Queer Dynamics: The Policies and Politics of LGBT-Inclusive Anti-Bullying Laws
Smith, Nathan H.
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Elementary and secondary students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) face hostile school climates in America’s public schools because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Existing research has found that these students are often the targets of bullying and harassment, consequently impacting their academic performance and social development. While there is no simple solution to eradicate bullying and harassment completely, policymakers have a significant role to play in addressing the issue. This research explores the policies and politics of addressing anti-LGBT bullying and harassment through public policy. Which components of anti-bullying laws are most effective in attending to the needs of LGBT youth? What are the political boons and barriers to passing such policies through state legislatures? Is the issue best addressed on the state or the federal level? What is the outlook for passing an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying law through Congress? This research answers these questions using comparative analysis, interviews with legislators, and case studies. It concludes that there are several components of anti-bullying laws that are especially important to ensuring that LGBT youth are protected – notably an enumerated policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. To pass such laws, legislators must contend with three political obstacles: public opinion, interest group pressure, and legislature dynamics. Finally, passage of inclusive federal legislation is essential to ensure that LGBT youth are protected nationwide, though such legislation faces significant barriers the current political climate. The title of this work, Queer Dynamics, serves as a play on words. First, many LGBT youth today identify as ‘queer’ instead of more commonly used terms such as ‘lesbian’ or ‘gay’. Long seen as pejorative, their use of the word has effectively reclaimed ‘queer’ as a valid sexual and/or gender identity. Second, the title refers to the unique political dynamics, discussed at length in this work, which must be carefully navigated when crafting policy at the intersection of education and LGBT issues in the United States.