New York, NY – GLSEN, a leading education organization working on LGBTQ issues in K-12 schools, has just released a research brief examining the impacts and implications of laws that prohibit the positive portrayal of homosexuality in schools. Often referred to as “no promo homo” (NPH) laws because they ban any “promotion of homosexuality.”
In some states throughout the country, educators are barred from portraying LGBTQ people in a positive light while others go as far as forbidding educators from discussing factual and potentially life-saving LGBTQ health-related information. Currently, these laws affect approximately 9 million public school students.
“The no promo homo legislation that regulates discussions on LGBTQ issues in my state fails to address the specific health-related information that LGBTQ students like myself need to make smart decisions around our health,” said Em Gentry (17, a high school senior from Austin, TX).
The research brief, Laws that Prohibit the “Promotion of Homosexuality”: Impacts and Implications, is an in-depth look at the potential effects of NPH laws across the seven states where these laws are currently in place: Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. Utah also had a NPH law until mid-2017 when it was repealed but is still included in the research. Although these current laws only explicitly apply to health education, their influence may spill over into other areas of instruction, as well as influence school policies and practices.
“So-called ‘No Promo Homo’ laws have a deeply disturbing and chilling effect. However, narrow the actual scope of the laws, teachers in states that have them are less likely to allow vital LGBTQ-related content in their classrooms, no matter the topic. At a time when LGBTQ youth are under direct attack, we can’t afford to deny LGBTQ youth access to potentially life-saving information, nor allow LGBTQ people, history, and events to be erased from the curriculum.” said Eliza Byard, Executive Director for GLSEN
“Many teachers in these states do however find ways to provide their students an LGBTQ-inclusive view of the world, despite the pressure. And GLSEN is here to help and support them,” concluded Byard.
The brief examines these laws in relation to school climate for LGBTQ students using national data from three sources: GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey, a biennial survey of LGBTQ students in secondary schools; GLSEN’s From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited, a survey of U.S. secondary school students and teachers; and a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) School Health Policies and Practices Study.
Findings in this new research brief illustrate that:
- LGBTQ youth attending school in states with “no promo homo” laws face a more hostile school climate than other LGBTQ students.
- Teachers in “no promo homo” states are less likely to incorporate LGBTQ topics into the curriculum and less likely to engage in other activities supportive of LGBTQ students.
- LGBTQ students from “no promo homo” states are less likely to feel supported by the educators in their schools and are less likely to report attending schools with supportive anti-bullying policies.
- LGBTQ students in “no promo homo” states had less access to supportive student clubs, such as Gay-Straight Alliances also known as Gender & Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) and have less access to relevant health resources in school.
Additional analyses revealed that even when accounting for differences in demographics, school characteristics, region, state education spending, and political attitudes, LGBTQ students in states with “no promo homo” laws were more likely than LGBTQ students in other states to have less access to LGBTQ-supportive resources.
“We asked ourselves could these results be based on the makeup of the students or teachers in our research, the region of the country of the school, how much the state spends on education, or just that people in these states have more conservative political attitudes? Even when accounting for these factors, schools in states with “no promo homo” laws were less likely to have access to the critical resources and supports that are crucial to LGBTQ students’ educational success and well-being.” -Emily Greytak, Director of Research for GLSEN
GLSEN’s findings suggest that although NPH laws are specific to health education, they have more far-reaching effects. NPH laws are, by design, restrictions on educators who are trying to take common-sense measures to improve the educational experience of LGBTQ students. Intentionally or unintentionally, teachers of any subject may interpret these laws more broadly, and take them as a direction, or even as a license to exclude LGBTQ topics or discriminate against LGBTQ students.
Fortunately, much can be done to reduce the barriers imposed by these laws and to improve school climate for LGBTQ youth in all states. Young people in NPH states can work with their local elected officials to repeal these laws or educate school faculty of the limited scope of NPH laws.
To learn more about “no promo homo” laws and what you can do to mitigate the potential harm they cause visit http://www.glsen.org/nopromo.
GLSEN creates safe and inclusive schools for all. We envision a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or expression. Each year, GLSEN programs and resources reach millions of students and educators in K-12 schools across the United States, and our network of 40 community-led chapters in 27 states brings GLSEN’s expertise to local communities. GLSEN’s progress and impact have won support for inclusive schools at all levels of education in the United States and sparked an international movement to ensure equality for LGBTQ students and respect for all in schools. For more information on GLSEN’s policy advocacy, student leadership initiatives, public education, research, and educator training programs, please visit www.glsen.org.