After coming out as a lesbian her sophomore year of high school, Bethany endured harassment and intimidation that caused her so much anxiety she was hospitalized. She estimates she missed 30 days of school one year, often because she was too depressed to get out of bed.

Unfortunately, Bethany’s experience is not unique, LGBT students are three times more likely than their non-gay peers to miss school because they feel unsafe.*


Stand up for Your Rights!

If you are being bullied…

Tell someone. While you should talk to a teacher or counselor you trust, it is particularly important to let your principal know what’s going on. Don’t let the school claim it wasn’t aware of the problem.

Write it down. Every time you are called a name, threatened or touched by another student because you are LGBT (or because someone thinks you are), write it down. Note each time it happened, who did it, what they said or did, and who saw it or heard it – even if a teacher saw what happened. When you tell your teacher or other school official about being bullied, write that down too. Include the details of the bullying and your reports of it in a letter to your counselor or principal either before you’ve met with them or afterwards.

File a complaint. Your school may have a complaint form you can fill our and turn in if you are being bullied. Look for a form in your student handbook or as for one in the principal’s office. If you find one, fill it out with as much detail as you can, make a copy, and turn it in to the principal.

Contact the ACLU of Illinois or the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance. Letting your teachers and principal know you are being bullied, writing a letter, or filing a complaint may convince your school to stop students from bullying you. If the harassment doesn’t stop,your efforts will help the ACLU of Illinois and the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance advocate for you. However, you don’t have to complete these steps before you contact one of these groups.

Know Your Rights!

You don’t have to put up with name-calling, threats or physical harm because you are LGBT, or because people think you are. The law requires schools to protect you from bullying because of your sexual orientation or gender identity.

In some situations like Bethany’s, courts have forced schools to pay large amounts of money for ignoring or even participating in anti-LGBT bullying. Courts have also ordered schools to educate teachers, staff and students about bullying and how to prevent it. Download The Cost of Harassment: A Fact Sheet for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender High School Students.

*See 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey from the Board of Education of the City of Chicago.