Schools must be safe for all kids, especially LGBTQI+ youth

June 4, 2024
by Dr. Meg P. Gardinier (she/her), Global Education Policy Manager

June is Pride Month, a time to celebrate the history, achievements, and culture of the LGBTQI+ community. During this time, it’s especially important to recognize and address challenges faced by LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and other gender identities and sexual orientations) students in school. Education is a fundamental right. Too often, LGBTQI+ children and youth face obstacles to learning due to oppression and discrimination.  

Globally, a heartrending 42 percent of LGBTQI+ students report being mocked, insulted, or threatened at school for their identities. Even worse, 37 percent say they rarely or never feel safe at school. Globally, almost 70 countries have laws that criminalize LGBTQI+ people.  

No child should suffer harassment, discrimination, or violence while trying to learn. When LGBTQI+ students don’t feel safe or supported, they can’t participate in the joy of learning. That’s why we need to make sure schools are a safe, welcoming place for every student. 

There are important strategies to help keep LGBTQI+ kids safe in schools here and globally. In fact, a main goal of the U.S. Government Strategy on International Basic Education is to support equitable access to quality learning. This strategy includes listening to LBGTQI+ students and families who experience oppression. These students and families also offer solutions to eliminate existing barriers. As the directly-affected communities, they have the best insight into how to make schools safe and welcoming. The U.S. and other lawmakers can also support the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). GPE has prioritized efforts to make schools more inclusive for LGBTQI+ students and other marginalized groups.  

Leaders agree that first and foremost, education systems must “do no harm.” School must be a safe place for all children to learn. Everyone has a role to play in ensuring schools are environments where LBGTQI+ learners feel safe and celebrated. When students don’t have access to these environments by age 10 to learn basic math and literacy, it’s called learning poverty. Only when we dismantle oppressive barriers to school will we end learning poverty.  

The new U.S. Government Strategy for International Basic Education is a positive step. But we know that strategies only work when they’re put into action. They require accountability. That’s why the commitment to the safety and inclusion of LGBTQI+ students must stretch across all U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) basic education programs.  

This Pride Month, let’s call on Congress and USAID to lead by example. We must urge them to prioritize the safety, inclusion, and empowerment of LGBTQI+ youth around the world. Only by making learning safe for all students will we truly achieve the collective power of education for all. 


  1. U.S. Agency for International Development. (2024, April). U.S. Government Strategy on International Basic Education — 2024-2029.
  2. U.S. Agency for International Development. (2023, January). Integrating LGBTQI+ Considerations into Education Programming.
  3. Global Education Monitoring Report Team. (2021, May). Don’t look away: no place for exclusion of LGBTI students. UNESCO.

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