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Racial Justice, LGBT Groups Urge Collaboration on School Discipline Issues

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Calls to improve school discipline have become a powerful cause for both groups that deal with racial equity and groups that deal with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender student issues. But if those two groups further collaborated in their efforts, students, particularly LGBT students of color, would benefit, a new report says.

racelgbt.JPGThe report—released Monday by the Advancement Project, the Gay Straight Alliance Network, and the Equality Federation—is designed to foster collaboration between the groups to help drive down school discipline disparites on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersections of any of those classifications.

"Because of the school-to-prison pipeline's unique effects on students of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students, and especially LGBTQ students of color, the issue has provided an opportunity for powerful intersectional work among the racial justice community and the LGBTQ community," the report says. "And while we have made a lot of progress by harnessing our joint power, we would like to—and desperately need to—build even more. This is essential if we are going to win."

The report includes stories from students of color who identify as LGBT or consider themselves allies, examples of successful programs that address the needs of LGBT youth of color, and a list of helpful vocabulary for students to understand issues of race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. It also links to a game in which players take on the role of students with unique identities and backgrounds to understand their experiences in schools.

"Because many of our organizations have taken narrow views of what 'our' issues are, many movement leaders and people in our communities are unfamiliar with the broader range of issues affecting our communities," the report says. "Sometimes we think too narrowly about our work as being 'anti-racism' or 'anti-LGBTQ discrimination,' rather than more broadly as 'anti-oppression.' "

It is well-documented that black students face disproportionately high levels of discipline in public schools. While black students represented 16 percent of overall enrollment in the 2011-12 school year, they represented 33 percent of students suspended out of school, and 34 percent of students who were expelled, according to the most recent federal data.

There are fewer consistent forms of federal data that track discipline issues for LGBT students. But in surveys by organizations like GLSEN, LGBT students report high rates of discipline. Researchers have also found that LGBT and gender-nonconforming students feel like they are targeted by teachers and that their concerns of bullying and peer victimization aren't taken seriously.

Image taken from the report.


Further reading on students of color and LGBT students:

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