WILMINGTON—Being part of the LGBTQ+ community as a kid can often be intimidating — and the policies that govern Delaware’s schools aren’t always designed to be inclusive of students who identify as part of these communities. That’s why the ACLU of Delaware (ACLU-DE) is launching a new resource: a “Know Your Rights” handbook that aims to help students, parents, and educators learn their rights when it comes to LGBTQ+ expression in schools.
“Every student, regardless of their identity, deserves a safe, inclusive environment to learn,” said Mike Brickner, ACLU-DE executive director. “When schools are inclusive of LGBTQ+ people, there are better experiences and outcomes for all students in those schools. We hope that students will use this guide to learn their rights, and that parents and educators will also use this guide as a resource to support the LGBTQ+ students in their lives.”
The 32-page handbook, titled Know Your Rights: A Guide to the First Amendment for LGBTQ+ Youth in Delaware, is presented with a lively, engaging design built by BrandSwan, and is packed with information related to students’ rights around LGBTQ+ expression in schools. Researched and written by Aaron Moseley-Saldivar, ACLU-DE education fellow, the handbook’s content includes:
- 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; and
- A list of resources for LGBTQ+ students in Delaware.
The handbook is also available on ACLU-DE’s website as a click-through guide that delivers all the same information in a digital format, with the option to download the printable handbook from the website available to all users.
The guide was revealed during a soft launch at a hybrid (virtual and in-person) event earlier this week at Lewes Public Library. The event featured a panel discussion on LGBTQ+ expression in schools and how the new handbook can be a strong resource for schools in Delaware, followed by an interview with Margaret A. Nash and Karen L. Graves, authors of Mad River, Marjorie Rowland, and the Quest for LGBTQ Teachers’ Rights. Continuing education credits were provided to attorneys, social workers, and educators who attended the event.
The launch event was co-sponsored by Lewes Public Library, CAMP Rehoboth, Cape Pharmacy, Coastal Direct Primary Care, Indigo Rehoboth, National Association of Social Workers-Delaware Chapter, Parents of Trans Kids and Support Group-PTK Delaware, PFLAG Rehoboth Beach, Transitions Delaware LLC, McAndrews Law, and Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware.
Tara Sheldon, CAMP Rehoboth board member and launch event organizer, reflected on the importance of this effort. “The event at Lewes Library was a coming together of service providers rising to meet the challenges, the struggles – in fact, the burdens – of advocating and supporting LGBTQ+ students and their families. We are blessed to have support groups such as PTK (Parents of Trans Kids) and PFLAG, core organizations such as NASW-DE, CAMP Rehoboth, and ACLU-DE, and compassionate lawyers ready to represent – but if all students were treated with respect and kindness and provided the same opportunities as their peers for an education free from harassment, intimidation, and harm, maybe we wouldn’t need them. Until then, tonight was validation the safety net is there should ever an LGBTQ+ youth (and their family) need a supportive ear and a helping hand. The ACLU-DE Know Your Rights guide for LGBTQ+ students will ensure this is so.”
ACLU-DE encourages schools to make copies of this handbook available to their students and educators. Any school, or community organization that wishes to have copies available can reach out to Melissa Bryson, ACLU-DE development director, to request copies at no charge: firstname.lastname@example.org.