YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EXPRESS YOURSELF
Don’t let anybody try and silence you regarding your opinions about LGBTQ+ issues or stop you from expressing who you are! If you go to a public school or a charter school in Delaware (private schools may have stricter or more specific rules), you have a constitutional right to express your views and identity We often refer to this as “Freedom of Speech,” but this isn’t just about what you say, it also has to do with how you present yourself to the world, such as what you wear and how you act. For example, as long as you’re following your school’s dress code, nobody can tell you that you can’t wear a pride flag T-shirt. Nobody has the right to tell you to act or speak more “masculine” or “feminine.”
Expression isn’t just about ideas. You also have the right to express your gender, and it is not okay for your peers or teachers to treat you differently because of your identity. No matter what sex you were assigned at birth, you have the right to:
- wear clothes that match your gender;
- be called by the name and pronouns that you specify;
- use the restroom and locker room that match your gender; and,
- play on the sports team that matches your gender.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO START A GROUP OR CLUB
Remember that your “Freedom of Assembly'' applies at school. Federal law requires public high schools that allow any kind of non-curricular clubs, to allow clubs that are focused on LGBTQ+ issues and ideas, and to treat them no differently from other clubs.
Remember! You have to follow all the rules that your school sets up for clubs as long as the rules apply equally to all groups.
You have the right to form a GSA or any other type of LGBTQ+ student-focused club and have it recognized the same as any other groups recognized by your school.
“It shall be unlawful for any public secondary school which receives federal financial assistance...to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting...on the basis of religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings.”
20 U.S. Code § 4071
Want to learn more about GSAs? Check out our website!
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO GO TO SCHOOL DANCES WITH WHOM YOU WANT
Public schools can’t stop you from bringing a date of any gender or sex to prom or homecoming who otherwise is allowed to attend, nor can they tell you that you can’t dress a certain way or run for prom king/queen because it doesn’t fit traditional gender roles.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO DATE WHO YOU WANT
Public schools can’t stop you from dating a same-sex or gender diverse partner, nor can they tell you that you can’t associate in public (i.e., public displays of affection) a certain way if other opposite-sex couples are allowed to express their relationship publicly in the same manner.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REPORT HARASSMENT
If you’re being harassed or threatened, go to the principal or another official right away. Keep detailed notes with dates of all incidents. Put the school on notice that it has to protect you. You have the right to be called by the name and pronouns that match who you are in every aspect of the school day. Your school is responsible for stopping harassment, including if someone intentionally misgenders you. Bullying is never okay – not from your peers, not from your teachers, not from anybody.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY
Schools should not “out” you (share information about your sexual orientation or gender) to anyone without your permission, even if you’re out to some people at school. In fact, nobody should do that. You have the right to be out and proud, when and how you choose, but you also have the right to keep your gender and sexual orientation private. Your school can’t out you—even to your parents—without a strong justification.
Did you know….
…that your personally identifying information is federally protected?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) keeps your school and school staff from being able to share information about you that could be used to identify you. This includes things like your grades and your class schedule, but also things like your gender or sexuality!
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO NOT BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST
Delaware’s Equal Accommodations law prevents discrimination against people because of their race, age, marital status, creed, color, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender or national origin. Places of “public accommodation” can include state agencies, local government agencies, and state-funded agencies performing public functions, and can include government buildings, courthouses and jails, transportation systems like buses and trains, or recreational areas like libraries, beaches and parks.
Places of “public accommodation” can also include privately owned or operated businesses and buildings that offer goods and services to the public, like stores and shops, restaurants, hospitals, gas stations, hotels, motels, or sports and entertainment venues. Any public school or charter school that accepts public funding has to follow these rules.
The Delaware Department of Education had this to say:
“No person in the State of Delaware shall on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, genetic information, marital status, disability, age or Vietnam Era veteran’s status be unlawfully excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving approval or financial assistance from or through the Delaware Department of Education.”
Transgender and gender nonconforming students often face discrimination over dress codes, access to restrooms and locker rooms, and their chosen names and pronouns. Contact ACLU-DE if you want help making sure your school treats you with respect and keeps you safe.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE YOURSELF!
Browse the Guide Below
Know Your Rights: A Guide to the First Amendment for LGBTQ+ Youth in Delaware, is packed with information related to students’ rights around LGBTQ+ expression in schools. Click through the links below to read our full guide!
⬆️ A digestible outline of the First Amendment and how it applies to LGBTQ+ students’ expression in schools.
⬆️ Language and definitions that are commonly used in conversations about LGBTQ+ communities and issues.
⬆️ A full list of rights that LGBTQ+ people are promised in schools - regardless of individual school policies.
⬆️ A list of ways that students can use the First Amendment to express themselves in schools.
⬆️ Information about the role that school boards play in policy-making for schools, and how students can make their voices heard even if they can’t vote.
⬆️ A list of resources for LGBTQ+ students in Delaware.