The Biden Administration and federal education officials say they must shield LGBTQI+ students from “unrelenting political attacks”–such as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. Biden signed an executive order this week directing Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to develop policies to guarantee the well-being of LGBTQI+ students and their families.
“These attacks defy our American values of liberty and dignity, corrode our democracy, and threaten basic personal safety,” Biden’s order says. “They echo the criminalization that LGBTQI+ people continue to face in some 70 countries around the world.”
Over the next several months, the Department of Education will develop policies for supporting the well-being and academic success of LGBTQI+ students and school staff who have been “targeted by harmful state and local laws and practices.” These efforts will begin with the establishment of a “Working Group on LGBTQI+ Students and Families” that will examine discriminatory policies and propose new protections.
The group will provide guidance, technical assistance and training for states and school districts to promote inclusive learning environments for LGBTQI+ students. Priorities will be preventing bullying of LGBTQI+ students, as well as:
- Ensuring that school-based health services–especially mental health services–are accessible to and supportive of LGBTQI+ students.
- Funding programs that will improve educational and health outcomes, especially mental health outcomes, for LGBTQI+ students and other underserved youth.
- Strengthening assistance for LGBTQI+ students in foster care and families experiencing homelessness.
The executive order also seeks to protect LGBTQI+ students from discrimination that the Biden administration says young people are facing outside of school. The Department of Health and Human Services is being directed to affirm LGBTQI+ individuals’ access to medically necessary care, particularly in states that have restricted such treatments. The agency will also expand family counseling for LGBTQI+ youth in federally funded health, human services, and child welfare programs.
Multiple agencies have been tasked with shielding youth from “so-called conversion therapy” and publicizing the harms and risks associated with the practice. It will examine whether conversion therapy should be barred from any programs that receive federal funding. And the Federal Trade Commission may declare therapy deceptive or fraudulent.
“Our nation has made great strides in fulfilling the fundamental promises of freedom and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex Americans,” Biden’s order says. “In spite of this historic progress, LGBTQI+ individuals and families still face systemic discrimination and barriers to full participation in our nation’s economic and civic life.