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Diversity

LGBTQ organizations say Illinois schools need to be safer

A pride flag on a flagpole
Zelda Gardner
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Illinois law requires schools teach LGBTQ history and says students must have access to bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

LGBTQ organizations from around the state are calling on schools to provide a safe learning environment for all students.

Representatives from Equality Illinois, the Safe Schools Alliance, and the Rainbow Café of Carbondale said they've seen a significant increase of reports of bullying, harassment, and discrimination directed at LGBTQ students.

Grecia Magdaleno with the Safe Schools Alliance said the group isn't trying to change personal beliefs, but educators must ensure a safe environment for all students.

"There is a difference between personal beliefs and professional responsibility," they said. "We're not trying to change people's personal beliefs but it's the responsibility of teachers, administrators, and all other adults who work within school systems to ensure that all students can learn, which can't happen in the absence of supportive and affirming learning environments."

The Rainbow Café said the discrimination in Southern Illinois has come from fellow students, administrators at schools, and community members at four districts, including Marion, Harrisburg, Benton and Anna-Jonesboro Consolidated High School.

Cal Vine, a student at Carbondale High School, said one issue that students face is having to use gendered bathrooms, where students who are trans or non-binary may not feel safe.

"It's a little intimidating for using the gendered bathroom that you identify as, due to the fact that some people aren't too happy when someone that looks the other gender enters a bathroom of their own," Vine said.

The groups said they are looking into what can be done to track incidents state-wide and make it easier for people to file complaints about discrimination.

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