Students are taking the US state of South Carolina to court over its ban on proper same-sex relationships education.
LGBT+ advocates and young people from the state have today filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s anti-LGBT+ curriculum.
The South Carolina statute bans public school health education from discussing same-sex relationships, except in the context of sexually transmitted diseases.
The students, activists and their lawyers say this violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. That’s because it discriminates against students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer.
‘We want to feel safe, respected and equal’
The law singles out LGBT+ students for negative treatment which heterosexual young people do not face.
It also threatens any teacher who violates it with dismissal.
Indeed, South Carolina’s own attorney general has recently issued an opinion that a court would likely find the law unconstitutional.
Eli Bundy, a 10th grader is the president of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance. The GSA is an organization of high school students, at a school in the Charleston County School District.
Bundy says: ‘LGBTQ kids at our school – and every school in South Carolina – just want to feel safe, respected, and equal to other students in the classroom.
‘This discriminatory law treats LGBTQ students like we are outsiders in our own community, and that we aren’t equal to our peers. School should be a safe place for all students to be treated fairly and equally.’
‘Hostile school climate’
And Julie Wilensky, senior staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights adds the statute sends the wrong message.
She said: ‘The state law sends a message to students that “homosexual relationships” are so shameful or dangerous that they can only be discussed in a negative context.
‘This contributes to a hostile school climate in a state. Nearly 90% of LGBTQ middle and high school students regularly hear homophobic remarks from other students.’
Moreover, the same survey Wilensky refers to, shows South Carolina schools are not safe for most LGBTQ students.
The 2017 GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey surveyed LGBTQ middle and high school students. It found 76% experienced verbal harassment, 34% physical harassment, and 14% suffered physical assaults due to their sexual orientation.
The campaigners filed the federal lawsuit in Charleston, South Carolina today.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal, along with private counsel Womble Bond Dickinson, Brazil & Burke, and law professor Clifford Rosky, filed the suit.
But they were also acting for the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, Campaign for Southern Equality and South Carolina Equality Coalition. The organizations have student members in the state.
The lawsuit is the latest constitutional challenge to anti-LGBTQ curriculum laws, which still remain in a handful of states.
Similar challenges have seen Arizona repeal its statute in 2019 and Utah in 2017.
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Author: Tris Reid-Smith