nondiscrimination policy that is visible on campus, as well as a clear process for filing complaints. Uniform complaint forms, which are used to officially report discrimination and harassment, can be found in the counseling office in South Admin.


  1. The Right to Inclusive Sex Education:

Sections 51930-51939 of the CEC, which focus on sexual education, specifically state that you have a right to inclusive sex education. In particular, it means that your sexual education must not be biased against LGBTQ people, and must include information for LGBTQ students. Along with these LGBTQ-specific guidelines, the curriculum as a whole must encompass even more. The sexual education you receive must be medically accurate and include information on contraceptives and condoms. It must also provide information on HIV/AIDS and sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), and how to avoid them. Most importantly, you must not be required to get parent permission to take the class, and the sexual education should not be abstinence-centered.

Here at Edison, sexual education is taken during ninth grade biology, and it should correspond fairly well to the new standards. In past years, community organizations, notably Fresno Barrios Unidos, have helped in instructing sexual education.


  1. The Right to Access Confidential Medical Care:

According to Sections 46010.1-48205, students 12 and older have the ability to seek confidential medical services during school hours without parental consent. This means that Edison students have the ability to leave campus to obtain medical services, such as birth control, without the absence or appointment being reported to their parents. When leaving campus, you may want to visit the attendance office to ensure that they are aware you are leaving for a confidential medical appointment. While it is your right to have such appointments go unreported to your parents, a quick check-in with attendance to clarify the situation prior to leaving can help to avoid any mistakes.


  1. The Right to Privacy:

Under Sections 201-220, you also have the right to privacy on campus. This means that you cannot be “outed” as being LGBTQ to anyone, including your parents. Even if you are “out” at school but not at home, this protection can apply to you. There is, however, a gray area present in this protection. As long as you can reasonably expect that your parents will not find out, you have the right to privacy; if, however, the case can be made that your parents could find out on their own (such as through social media), then that protection may no longer be fully applicable.

Here at Edison, the GSA works to protect the privacy of students by having an opt-in roster. Since club memberships can be accessed on ATLAS by parents and guardians, attendees of the club must agree to have their names displayed and listed on the membership roster.


  1. The Right to Express Yourself:

Within the CEC, Section 48907 specifically grants students the right to express themselves through their writing, speaking, and manner of dress. For LGBTQ students, this means that you are allowed to discuss LGBTQ issues and topics in school and during class; for example, you are allowed to do a class project on an LGBTQ topic, as long as it meets the criteria for the assignment. Additionally, you are allowed to be vocal about LGBTQ issues through clothing (if clothing that expresses beliefs or political opinions is allowed) and other means, such as printed publications; this means you are allowed to wear a shirt that reads, for example, #lgbtirl, and print stories in the school newspaper like this one.

There are, however, some exceptions to the freedom of expression. If speech disrupts class time, encourages students to break school rules, is obscene, or is a hurtful lie about someone, it is not allowed. Generally speaking, as long as you are following the rules and treating those around you politely, you are able to address LGBTQ issues on campus.


Of course, this is merely an overview of some of the more basic but important rights that LGBTQ students possess on campus at a statewide level. All students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, should familiarize themselves with the protections that they have at school, and work to advocate personally for the changes they want to see.