Thursday, May 30, 2013

School’s Out – But You Still Have Rights!

Congratulations students on finishing up another school year!

The year may be winding down, but GLAD still wants you to know your rights.

Below is a summary of some of the more important rights you need to know. But remember, you can always contact GLAD’s Legal InfoLine with any questions, and you can check out our detailed information for each New England state.

·       Graduation
o   Your school has the right to set some limits on what is appropriate dress at graduation, but within those limits you are allowed to dress in a way that fits with your gender identity. So, if the girls wear white robes and the boys wear blue robes, you are free to choose the color robe that fits your gender identity.  Raise the issue with school officials in advance so you can enjoy your ceremony.

·   School Bullying
o   You have a right to be safe at school. If you are experiencing bullying at school and your school is not responding, contact us – we can help!
o   All six New England states have strong anti-bullying laws that require the staff of public schools to report bullying, the administration to investigate bullying and then to take appropriate action. 
o   If you are being bullied, get a copy of your school’s anti-bullying policy and make a report to the person designated in your school’s policy - try making the report via email, so that you can prove that you made it.
o   In Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont, some private school students are also covered by the state’s anti-bullying laws.

·       School Proms, Homecoming and Other Dances
o   You have a right to bring a same-sex date to your school prom or another school dance.
o   You should be subject to the same rules that apply to bringing a different-sex date. For instance, if parental permission is not needed to bring a different-sex date, it shouldn’t be needed to bring a same-sex date.
o   Your school has the right to set some limits on what is appropriate dress at a dance, but within those limits you are allowed to dress in a way that fits with your gender identity.
o   Remember, school dances are for all students to enjoy! Check out this great story about a Middleborough, MA High School crowning its first transgender prom queen!
·       Work
o   Graduating and have or looking for a new job?  Congratulations! Or are you working a summer job between school years? When you are working or applying for a job in New England, you are protected from discrimination and harassment based on your sexual orientation.  Plus, in every state except New Hampshire, you have explicit protection against discrimination and harassment based on your gender identity.
o   But even in New Hampshire if you are discriminated against because of your gender identity there may be a way to get protection under a different characteristic like sex, sexual orientation or disability.
o   Don’t assume you aren’t protected – contact us if you have any questions.

·   HIV Privacy and Testing
o   Knowing your HIV status can be a powerful way to take care of your health. There are federal and state laws to help you keep your medical information private, and to protect you from discrimination if you are HIV positive. See our detailed information about HIV-related laws in New England. or contact us if you have specific questions.
o   In every New England state, you have the right to be tested for HIV without needing your parents’ permission. In some states, the doctor may report the testing results to your parents, so it is always a good idea to have a discussion with your doctor about your privacy rights before testing.

·     Hanging Out
o   In the warm weather, you may want to hang out with your friends at a park or on a public street corner. As long as it is a public place, and not someone’s private property, and you are not preventing others from being able to access the park, sidewalk, etc., then you have the same right as anyone else to be there.

·    Looking Ahead to Fall
o   We know that it’s not even summer yet, and the last thing you probably want to think about is another school year, but here are some things to consider for next fall:
§  Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) can make a big difference in how safe LGBTQ students feel at school. Does your school have a GSA?  If your school is public or receives federal funding and has at least one non-curricular student club, then it must allow you to have a GSA if you want one. So talk to your friends this summer about forming one or, if your school has one, about ways to strengthen it.
§  Get a copy of GLAD’s “Want to Know Your Rights as an LGBTQ Student?” brochure for your state and refer to it if you think that your rights are being violated.

And if you do feel that any of your rights are being violated, contact GLAD’s Legal InfoLine at or 800-455-GLAD (4523). 

We want to make sure you know your rights and the steps you can take if they are not being respected.  

Have a great summer!

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