Diversity & Discrimination

Issues ››› Diversity & Discrimination
  • The Do's And Don’ts On Reporting On Anti-Bullying And Nondiscrimination Protections For LGBT Students

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Thanks to several recent legal rulings about protections for transgender students, nondiscrimination and anti-bullying measures for LGBT students are more visible than ever. As kids head back to school, journalists have the opportunity to break from the sensationalist, fearmongering coverage that often accompanies these stories and instead follow journalistic best practices in reporting on LGBT student equality.

    In the past few weeks, there have been two high-profile legal rulings directly affecting transgender students. On August 22, a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked the Obama administration’s recent guidance directing all public schools to provide transgender students with access to sex-segregated facilities that are consistent with a student’s gender identity. On August 3, the Supreme Court granted an emergency appeal from a Virginia school board to prevent a transgender boy from using the boys bathroom at his high school. The two August decisions come on the heels of this spring’s high-profile national debate over transgender equality, which centered largely around access to restrooms and other public accommodations.

    As both of these cases continue to make their way through the legal system, the discussion about LGBT student equality isn’t going away. In the past, journalists have often stumbled when reporting on measures geared toward making schools more accepting for LGBT students, particularly transgender students. Right-wing media have a long history of sensationalizing and fearmongering over basic anti-bullying measures and nondiscrimination protections for LGBT students. As students head back to school, here are a few reminders for media outlets that want to avoid making some of the most common mistakes when covering stories about LGBT students:

    DO Accurately Identify Anti-LGBT Commentators

    Mainstream media outlets often fail to give their audiences relevant information about guests they ask to comment on LGBT equality, particularly when the topic is transgender equality. If a guest represents an organization that has been designated as an anti-LGBT hate group for its history of spreading known falsehoods about LGBT people, then properly identifying the person as such is essential to providing audiences the context they need to assess that guest's point of view. Journalists should be especially wary of hate groups, like the American College of Pediatricians, that use legitimate-sounding names to peddle harmful, debunked lies.

    Outlets should also be careful of using hate groups as reliable sources for stories about LGBT students. Fox has twice been caught uncritically repeating made-up stories meant to oppose LGBT student equality, peddled to the network by one of California’s most notorious anti-LGBT hate groups.

    DON’T Fearmonger Over Access To Bathrooms And Locker Rooms

    Conservative media have a long history of fearmongering over nondiscrimination protections for transgender kids. In 2014, when California passed a new law allowing transgender public school students to use the restroom facilities that correspond to their gender identity, right-wing media figures issued apoplectic predictions of bathroom harassment and inappropriate behavior, warning that students would pretend to be transgender in order to sneak into opposite-sex bathrooms.

    While mainstream media might not offer the same doomsday type predictions, outlets often uncritically repeat the right-wing myth that nondiscrimination protections will cause students to pretend to be transgender to sneak into bathrooms and locker rooms.

    DO Rely On Empirical Data

    When discussing the potential impact of providing nondiscrimination protections for LGBT students, journalists should cite empirical data from schools that have protected LGBT students for years.

    Nationwide, school administrators from 23 school districts and four universities across the country, serving an estimated 1.5 million students, have reported that they allowed transgender students to use school facilities that correspond with their gender identity without incident.

    Additionally, reporters should be sure to provide meaningful context about anti-bullying initiatives for LGBT students by highlighting the high rates of violence and discrimination against LGBT kids. Recently, the first nationally representative study asking high school students about their sexuality confirmed what smaller studies have suggested for years -- that LGB teens are at far greater risk for depression, bullying and many types of violence than their straight peers, with nearly 40 percent having seriously considered suicide. Similar studies of transgender students have found that nearly 80 percent of transgender or gender-nonconforming kids have experienced harassment in schools, with over 30 percent experiencing harassment by teachers or staff. 

    Journalists should also point out that efforts by school staff to create welcoming and accommodating environments for transgender youth can dramatically improve the conditions experienced by these students. Given the empirical evidence available, it’s no surprise that national organizations like the National Education Association, National Parent Teacher Association, and the American Federation of Teachers all support nondiscrimination protections for LGBT students.

    DON’T Sensationalize Training Materials Out Of Context

    Conservative outlets like Fox News have a long history of seizing on small details of LGBT-inclusion trainings -- like a suggestion to use the classroom nickname “purple penguins” instead of gendered terms -- to gin up controversy and trivialize the importance of diversity trainings. Recently, both conservative and local media reported on a cartoon “gender unicorn” illustration being used in a diversity training in North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, which a local parent called “friendly looking and deceitful” because the unicorn “represents the religion of sex.” 

    This type of sensationalist reporting can have a chilling effect on schools considering adopting similar inclusion measures. Joel Baum, director of education at Gender Spectrum, has criticized the sensational media coverage surrounding the organization’s gender-inclusive trainings for creating “a tremendous amount of work for school leaders who are overburdened and do not have time, quite honestly, to be responding to misinformation about what's happening in their schools."

    DO Be Familiar With And Follow Journalistic Best Practices When Reporting On Transgender People

    With much of the media attention surrounding LGBT student equality focused on transgender youth, reporters should be sure to educate themselves on journalistic best practices in reporting on transgender people. GLAAD’s media reference guide has clear guidelines for reporters covering the transgender community, key points of which are:

    • Use accurate terminology, including the correct pronouns, and avoid offensive terms (see GLAAD’s list).
    • Avoid focusing on medical issues, and remember that it is inappropriate to ask transgender people (including children) about their genitals or surgeries they have had.
    • Transgender people “are the experts to talk about transgender people.” Reporters should prioritize transgender voices in stories about the transgender community.

    Similar guidelines have been adopted by The New York Times and The Associated Press, and they should be common practice for news outlets.

     

  • Federal Judge Smacks Down Right-Wing Media's Anti-LGBT "Bathroom Predator" Myth

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    A recent ruling by a federal judge shut down right-wing media’s anti-LGBT “bathroom predator” myth, writing that there is “no indication” that a sexual predator could “claim transgender status” as a “defense against prosecution” for sneaking into a women’s restroom to commit a crime.

    On August 26, U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder issued a preliminary ruling barring the University of North Carolina from enforcing a portion of North Carolina’s discriminatory "bathroom bill" against three transgender people who sued the state after the bill’s passage this spring. The law, known as HB 2, bans transgender people from using public bathrooms that do not match the sex listed on their birth certificate. Schroeder’s injunction prevents the University of North Carolina from banning the three transgender plaintiffs -- two university students and one professor -- from using facilities that match their gender identity, rather than their sex assigned at birth. LGBT advocates are currently pushing to have the injunction expanded from the three plaintiffs to include all transgender people in North Carolina.

    In the limited preliminary ruling, Schroeder dismissed the claim, often peddled by right-wing media outlets, that nondiscrimination protections for transgender people would allow male predators to sneak into women’s bathrooms and commit sexual assault by pretending to be transgender. As Schroeder wrote, the “bathroom predator” myth has been repeatedly debunked by experts, and there is no evidence that allowing transgender people to use restrooms that match their gender identity leads to an increase in crime (emphasis added):

    North Carolina’s peeping and indecent exposure statutes continue to protect the privacy of citizens regardless of Part I, and there is no indication that a sexual predator could successfully claim transgender status as a defense against prosecution under these statutes.

    [...]

    As for safety, Defendants argue that separating facility users by biological sex serves prophylactically to avoid the opportunity for sexual predators to prey on persons in vulnerable places. However, the individual transgender Plaintiffs have used facilities corresponding with their gender identity for over a year without posing a safety threat to anyone. (See Doc. 22-4 ¶¶ 15, 30; Doc. 22-8 ¶¶ 19, 25; Doc. 22-9 ¶¶ 15, 19–20.) Moreover, on the current record, there is no evidence that transgender individuals overall are any more likely to engage in predatory behaviors than other segments of the population. In light of this, there is little reason to believe that allowing the individual transgender Plaintiffs to use partitioned, multiple occupancy bathrooms corresponding with their gender identities, as well as UNC to seek to accommodate use of similar showers and changing facilities, will pose any threat to public safety, which will continue to be protected by the sustained validity of peeping, indecent exposure, and trespass laws. And although Defendants argue that a preliminary injunction will thwart enforcement of such safety laws by allowing non-transgender predators to exploit the opportunity to cross-dress and prey on others (Doc. 55 at 4–5), the unrefuted evidence in the current record suggests that jurisdictions that have adopted accommodating bathroom access policies have not observed subsequent increases in crime.

  • Fox & Friends Defends Trump's Widely Condemned Self-Congratulatory Tweet About Chicago Shooting

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    The hosts of Fox News’ Fox & Friends defended Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump after he tweeted about the shooting death of Nykea Aldridge, NBA player Dwyane Wade’s cousin, in Chicago, while other media figures from across the political spectrum criticized Trump for  “lacking empathy” and “politicizing tragedy.”

  • Trump Adopts Right-Wing Media's Flawed Robert Byrd Canard To Detract From Allegations Of Racism

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump followed right-wing media’s lead by connecting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to former Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) to mitigate the accusations that he is racist and has stoked racial tension. Conservatives have invoked Byrd’s past affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) for years to deflect from accusations of bigotry in the Republican Party, despite Byrd’s disavowal of his involvement with the hate group and his dedication of the rest of his life to atoning for his mistakes and supporting legislation to help minorities.

    After Clinton’s August 25 speech linking Trump to the “radical fringe” and accusing him of embracing a philosophy of “make America hate again,” Trump responded in an August 27 tweet, quoting supporters who lashed out at CNN for failing to mention that Clinton had once “said a KKK member was her mentor.” CNN confirmed that the supporters “referred to the last West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, a former KKK member whom Clinton mourned in 2010 as ‘a true American original, my friend and mentor.’”

    Right-wing media -- including Breitbart News and WND -- were quick to highlight the connection between Clinton and Byrd after her speech in an attempt to downplay her accusations against Trump. Independent Journal’s Frank Camp asserted that Clinton “can beat the drum against Trump over and over again, but her relationship with Senator Byrd may make those appeals ring hollow for some.” InfoWars claimed that Clinton and her campaign were “conveniently leaving out the fact that Hillary herself described Robert Byrd – a KKK leader who once called black people ‘mongrels,’ as her ‘friend and mentor.’” CNN political commentator Scottie Nell Hughes accused Clinton of having “a long track record ... of bias” because she “praised Senator Byrd.”

    This attempt at deflection is a familiar one for conservatives. In 2005, author and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson explained in a Huffington Post piece that “Whenever a Republican makes a racial foot-in-the mouth gaffe, and Democrats publicly lambaste him for it, GOP leaders quickly and reflexively scream, ‘But what about Byrd,’ and pound the Democrats for having a former Klansman as a top Democrat.” However, Hutchinson noted that this flawed canard “makes Republicans seem disingenuous at best and racial hypocrites at worst” because “Byrd flirted with the Klan six decades ago” and Republicans, like Trump “flirted with them, in the past, and still do today.”

    The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart more recently pointed out that this conservative deflection is also flawed because Byrd “admitted his mistake and atoned for it in public and in policy.” The NAACP even mourned Byrd’s death in 2010 saying that he “went from being an active member of the KKK to a being a stalwart supporter of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and many other pieces of seminal legislation that advanced the civil rights and liberties of our country.”