A Brief Overview
- Youth and young adults with disabilities may also have diverse sexualities and gender identities.
- Students can experience discrimination based on disability, and face discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
- LGBTQ+ is an acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or sometimes questioning), and others. The “plus” represents other gender identities including pansexual and Two-Spirit.
- LGBTQ identities are NOT disabilities, but students with disabilities
- may also be LGBTQ+.
- LGBTQ+ youth with disabilities report high rates of harassment and are more likely to be bullied or harassed than students without disabilities.
- Race, ethnicity, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are all protected classes under Washington law.
- PAVE’s Parent Training and Information (PTI) staff help families understand and navigate service systems for children 0-26. Click Get Help on the PAVE website or call 800-572-7368.
LGBTQ+ is an acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or sometimes questioning), and others. The “plus” represents other gender identities including pansexual and Two-Spirit.
Youth and young adults with disabilities may also have diverse sexualities and gender identities. LGBTQ+ identities are NOT disabilities, but students with disabilities may also be LGBTQ+. The prevalence of disability among LGBQT+ youth is not clear, but research is emerging. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation 2018 LGBTQ+ Youth Report surveyed over 12,000 LGBTQ+ youth aged 13-17 from across the United States. One in seven (15%) LGBTQ+ youth said they had a disability. A 2020 Trevor Project survey found that 5% of LGBTQ+ reported having deafness or a hearing disability, whereas a 2021 Trevor Project survey found that 5% of LGBTQ+ youth were diagnosed with autism.
Discrimination often refers to a person or a group of people being treated differently because they belong to a protected class. According to the HRC, “For LGBTQ+ youth with a disability, stigma associated with their intersecting identities places them at even more risk for bullying and harassment. More than one-third (36%) of disabled LGBTQ+ students say they have been bullied or harassed in school because of their disability, while three in ten (30%) say they have felt unsafe at school because of their disability.”
Washington is one of only 19 states that explicitly protects LGBTQ+ students in public schools from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Washington also has laws to protect students from discrimination based on disability.
Effective January 31, 2020, all districts in Washington must have a policy and procedure that includes all elements of Washington Association School Board Directors Association (WSSDA) model policy for gender inclusive schools and procedure (numbered 3211 and 3211P, respectively). Gender-inclusive schools benefit all students, help to equalize student experiences and outcomes; and prioritize student health, safety, and wellbeing.
The HRC, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the National Education Association produced a Guide for Educators and Parents/Guardians on Supporting LGBTQ Students with an IEP or 504 Plan. This guide emphasizes that “Ideally, students should be allowed access to needed resources, services, restrooms and locker rooms without such access being written into a Section 504 Plan or IEP, but there are times when including specific provisions about equal access may be necessary to ensure that students are able to access school programs and facilities and benefit from classroom instruction.”
If you are concerned about your child’s rights in school:
- PAVE has a resource called Bullying at School: Resources and Rights of Students
- LGBTQ+ students and their families can also reach out to OSPI’s Equity and Civil Rights Office at 360–725–6162 or firstname.lastname@example.org. While program staff are not allowed to provide specific legal advice, they are available to listen to concerns and to provide helpful resources and guidance.
- LGBTQ+ students and their families can also reach out to the Governor’s Office of the Education Ombuds.
- Students and families can visit the Equity and Civil Rights Office’s Gender-Inclusive Schools webpage for additional information specific to LGBTQ+ students’ rights.
- Safe School Laws
- Center for Disease Control Resources for LGBQT Youth
- Understanding Disability in the LGBQT+ Community
- Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Zongrone, A. D., Clark, C. M., & Truong, N. L. (2018). The 2017 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth in our nation’s schools. New York: GLSEN.
Resources for LGBTQ+ People Living with Disabilities:
- Rainbow alliance of the deaf (rad)
- Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN)
- Rainbow groups “for self-advocates who are members of both the intellectual and developmental disability community as well as the LGBTQ+ community“
- Resource Guide for “Starting a Rainbow Support Group”
- Visit RespectAbility to read more about LGBTQ+ people with disabilities.