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The Right to Be Out

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in America’s Public Schools

2010
Author:

Stuart Biegel

The Right to Be Out

Recognizing the right of LGBT students and educators to be out at school

The Right to Be Out begins with a cogent history and analysis of the dramatic legal developments concerning the rights of LGBT persons since 1968. Stuart Biegel then turns to what K–12 schools should do to implement right-to-be-out policies. He examines recent legal and public policy changes that affect LGBT students and educators in the K–12 public school system.

The Right to Be Out is a thorough, timely, and relevant contribution to the education community on a topic that transcends politics or geography and truly impacts every classroom in the nation. Educators of all backgrounds will find Stuart Biegel’s compelling and empathic call for inclusion and self-determination both enlightening and instructive.

John Wilson, Executive Director, National Education Association

Despite significant advances for gay and transgender persons in the United States, the public school environment remains daunting, even frightening, as evidenced by numerous high-profile incidents of discrimination, bullying, violence, and suicide. Yet efforts to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and educators, or to enhance curricula to better reflect the experience of differing sexual orientations and gender identities, are bitterly opposed in the courtroom, at the ballot box, and especially in the schools themselves.

The Right to Be Out begins with a cogent history and analysis of the dramatic legal developments concerning the rights of LGBT persons since 1968. Stuart Biegel then turns to what K–12 schools should do—and in many cases have already done—to implement right-to-be-out policies. He examines recent legal and public policy changes that affect LGBT students and educators in the K–12 public school system.

Underlying all of these issues, he shows, is an implicit tension about the right to be out, a right that is seen as fundamental within LGBT communities today and, legally, draws on both the First Amendment right to express an identity and the Fourteenth Amendment right to be treated equally. Biegel addresses the implications of asserting and protecting this right within the hotly contested terrain of America’s public schools.

This book is a valuable resource for K–12 school administrators, parents, teacher organizations, mental health professionals and school counselors, LGBT advocacy groups, and the legal community. A safe and supportive educational environment for all students is possible, Biegel concludes, if built on shared values and a belief in the strength of our pluralistic society.

Awards

2011 Stonewall Book Award from the American Library Association

American Library Association - Over the Rainbow list of LGBTIQ books for adults

The Right to Be Out

Stuart Biegel is a member of the faculty in the School of Law and the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. He has served as Director of Teacher Education, Special Counsel for the California Department of Education, and the on-site federal court monitor for the San Francisco public schools. He is the author of the casebook Education and the Law and Beyond Our Control? Confronting the Limits of Our Legal System in the Age of Cyberspace.

The Right to Be Out

The Right to Be Out is a thorough, timely, and relevant contribution to the education community on a topic that transcends politics or geography and truly impacts every classroom in the nation. Educators of all backgrounds will find Stuart Biegel’s compelling and empathic call for inclusion and self-determination both enlightening and instructive.

John Wilson, Executive Director, National Education Association

Biegel breaks new ground in framing the right to be out as a nexus between civil rights and civil liberties; an invaluable analysis of law and educational policy for anyone who might dare to envision a school—or a society—that is truly safe, free and fair for every member of the community.

Anthony Romero, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union

An indispensible resource for educators, public school administrators, and other professionals involved with legal and administrative issues in K-12 education. School counselors and parents of LGBT youth will also find valuable information and resources.

Library Journal

The book does assemble and explain the important LGBT cases, and together with its extensive endnotes it can serve as a manual for school administrators, counselors, or researchers.

School Library Journal

Biegel’s lucid analysis of the legal and social implications of LGBT rights can be a boon to any administrator, teacher, counselor, or parent trying to encourage discussion and understanding. He expertly interweaves legal precedent with insight about larger shifts within school environments and curriculum, giving not only a solid basis for understanding the issues, but also a strong starting point for those attempting to work toward a reasonable middle ground within an educational setting.

ForeWord Magazine

Overall, The Right to Be Out is an excellent read and a great contribution in understanding how court cases and legislation continue to impact one’s right to be out in K-12 public school settings. . . . There is still a long way to go in advocating for LGBT rights in schools and society at large. Thus, educators who speak out on behalf of LGBT persons in educational settings should be thick-skinned and prepared to hold their own by having an awareness of the legal history of the area. Educators, including counselors, must continue to work toward the middle ground. Biegel’s book is the place to start.

Counseling Today

An urgent book.

The Progressive

A valuable resource for the lay or professional reader.

Lavender Magazine

A timely and excellent handbook that should be on the office shelves of every principal in this country.

Liberty Press

Armed with ... knowledge and experience, Biegel has written a sobering yet empowering book.

Lambda Literary

The Right to Be Out can be read as a reference manual for public school employees. I suggest close attention to Biegel’s well-researched endnotes, which round out his argument and contain information (such as URLs) about important resources, studies, and programing that makes the book even more valuable.

Against the Current

[Biegel’s] new study is a thorough summation of decades of court records, research literature, and memoirs written by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people of their difficult school experiences.

The Chronicle of Higher Education

The book brings together an impressive array of legal cases and precedents, actual examples of contesting LGBT identities in public school settings, and principles that would be helpful for students, teachers and administrators who are concerned about changing the culture of education that continues to marginalize those who are seen as having non-normative sexual and gender non-conforming identities.

Rhizomes

In an era where individual states and federal courts are grappling with gay and trans rights on a number of fronts, The Right To Be Out is an opportune addition to the growing body of literature documenting an historic shift in American law and culture.

H-Net

This is a well-written and balanced book. The book can be part of a respectful and thoughtful exchange of beliefs that lead to practices of inclusion and acceptance of gay, lesbian, and transgendered youth and teachers.

Journal of Law & Education

A piece of careful scholarship that interrogates the relationship between the individual and society in a nuanced way.

Contemporary Sociology

The Right to Be Out

Contents


Preface
Acknowledgments

Introduction

Part I. The Law: The Emergence of the Right to Be Out
1. The Legal Foundations of the Right to Be Out
2. Emerging Rights of LGBT Students: The Impact of Litigation and Legislation
3. Challenges for LGBT Educators: The Tension between Rights on Paper and the Realities of the Classroom
4. Curriculum, Religion, Morality, and Values

Part II. Public Policy: Implementing the Right to Be Out
5. Addressing School Climate: Goals and Best Practices
6. Creating Change in the Classroom: Curriculum, Pedagogy, and LGBT Content
7. The Culture of School Sports: From Physical Education to Interscholastic Athletics
8. Confronting the Challenges Faced by Transgender Youth

Conclusion

Notes
Index

The Right to Be Out

UMP blog: Perspectives on "The Right to Be Out: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in America's Public Schools"


This past year, one of my UCLA students, writing about California Proposition 8 and the effort by some of its proponents to turn the ballot initiative into a referendum about young people, the K-12 curriculum, and parental rights, told this story:
[During the Prop. 8 campaign,] I worked as a teacher’s assistant at an elementary school. While helping out after school, a plane passed overhead and wrote in the sky “Gay Marriage is Unnatural.” When my students read what it said, one of them, a young boy of about eight, began to cry. I had no idea what had suddenly come over him, and when I asked him what was wrong, he just looked at me and asked, “My parents are unnatural?” This question struck me hard and I was at a loss for words.
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