— Lyn Stoesen, News Staff
NASW is among 13 organizations that have joined together to issue a publication called Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators and School Personnel. The publication has been sent to 16,000 public school superintendents in the United States.
The publication is designed to guide employees confronting issues involving gay, lesbian and bisexual students and to help administrators foster safe and healthy school environments. It includes up-to-date information from professional health organizations as well legal guidelines about the responsibility of school officials to protect students from anti-gay harassment.
In a statement, the coalition noted that "the opportunity for students to learn is diminished when they do not feel safe or supported at school.
"In addition to assault and harassment, gay, lesbian and bisexual students experience high rates of emotional distress, suicide attempts and substance abuse," the statement continued. "These factors hinder their emotional and social development, as well as their ability to succeed in school. It is our responsibility to provide accurate and factual information."
The publication includes information about sexual orientation development, efforts to change sexual orientation through therapy or religious ministries and relevant legal principles.
The document includes excerpts from the policy statements of several of the organizations in the coalition, including NASW's policy statement on lesbian, gay and bisexual issues. NASW's policy statement reads, in part, "Sexual orientation conversion therapies assume that homosexual orientation is both pathological and freely chosen. No data demonstrate that reparative or conversion therapies are effective, and in fact they may be harmful."
The Just the Facts Coalition was formed in 1998 to respond to efforts to promote "reparative therapy" programs in public schools. The first edition of the publication was published in 1999. In 2006, in response to renewed efforts to include information about "reparative therapy" and "ex-gay ministry" programs in schools, the coalition decided to revise and update the publication.
Other organizations in the coalition are the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of School Administrators, the American Counseling Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the American School Health Association, the Interfaith Alliance Foundation, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Secondary School Principles, the National Education Association and the School Social Work Association of America.
The coalition notes that although the concerns of transgender youth often intersect with those of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth, the publication is geared toward sexual orientation rather than gender-identity issues. Some resources relevant to transgender youth are included in the publication.