School classrooms should be safe and inclusive for all students. Across the state, many school staff — including teachers, coaches, and administrators — are already working to ensure that LGBTQIA+ students are able to exist and thrive as their authentic selves in Texas public schools. 

But that’s not always the case. For many LGBTQIA+ students in Texas, school can sometimes be a place of discrimination, bullying, and harassment. When LGBTQIA+ students experience this kind of treatment, it can disproportionately affect their academic performance, mental health, and overall sense of belonging. Coupled with increasingly extreme and relentless attacks by Gov. Greg Abbott and his legislative allies who continue to use trans kids as targets for political gain, being an LGBTQIA+ kid in Texas right now can be extremely difficult — and even deadly.

It’s up to all of us to ensure that all Texas students are safe and supported. And that’s why the ACLU of Texas and our partners — Equality Texas, Lambda Legal, and Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) — created Free to Be Me: A Toolkit to Protect LGBTQIA+ Students’ Rights. The toolkit’s purpose is to help empower LGBTQIA+ students, their parents/guardians, and their allies with information they can use to defend their rights in school. 

This school year, we have heard from more LGBTQIA+ students than ever before who are facing bullying, harassment, and discrimination in Texas schools. We have a message for those students: You are not alone and countless LGBTQIA+ Texans and allies have your back. You are a cherished member of our communities and you have every right to be your authentic self in all walks of life, free from discrimination and other harm. 

We hope the information in this toolkit will help students across the state secure their right to learn and thrive as their true selves. We also hope that LGBTQIA+ students will continue to receive the support of teachers, counselors, school administrators, coaches, and staff.

Commit to sharing this toolkit with an LGBTQIA+ student or parent, teacher, coach, or school administrator in your life. Additionally, you can also join us in the fight to protect LGBTQIA+ young people’s rights at the Texas Legislature by signing up to become an advocate here.

The more accepting and inclusive our schools are for all students, the stronger our communities will be.