There Are Almost No LGBTQ+ School Board Members to Help Queer and Trans Youth Nationwide
“Our schools have been ground zero for anti-LGBTQ vitriol this year.”
A new report published Wednesday by the Victory Institute, a partner organization of the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund PAC, indicates that of the roughly 90,000 school board members in the U.S., only 90 are openly LGBTQ+ — a rate of 0.1% — and those members are spread over just 28 states. Of those 90, most are white, cisgender gay men; only 29 queer cis women serve on boards, along with four trans women, two trans men and two non-binary people. The survey was sent to all 90 known out LGBTQ+ school board members in April 2022, 48 of whom responded.
The report highlights both the attacks that LGBTQ+ school officials regularly face and the main reason for their perpetuation. More than half of respondents had faced harassment as a board member, with 17% saying the attacks came from another member. A third reported threats to their physical safety, and 6.4% said they’d received death threats for their presence. And because there are so few openly LGBTQ+ people or even outspoken allies on school boards, there are few checks on such displays of bigotry, leaving room for further abuse.
Fixing the discrepancy isn’t just about demographic representation for its own sake, either. Republicans have filed hundreds of bills in local and state governments this year to limit the rights and protections of LGBTQ+ students, particularly attacking the safety, privacy, and freedoms of trans and nonbinary students. With less than ten openly trans and nonbinary board members across the entire country, blocking every attempt to forcibly out and “other” trans students is a Sisyphean task unto itself. And many of these board members can see bad news on the way; a third of respondents said that there are current candidates running for school board membership who are running on anti-LGBTQ+ platforms.
“From ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bills to bans on trans kids in sports, our schools have been ground zero for anti-LGBTQ vitriol this year,” said Victory Institute president Annise Parker in a statement. “In many cases, school boards have the power to determine the rights LGBTQ kids do – and don’t – have.” As the report notes, most LGBTQ+ board members sought office in order to help and protect queer youth; whether conservatives will allow them to do that necessary work is another story.
To adequately protect LGBTQ+ students and teachers, the makeup of the institutions that govern both has to change. Far-right rhetoric against our communities may be coming from a federal level, but it’s implemented locally — and we need local organizing if we’re going to fix it.