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NEA News

Educators Mobilize Against Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws

A wave of legislation is targeting LGBTQ+ students and educators, but in many places across the country, educator unions are chipping away at these damaging proposals.
Published: October 28, 2022

Key Takeaways

  1. NEA supports the LGBTQ+ community and is committed to helping educators create safe and inclusive classrooms for all students.
  2. Educators and their unions are mobilizing and contacting decision makers i their states to demand an end to anti-LGBTQ legislation.

NEA has a long history of fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, from providing educators the tools to create safe and welcoming schools for their students to protecting educators’ right to love, marry, and raise a family with the partner of their choosing.

Over the years, major progress has been made, but certain politicians today continue to stoke fear and sow division among school communities. Far too many have succeeded in passing laws that restrict health care for transgender youth and force transgender students to use the bathroom that “aligns with their biological gender.”

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis passed a law that prohibits discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in K–3 classroom instruction, even though these topics are not part of the state standards for these grades.

“Our legislature has made a disastrous choice,” says Michael Woods, a special education teacher in Palm Beach County, Florida. “My fear is that we won’t know how horribly damaging this is going to be to young people until years later.”

LGBTQ+ kids are three times more likely to die by suicide, according to The Trevor Project’s latest report.

“Unless kids feel safe, what I teach or talk to them about won’t matter. And if we’re not creating safe spaces for kids as the No. 1 priority, then what are we doing as teachers?”

Woods says he will continue to ensure every student can attend school with full confidence that they will be welcomed as they are.

NEA Stands With Pride

These ongoing assaults are not only being felt by educators; students are feeling them, too.

Before the 2021 – 2022 school year ended, students across Florida and in other states staged walkouts to protest the recent wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

NEA and its affiliates stood with them, strongly opposing these laws. In a show of solidarity, NEA President Becky Pringle wrote an open letter to Florida students, published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

“From protests to walkouts, you are bravely showing these politicians that you aren’t afraid to stand up for yourselves,” she wrote. “To our students in Florida and elsewhere: We see you! We hear you! We are with you!”

Safe Schools For Everyone

Educators and their unions know that inclusive curricula and pedagogical approaches are vital for LGBTQ+ students. When young people see themselves reflected in their learning, this helps to validate their existence and experience—boosting their self-confidence along the way.

It is for these reasons and more that NEA is committed to providing every educator with the LGBTQ+ resources needed to create safe and welcoming schools for all students.

Educators Stand Against Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation

Florida’s governor is not alone in passing anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Over the last 10 years, other politicians have increasingly turned to anti-transgender rhetoric, “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, and racist tropes to stir fear and consolidate power. In 2022, these politicians have introduced more than 250 anti-LGBTQ+ bills into state legislatures. But in many places across the country, educator unions are starting to chip away at these damaging proposals:

 Outed: LGBTQ+ Kids

In Arizona, a house bill would have required educators and school staff to out LGBTQ+ students to their parents. After public outcry—including from the Arizona Education Association, which mobilized its members to contact their legislators—the language was removed from the bill.

Minnesota’s GOP-led Senate tried to move a similar bill that would ban schools from withholding any information about a child’s health, well-being, and education from parents—leading to the forced outing of LGBTQ+ students to their families. With strong opposition from the state’s NEA-affiliate, Education Minnesota, the bill never passed.

Erased: LGBTQ+ References

At the time of reporting, the Colorado Department of Education was considering the removal of LGBTQ+ references in K–3 social studies standards. Samuel Long, a Denver high school teacher and Colorado Education Association member, is pushing for LGBTQ+ inclusion. Long serves on a governor-appointed task force that will recommend ways to make the state’s social studies standards more inclusive.

Sam Long
Sam Long

“If these references are removed, it will be a loss for students, even at lower elementary grade levels,” Long says. “When someone doesn’t learn about LGBTQ topics in school, they’re not going to think of this community as a common, expected, part of society—and this goes on to form their ideas of what’s socially acceptable.”

Mimicked: ‘Don't Say Gay’ Laws

In New Hampshire, a bill modeled after Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law came to a screeching halt when Gov. Chris Sununu threatened a veto. NEA-New Hampshire was one of the strongest and most adamant voices against the bill.

Skyrocketed: Transgender Sports Bans

Since 2020, 18 states have passed laws to ban transgender athletes from playing sports­. But in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Kansas, educators and their unions succeeded in stopping this kind of legislation.

“When someone doesn’t learn about LGBTQ topics in school, they’re not going to think of this community as a common, expected part of society—and this goes on to form their ideas of what’s socially acceptable.” 

—Sam Long, science teacher, Denver

While the nation continues to confront the attacks on the LGBTQ+ community, one thing remains clear: LGBTQ+ advocates, including educators and their NEA-affiliated unions, will continue to work together to ensure all students have a safe, welcoming, and equitable education.

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National Education Association

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The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.