All students need a safe, supportive atmosphere in which they can learn, including students that are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Unfortunately, bullying, harassment, and discrimination against LGBT students occurs often in our schools. As these students face verbal and physical harassment; educators, policy makers, parents, and other students are hampered by the lack of quality information and resources to protect LGBT students.
However, over the past several years, Iowa has made significant progress in helping create safer schools for LGBT students. Iowa became the 10th state in the nation to pass a comprehensive Safe Schools Law that protects ALL students in 2007. Including the Safe Schools Law was the extension of the Civil Rights law which protects LGBT school staff members from discrimination. Governor Culver, Lt. Governor Judge, and legislative leaders all made historic passage of these laws a reality.
Safe Schools Law
The fight for the Safe Schools Law was not an easy battle. Iowa Safe Schools worked for five years hosting community forums across the state and talking to leaders one on one about the importance of protecting all students. These forums led to movements in many Iowa communities to pass protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
After years lobbying in the Iowa Legislature to pass this important bill, Governor Culver and Lt. Governor Judge made it a priority in their first two months in office to pass. With their help and that of floor managers State Representative Roger Wendt and State Senator Mike Connolly – the Safe Schools Law became a reality. The bipartisan vote on SF 61 made protecting students in schools not only an ethical, professional, and moral obligation – but a legal one.
But, work remains to be done to protect all students from bullying, harassment, and discrimination. Laws are only good if enforcement and education follows.