New research on the impacts and implications of ‘no promo homo’ laws

GLSEN recently released a research brief on the dangerous effects of “no promo homo” laws in United States public schools. As of January 2018, there are seven states with similar laws: Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. Utah also had a “no promo homo” law until mid-2017 when it was repealed. However, Utah is included in the brief because the law was in effect during the time the data discussed were collected. The data acquired shows these laws affect almost 10 million public students (including nearly 600 thousand Utah students, before its repeal).

Among these laws, some simply stipulate a restriction of any representation of homosexuality, and some actively stipulate a restriction on positive representations, meaning that one could teach about homosexuality but only in a negative manner. While these laws do not necessarily preclude educators from portraying transgender people and issues in school, educators who are prohibited from presenting homosexuality in a positive light may believe these prohibitions apply to transgender people and issues as well. Thus, “no promo homo” laws may also stigmatize transgender individuals and restrict transgender youth from learning about themselves and their communities in school.

The great brief includes several specific areas of harm to LGBTQ students, including less access to relevant health resources in schools, students are less likely to report attending schools with supportive anti-bullying policies, and they are less likely to feel supported by the educators in their schools.

The GLSEN brief, in part, concludes with: “The findings from this brief underscore the barriers to developing safe and more affirming educational environments for LGBTQ students who attend school in states that have enacted “no promo homo” laws. However, it is also worth noting that even in these states, where it is conceivable that students would not receive any affirming instruction about LGBTQ people or topics, some students report at least some LGBTQ inclusion in their curriculum and some teachers who found ways to include LGBTQ topics. Perhaps some teachers simply better understand the specific reach of these laws (e.g., in some cases only applying to sex education), while others are interpreting it more broadly than required. Regardless, it is clear that some educators are finding ways to teach inclusively and support LGBTQ students even in the face of these laws, and future work should explore these strategies in more depth and share them with teachers in similar circumstances.”

For the full GLSEN report: research brief


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