The Right to Be Out: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in America's Public Schools

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Despite significant advances for gay and transgender persons in the United States, the public school environment remains daunting, even frightening, as evidenced by numerous high-profile incidents of discrimination, bullying, violence, and suicide. Yet efforts to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and educators, or to enhance curricula to better reflect the experience of differing sexual orientations and gender identities, are bitterly opposed in the courtroom, at the ballot box, and especially in the schools themselves.

The Right to Be Out begins with a cogent history and analysis of the dramatic legal developments concerning the rights of LGBT persons since 1968. Stuart Biegel then turns to what K-12 schools should do-and in many cases have already done-to implement right-to-be-out policies. He examines recent legal and public policy changes that affect LGBT students and educators in the K-12 public school system.


Underlying all of these issues, he shows, is an implicit tension about the right to be out, a right that is seen as fundamental within LGBT communities today and, legally, draws on both the First Amendment right to express an identity and the Fourteenth Amendment right to be treated equally. Biegel addresses the implications of asserting and protecting this right within the hotly contested terrain of America's public schools.

This book is a valuable resource for K-12 school administrators, parents, teacher organizations, mental health professionals and school counselors, LGBT advocacy groups, and the legal community. A safe and supportive educational environment for all students is possible, Biegel concludes, if built on shared values and a belief in the strength of our pluralistic society.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"With The Right to Be Out, Stuart Biegel has presented a thorough, timely, and relevant contribution to the education community on a topic that transcends politics or geography and truly impacts every classroom in the nation. Educators of all backgrounds will find Biegel’s compelling and empathic call for inclusion and self-determination both enlightening and instructive." —John Wilson, Executive Director, National Education Association

"Biegel breaks new ground in framing the right to be out as a nexus between civil rights and civil liberties; an invaluable analysis of law and educational policy for anyone who might dare to envision a school—or a society—that is truly safe, free and fair for every member of the community." —Anthony Romero, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union

"An indispensible resource for educators, public school administrators, and other professionals involved with legal and administrative issues in K-12 education. School counselors and parents of LGBT youth will also find valuable information and resources." —Library Journal

Library Journal
The structure of this detailed exploration of LGBT students' and educators' legal rights to be open about their sexual orientation and gender identity in the public school environment reflects Biegel's faculty role at both the UCLA School of Law and Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. He offers an overview of relevant case law as well as thorough discussions of the current legal environment, the right to be out in the contexts of both the First Amendment right to expression and the Fourteenth Amendment right to equal treatment, and the tensions between the law and the realities of the classroom. In the second part, he examines the public policy implications that arise from these laws. Biegel discusses curricula, pedagogy, sports, and the special challenges faced by transgender youth. While the book is compelling and empathetic, it is more appropriate for school professionals, legal practitioners, and mental health professionals than general readers. VERDICT An indispensible resource for educators, public school administrators, and other professionals involved with legal and administrative issues in K-12 education. School counselors and parents of LBGT youth will also find valuable information and resources.—Rachel Bridgewater, Reed Coll. Lib., Portland, OR
School Library Journal
Biegel's book is divided into two parts. "The Law" lays out the legal background of and challenges for LGBT students and educators through case studies and discussion of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The author concludes this section with an analysis of cases concerning curriculum, religion, and values in K-12 schools with regard to LGBT issues. The second and more readable section for the layperson, "Public Policy," focuses on changing school climate (bullying, religious intolerance, etc.) by altering classroom curriculum and pedagogy. The final two chapters spotlight particularly difficult issues in education: LGBT students in sports and transgender youth. The chapter on sports is particularly weak, not giving any new practical advice and dealing mostly with stories about professional "out" athletes. Although there is not much new material in the chapters regarding implementation of public policy, the book does assemble and explain the important LGBT cases, and together with its extensive notes (65 pages) it can serve as a manual for school administrators, counselors, or researchers.—Betty S. Evans, Missouri State University, Springfield
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816674572
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 9/27/2010
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,283,146
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Stuart Biegel is a member of both the law and education faculties at UCLA. He is the author of Beyond Our Control? Confronting the Limits of Our Legal System in the Age of Cyberspace and Education and the Law. He has also served as director of teacher education and special counsel for the California Department of Education.

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Table of Contents

Contents Preface Acknowledgments Introduction Part I. The Law: The Emergence of the Right to Be Out
1. The Legal Foundations of the Right to Be Out
2. Emerging Rights of LGBT Students: The Impact of Litigation and Legislation
3. Challenges for LGBT Educators: The Tension between Rights on Paper and the Realities of the Classroom
4. Curriculum, Religion, Morality, and Values Part II. Public Policy: Implementing the Right to Be Out
5. Addressing School Climate: Goals and Best Practices
6. Creating Change in the Classroom: Curriculum, Pedagogy, and LGBT Content
7. The Culture of School Sports: From Physical Education to Interscholastic Athletics
8. Confronting the Challenges Faced by Transgender Youth Conclusion Notes Index

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