Homophobic harassment in schools: When students seek justice a comparison of Canadian and U.S. cases
This presentation will analyze two landmark U.S. cases and one Canadian case in an effort to better understand the existing legal precedents and protections relevant to issues of homophobic harassment in schools. A comparison of Canadian and U.S. federal protections for students as well as the shortcomings of existing school-based policies will also be discussed. This legal and policy analysis with a critique from a democratic education and social justice standpoint seeks to understand how schools can better embrace their increasingly diverse student populations and create meaningful educational opportunities for all students. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and other gender non-conforming students who are not protected are robbed of educational opportunities due to the hostile climate they face in school and therefore are deprived of meaningful participation in a democracy. The methodology for this study is an in-depth case analysis and document review of original court records and printed articles relevant to the cases discussed. My conclusions that I will present are that the U.S. needs to implement federal protections that explicitly include sexual orientation as a protected class in order to create more inclusive and democratic educational environments. Schools in the U.S. and Canada also need to more effectively implement existing bullying and harassment policies to include bullying based on gender and sexual orientation. School leadership and Schools of Education need to create more opportunities for teachers and administrators to learn more about effective interventions and ways to support gender non-conforming and GLBTQ youth.