by Justin Tanis | Reports of anti-LGBT bullying of students are on the rise and so too, fortunately, are responses to it. The US Department of Education, the Department of Justice and the White House have all taken steps to address the issue, offering resources and convening experts. Bullying of LGBT youth was certainly the case when I was a student many years ago and I think it would be hard to say whether or not the number of bullying incidents has gone up or just society’s willingness to listen. But the increased attention on the problem is certainly a step forward.
I believe that protecting our young people and educating all students about the positive contributions of LGBT people is vital to our efforts for workplace equality. When LGBT students can stay in school, in an environment that is safe for them to learn, their chances of success in life are so much greater. When they get the education they need to go on to college, they have access to the tools that will help them be the next generation of leaders. We need to protect the kids who will one day take our place in the movement for equality.
And education expands people’s minds. I am very proud of California for passing the FAIR Education Act, a law that requires schools to teach about the contributions that LGBT people have made to the history of our state and our world. When our students—LGBT and straight—learn about our lives and the positive impact made by people like Harvey Milk, Bayard Rustin, Gertrude Stein and so many more, they gain a new way to see the world. They can recognize that all people can make a difference.
And when education helps students see LGBT people as human—as people making a contribution to our society— those students learn to value diversity. That means that when those young people start their first jobs, they come already excited about the possibilities of a diverse workforce, ready to respect their co-workers. And that makes all of our work that much easier.
If you are a California resident, click if you want to learn more about the campaign to Protect the FAIR Education Act.