NCLR eliminates remnants of LGBTQ censorship rule in Utah schools
NCLR settles federal case challenging Utah ban on supportive speech about LGBTQ community in public and charter schools
(SALT LAKE CITY, October 6, 2017)—The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) settled Equality Utah v. Utah State Board of Education, the first federal lawsuit challenging state bans on supportive speech about LGBTQ people in public school classrooms and student clubs. Earlier this year, as a direct result of NCLR’s lawsuit representing Equality Utah and several individual students, the Utah legislature repealed these harmful and stigmatizing laws. This settlement addressed claims brought by NCLR on behalf of a gender nonconforming kindergarten plaintiff who experienced severe verbal and physical harassment resulting from the hostile climate created by these policies and eliminated all remaining state administrative rules reflecting these policies.
“Laws that censor supportive speech about LGBTQ people in schools create a toxic culture of silence and shame for LGBTQ students and make it much more likely that they will be ostracized and bullied,” said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter. “Schools should be a place where young people feel safe and supported, not made to feel their very existence is too shameful and stigmatized to be acknowledged.”
The State Board of Education announced that under the new rules, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not permitted in Utah public schools. Additionally, part of this settlement required the creation and implementation of a safety plan to protect the student plaintiff targeted by anti-LGBTQ harassment.
“This settlement is a historic victory for LGBTQ students and teachers, and for everyone learning and working in Utah’s public schools,” said Equality Utah Advisory Council Member Clifford Rosky. “Under the Board of Education’s new policy, bullying and discrimination have no place in our state’s public schools. As the Board has now clarified, every student in Utah public schools is entitled to an education free from all manner of bullying or discrimination based religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”
In addition to NCLR, plaintiffs in Equality Utah v. Utah State Board of Education are represented by lawyers from Ropes & Gray LLP, including partner Douglas Hallward-Driemeier who argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2015 marriage equality case Obergefell v. Hodges.
“This settlement ensures that every student in Utah has equal worth, and that the state has no right to censor the important conversations that take place in its schools,” said Ropes & Gray Partner Douglas Hallward-Driemeier. “The Utah State Legislature and Board of Education have made it clear that all manner of discrimination targeting Utah students is unacceptable, and this is an encouraging, positive outcome.”
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. www.NCLRights.org