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Guidelines will help fight bullying, discrimination and add supports in K-12 schools.

PHOTO COURTESY: SHARON MCCUTCHEON FOR UNSPLASH - The Oregon Department of Education issued guidelines to help ensure students with various sexual identities will succeed in school. 
The Oregon Department of Education released a plan to help ensure students with various sexual identities are protected and can thrive in school.

"Oregon has been a national leader in protecting the civil rights for LGBTQ2SIA+ youth," Director Colt Gill said.

The long string of initials, according to the Education Department, stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/non-binary, queer/questioning, two-spirit, intersex and asexual. The plus symbol denotes that there are myriad ways to describe gender identities.

Oregon "was among the first states to allow students to identify as non-binary or gender-fluid and developed and distributed guidance to protect the rights of transgender students," Gill said. "It is now imperative that we seek legislative support and funding to fully engage our LGBTQ2SIA+ youth and provide education equity."

These students have a right to a safe, supportive and inclusive education free from violence, harassment and discrimination, the department said in the report's release Friday, June 26.

The 48-page report is filled with statements from students who have been bullied, feel unsafe using restrooms or who hear derogatory slang aimed at themselves and other students.

A 2019 survey of Oregon eighth- and 11th-graders found that six of 10 lesbian, gay or bisexual eighth graders reported being bullied within the last month because of their status, compared with two of 10 gender-conforming students.

The plan outlines strategies and goals to create both educational and social-emotional support for Oregon's kindergarten through 12th grade LGBTQ2SIA+ students. They "are at significantly high risk for bullying and harassment, suffering violence while at school, sexual assault, chronic absenteeism and suicidal ideation," ODE said.

The plan calls for educators to get training and professional development on issues affecting LGBTQ2SIA+ students. It recommends more access to mental health supports in and outside of school and that school counselors should have "culturally responsive, trauma-informed" training to better help this student population.

The guidance said these students must have "equitable access to appropriate educational curriculum, facilities and activities."

The plan also calls for schools to collect data on these issues by doing a yearly climate survey.

Schools should also form student advisory groups to help in decision making that could impact these pupils, the plan advised.

The plan was developed by the LGBTQ2SIA+ Advisory Group created by the Oregon Department of Education. The group included parents, educators and advocates, but no students.

But, ODE said a key component of creating the plan was talking with the students themselves. The group held four sessions with students around the state.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in the announcement that "Every student should feel safe and welcome in Oregon's schools. Our state has an opportunity to support the strengths and resilience of LGBTQ2SIA+ students in a way that values their lived experiences and identities."

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