Being a teenager in high school is difficult enough. Add in the fact that you’re an LGBT teenager, and school becomes exponentially more difficult. LGBT teens are often so severely bullied that it affects their education or causes them to drop out. And while much of the bullying comes from other students, a portion of it may also come from the school’s policies.

Many schools are becoming more and more accepting of gay, lesbian, and transgender students by offering gender-neutral bathrooms and allowing students to use their preferred name and pronouns. But some schools still know very little about the laws that protect LGBT students and can unknowingly, or knowingly, be infringing upon students’ rights to express themselves.

As a student in public school, you have the right to…

A harassment-free school environment.

A nationwide study found that one-third of gay respondents missed an entire day of school because they did not feel safe there. The same study found that despite the fact that most gay students faced some level of bullying or harassment, less than 40 percent of students reported it. Of those who did report harassment, one-third said the staff did “little-to-nothing” about it.

Under the U.S. Constitution, harassment against LGBT students must be handled the same way harassment of a straight or cisgender student would be. Title IX also prevents public schools from ignoring harassment based on behavior that doesn’t conform to your sex (ie: boys who choose to wear makeup).

Freedom of speech.

More than 40 years ago, in Tinker v. Des Moines, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a student doesn’t "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech at the schoolhouse gate." So long as you are not creating a significant disturbance to the classroom or threatening the safety of others, you can express yourself openly and talk about your sexuality at school.

Dress how you like.

In addition to being able to openly discuss your identity with others, freedom of speech also means that you can dress as you please; so long as the outfit would be deemed appropriate by your school’s dress code. Transgender and gender nonconforming students can wear clothing that doesn’t traditionally “match” their gender (ie: a boy or trans girl can wear a dress to school, but could not wear a bathing suit).

Privacy.

If you confide in a teacher, principal, or administrator at your school about your sexuality or gender identity, the school does NOT have the right to disclose that information to anyone, not even your parents.