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Press Release

Honoring the Dead by Making Schools a Safe and Supportive Environment for Transgender Youth

November 19, 2010

Honoring the Dead by Making Schools a Safe and Supportive Environment for Transgender Youth

Los Angeles, Calif. -- The Rainbow Rights Project of the Learning Rights Law Center joins the people across the world in observing the Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20, 2010. All across the world individuals are participating in vigils to remember and honor each of the transgender people killed over the past year as a result of hatred, fear and bigotry. In this year, more than most in recent memory, it is especially poignant given the rash of LGBT teen suicides throughout the country.

"An essential element to ensuring that transgender people are no longer the targets of violent hate crimes is making our schools a safe and supportive environment that affirms transgender youth and models respect and appreciation for diversity to all students is," declares Learning Rights Law Center Executive Director Janeen Steel.

Transforming school environments into safe and supportive places for transgender students is one of the key goals of the Rainbow Rights Project at the Learning Rights Law Center ( Unfortunately, over this past year, the Rainbow Rights Project received calls from around the country because school districts were refusing to provide the most basic accommodations for the transgender students attending their schools, denying those students equal access to education and placing them at an unnecessarily high risk of being bullied and harassed. Those calls were coupled with stories and statistics detailing the hostile and unsafe environment transgender youth must face each day in order to obtain an education, a right protected in nearly every state constitution in the United States. The detrimental effects of those environments can significantly alter the life trajectory of a transgender student, often placing transgender students far from where they had hoped to be.

"When schools fail to appropriately accommodate the needs of transgender youth and do not respond effectively to incidents of harassment, the result is a class of students who believe that mistreating transgender people is acceptable," explained Asaf Orr, the staff attorney that directs the Rainbow Rights Project. Echoing that concern, Ms. Steel stated that "schools have a duty not only to educate their students in academic areas, but also to teach them the skills to become contributing members of society. By disregarding the needs of transgender students, schools are not performing that critical role." Mr. Orr added that "equally concerning is that the years of mistreatment experienced by transgender students often result in those students dropping out of school, ending up in the juvenile justice system, or not being academically, socially and emotionally prepared to pursue their career goals." "Consequently, we have a group of people in our society that is prevented from living up to their full potential simply because of who they are, repeating the same type of discrimination that plagued prior generations," concurred Ms. Steel.

On this very special day, the Rainbow Rights Project of the Learning Rights Law Center reiterates its commitment to representing transgender youth in education-related matters. The Rainbow Rights Project goal is simple -- to ensure that school districts affirm the transgender students in their district and take proactive measures to foster a safe and supportive environment that allows all students equal access to education. Through the Rainbow Rights Project's advocacy efforts, the project hopes to shift the next generation's attitude towards transgender people so that transgender people are accepted, affirmed and appreciated as an equal part of the diversity of humankind.

The Rainbow Rights Project provides representation to youth in education-related matters who are being denied their right to an education on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or that of their parents, whether it is actual or perceived. The Rainbow Rights Project is thankful to the Pride Law Fund, Columbia Public Interest Foundation, and Stanford Public Interest Foundation for their support in making this project a reality.

"The Transgender Day of Remembrance makes us pause as a nation, and look deep within to identify areas of society that still need improvement. In this coming year, we need to focus our attention and efforts on making schools a safe and affirming environment for transgender youth. Without those efforts, we will be ensuring that there will be transgender people to remember each year for the foreseeable future," concluded Mr. Orr.

For further information on the Rainbow Rights Project and the Learning Rights Law Center, please contact Janeen Steel at 213-489-4035.

More From This Resource Center

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This article was provided by Learning Rights Law Center.
See Also
What Is Happening to Our Children? Musings From Paul Kawata, Head of National Minority AIDS Council
In Wake of LGBT Suicides, GMHC Launches Anti-Homophobia Campaign, "I Love My Boo"
More on Transgender People and HIV/AIDS

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