LGBT youth in Central Missouri face a unique set of challenges, from discrimination and intolerance in school settings to a lack of support from family and friends. Despite significant advances in LGBT rights in recent years, many schools in the United States continue to be hostile environments for LGBT students. This report focuses on four major issues that LGBT people continue to experience in school settings across the United States: discrimination, intolerance, lack of support, negative messages, and silence surrounding LGBT issues. In Central Missouri, an additional 8% of the state population is protected against discrimination based on gender identity in private employment, housing or public accommodations.
However, as testimonies from LGBT students, teachers and administrators show, discrimination and intolerance against LGBT people in school settings can be subtle or overt. In some cases, widespread anxiety about indoctrination and recruitment in schools has driven state and local initiatives, some of which have been successful in limiting what teachers can say about LGBT issues in classrooms. In other cases, students distributed unflattering photos or videos online to misunderstand, mock and embarrass their LGBT peers. The lack of support for LGBT youth can be particularly difficult. Many students struggle to make sense of their identity, lack the support of family and friends, and receive negative messages about LGBT people at school and in their community.
In the absence of clear evidence that counselors were accepting and including LGBT youth, many students were reluctant to use them as a resource. Government institutions and school administrators must ensure that LGBT youth are safe from violence and harassment by teachers, staff, and classmates in school settings. While they may not completely alleviate fears of retaliation or adverse work action, protections for LGBT teachers or support for LGBT students may provide some teachers and administrators with necessary peace of mind. Advocates have successfully fought to include sexual orientation and gender identity in federal hate crime legislation, repeal the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy that prohibited LGBT people from serving in the U. S.
military, and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment by the federal government and its contractors and subcontractors. Some centers raise awareness about issues related to social justice and LGBT people with events such as the National Day of the Expulsion from the Closet or the Day of Silence, an annual event in which students do not speak during a school day to highlight how harassment silences LGBT young people. The silence surrounding LGBT issues in schools not only sends students the message that their identity is inappropriate but also leaves them ill-prepared to address issues that schools prepare for their heterosexual and cisgender peers. To ensure that all students are safe from violence and harassment at school, government institutions and school administrators must take concrete steps to respect and protect the rights of LGBT youth. This includes providing protections for LGBT teachers or support for LGBT students as well as ensuring that counselors are accepting and including LGBT youth.