Lambda Legal scored many amazing victories this year in the fight for the rights of LGBT people and people with HIV. But we’re not done yet. This series showcases some of our proudest accomplishments in 2014, and explores some of the work that we still need to do to achieve full equality for the LGBT and HIV communities.
Here are highlights of Lambda Legal’s youth work in 2014 and goals for 2015.
Protecting Free Speech for a Florida Student: Amber Hatcher made plans to observe GLSEN’s National Day of Silence. When her principal and school district threatened “consequences,” Lambda Legal sent a letter outlining her free speech rights. When the school suspended her anyway, we sued. We also campaigned and petitioned so that the public could show their support for Amber and for free speech.
Keeping an Illinois Student Off the School-to-Prison Pipeline: A middle school student in downstate Illinois had been repeatedly bullied based on his race and perceived sexuality, and his school was ignoring the problem. After defending himself from a physical attack by a bully, he was charged for fighting under the local city code, fined, and threatened with expulsion. Lambda Legal helped connect the student to a local attorney and then assisted that attorney with obtaining school records and a videotape of the incident. As a result of these efforts, the court reduced the fine and the removed the incident from the student’s record.
Training Professionals to Support and Affirm LGBTQ Youth in Out-of-Home Care: We trained over 400 professionals in the child welfare system in Texas and are working with local communities across Florida to support and affirm LGBTQ youth in foster care. In New Jersey, we are assisting the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission as they train staff to provide safe and supportive care and appropriate services to LGBTQ youth in their juvenile justice facilities and programs.
Don’t Erase Us: We go to school to learn about the world and how we fit into it. But in 8 states, LGBT students face legal barriers to learning about the lives and experiences of people like them. Lambda Legal has launched a national campaign to raise awareness and gather support for students in these states.
Fighting the Criminalization of LGBTQ Youth: LGBTQ youth in general and LGBTQ youth of color in particular are over-represented in juvenile justice and adult criminal systems compared to their non-LGBTQ peers. In 2015, Lambda Legal plans to expand our work to combat police misconduct against LGBTQ youth, to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, and to stop the criminalization of homeless LGBTQ youth, who represent 40% of youth experiencing homelessness due, in large part, to family rejection.
Stopping Discrimination Against Youth Living with HIV in the Foster Care System: We represent a 17-year-old transgender young woman in foster care who was told she must leave the group home she lives in after testing positive for HIV. A move would mean a change in schools and her fourth placement since entering foster care. We advised the home of applicable laws that bar discrimination against people living with HIV and she has not been moved. We will continue to advocate on her behalf to ensure her placement is stable and affirming.