Unpacking the “No Promo Homo” Laws
Updated: Feb 25
In six states, there are laws prohibiting educators from discussing same-sex relationships in health and sex education classes, queue the“no promo-homo” laws. The"no promo homo laws" ban teachers from presenting "homosexuality as a positive life-style". By rejecting homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle, the laws promote an unsafe environment for students. In addition to not discussing homosexual lifestyle in health or sex education, these states do not have protections in place to protect students and teachers against discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity. Bullying, isolation and discrimination are common themes in schools where "no promo homo" laws exist.
The states still barring homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle in sex education curriculum include Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas.
The laws are based on historic prejudice, bias and discrimination of the homosexual community. The "no promo homo" laws have had a deep effect on the school environment. According to the Executive Director of Equality Utah, “The no promo-homo law originally was designed to only apply to health and sex-ed classes, but we are seeing the effects of no promo homo in history classes, English classes, ect”. In a Human Rights Watch investigation, students admit having tried to talk about their sexuality or gender identity with a teacher in "no promo homo" states. A student who sought comfort from a teacher on her bisexual identity was promptly dismissed, and told to refer to the internet for reference or guidance. A male high school student who identifies as gay, was explaining a history project on family which included his openly gay uncle. His teacher cut him off exclaiming,"We can’t talk about that!"
The mounting reality is that the majority of states do not have LGBT inclusive curriculum. But twenty US states have laws prohibiting bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (see image below). Law makers, activists, students, parents, teachers and organizations including Human Rights Watch, ACLU, Equality Utah, Equality Arizona and LGBT Bar (to name a few), are working towards restoring equity in the classroom for students who identify as queer. In a few states there has been a push for curriculum additions that involve LGBTQ inclusive lesson plans.
As of August 9, 2019, Illinois became the fourth state to mandate LGBTQ inclusive history into public school curriculum; following New Jersey, California and Colorado. Starting in 2020, Illinois will now be the four state in line to ensure that history classes include a “study of the roles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of this country and this State”. New York City Council has allocated $600,000 for inclusive educational programming for the 2019 fiscal year which would include LGBTQ history curriculum. The implementation of the new curriculum could take time considering they will be implemented on a local level with the ability to customize their own LGBT history into the curriculum. Although specifics on what states will teach in regards to LGBTQ history is unclear, it is a big step towards creating safer, encouraging environments for all students.
Take a look around your community. Is there obvious LGBTQ representation? How is it shown or not shown? What can be improved? Is there a gay-straight alliance at your school?
After your observation, please take the questionnaire. Open the questionnaire by using your cell phone camera to focus on the QR code. (By aiming your camera at the QR code, it should allow an option to access the questionnaire. Do NOT try to take a photo and extract the QR code from the photo.) If you tried via QR and still cannot access questionnaire, please use this link or click directly on the QR code.
(all responses are anonymous)
Want to create an inclusive classroom? See our blog post here on how to get started!
Schwartz, S. (2019, August 12). Four States Now Require Schools to Teach LGBT History. Retrieved from https://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_now/2019/08/four_states_now_require_schools_to_teach_lgbt_history.html
#DontEraseUs: State Anti-LGBT Curriculum Laws. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.lambdalegal.org/dont-erase-us/laws
Kaur, H. (2019, April 12). Arizona just repealed a law that banned schools from promoting a 'homosexual lifestyle'. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2019/04/11/us/arizona-repeals-anti-lgbtq-law-trnd/index.html
"Like Walking Through a Hailstorm": Discrimination Against LGBT Youth in US Schools. (2017, June 06). Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/12/07/walking-through-hailstorm/discrimination-against-lgbt-youth-us-schools
Human Rights Watch. (2016, December 07). US: Repeal Anti-Gay No Promo Homo Laws. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=RG0pGl8CRjY
Ring, T. (2019, January 17). NYC Schools Are Making LGBTQ History a Priority. Retrieved from https://www.advocate.com/youth/2019/1/17/nyc-schools-are-making-lgbtq-history-priority.
Figure 1.0 retrieved from