The following post appears courtesy of the Civil Rights Division
Last week the Department of Justice co-presented the White House LGBT Conference on Safe Schools and Safe Communities in partnership with the White House Office of Public Engagement, the Department of Education and The University of Texas at Arlington. Over 400 students, teachers, parents, community advocates, law enforcement officers and elected officials participated in the conference focusing on the safety and security of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth and adults in their communities and schools.
The conference highlighted the law enforcement tools and programmatic resources being used by the Justice Department in the education and law-enforcement contexts to combat violence and harassment directed at LGBT individuals. Attorney General Eric Holder gave a keynote address in which he reiterated the Administration’s commitment to LGBT persons:
“[N]o one deserves to be bullied, harassed, or victimized because of who they are, how they worship, or who they love.”
Attorney General Holder reaffirmed the commitment of the Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and the FBI to vigorously enforce the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. He highlighted the Community Relations Service (CRS) work to conduct mediation and conciliation services in communities that are affected by hate crimes and discussed the Justice Department’s Shepard-Byrd Act training conferences, which have trained thousands of law enforcement officers and community stakeholders throughout the nation on the specifics of the new law, and the vital importance of partnership, and reporting for both prevention and enforcement.
He welcomed collaboration with state and local law enforcement officials stating that:
“When incidents [based upon LGBT animus] occur, we want to hear about them. And we will do everything in our power to ensure that justice is served.”
He also highlighted the agreements that Civil Rights Division, working with the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education has reached with schools that fail to address sex-based harassment of students, including LGBT students.
These include the agreement with the school district in Tehachapi, CA, where Seth Walsh, an openly gay 13-year-old, who committed suicide following the severe sex-based harassment inflicted on him by his peers. To ensure that what happened to Seth does not happen again, the district is committed to responding appropriately to incidents of sex-based harassment, as well as making policy changes and providing training to protect all students from unlawful harassment.
The Attorney General also discussed the recent consent decree entered into with the Anoka-Hennepin School District of Minnesota, which provides a comprehensive plan to combat sex-based harassment by addressing the immediate needs of victims and providing long-term systems for the education and counseling throughout Minnesota’s largest school district.
Further underscoring our deep commitment to protecting the safety of LGBT individuals in their schools and communities, Attorney General Holder also highlighted Departmental activities related to and resources available to LGBT youth, LGBT victims of crime, and LGBT victims of intimate partner violence through the Department’s Office of Justice Programs.
Senior Department of Justice officials participated on panels and in workshop sessions, to amplify the breadth of the Department’s work. Sarah Saldaña, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, joined Becky Monroe, the Acting Director of the Community Relations Services spoke on a panel focused on Safe Communities moderated by Matt Nosanchuk, Senior Counselor in the Civil Rights Division. Torey Cummings, one of the lead attorneys in the Anoka-Hennepin case, participated on the Safe Communities Panel.
Other officials facilitated interactive workshops to engage conference participants. Topics included Implementation of the Shepard-Byrd Act, Federal Legal Protection for LGBT Students, Model K-12 Policies and Procedures, Violence & Harassment Against Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People, Domestic & Intimate Partner Violence and LGBTQ Youth of Color.