Saturday, February 24, 2007

New Iowa Law to Protect Gay Students

Iowa will soon be one of ten states to enumerate protection for students from bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender expression. Both houses of the legislature have passed versions of the Safe Schools Bill, and the Governor's signature is reported to be imminent.

According to a 2005 survey by Iowa Pride Network, 83 percent of Iowa students who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender report being verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression. 33 percent report having faced physical harassment.

State laws that enumerate specific protection for gay and lesbian students provide more protection than Title IX against harassment on the basis of sexual orientation. Some anti-gay harassment is actionable under Title IX (for example, as in this case) as long as it is also considered harassment on the basis if sex. Also, as the recent NJ decision explained, state statutes may impose a lower threshold for liability than Title IX's "deliberate indifference" standard.

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