SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Education has updated its anti-bullying policies to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer children.
A directive was issued by the board last week to every single school district in the state, expanding the discrimination policy. It also instructs districts to conduct trainings and to report bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“The State Board took an important step to recognize the dignity of LGBTQ students. This is the first time LGBTQ youth have been explicitly included within Utah law. We know this decision will save lives,” Equality Utah director Troy Williams told FOX 13.
In an emailed statement, Utah State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson said the policy change reflects legislative intent to expand bullying from a physical act to also include harassment.
“These clarifications in language and terminology will lead to improved reporting, more regular discussion and training designed to prevent bullying, and better policies in our schools,” she said. “Each student in Utah deserves to attend and learn in a setting free from bullying, harassment, hazing, and retaliation of any type or for any reason. We anticipate our schools will quickly adapt to be in compliance with the newly amended rule.”
Williams said the timing couldn’t be better with Utah’s youth suicide rate four times above the national average. He said LGBTQ children are at a higher risk of suicide than their straight counterparts, as well as children who experience bullying.
The policy change stems in part from a lawsuit Equality Utah and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed against Utah on behalf of three students. They challenged a state law that forbade any discussion in the classroom that could be construed as “promotion” of homosexuality.
The state and the LGBTQ rights groups settled the lawsuit last year, when the Utah State Legislature passed a bill repealing what activists had derisively nicknamed “No Promo Homo.” The law now prohibits advocacy of sex outside of marriage (be it same-sex or opposite gender marriage).