In December 1995, Youth Pride, Inc. organized legislators, therapists, educators, parents, youth, representative from state departments and other concerned individuals to sponsor the first statewide forum to address the concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. Each constituency testified about the reality of the educational system, and made recommendations for change. A report issued from that forum was distributed to school administrators, policy makers, teachers and parents. This forum identified specific and concrete recommendation to make schools a safe and nurturing educational environment for all students. As a result of ongoing advocacy, the RI Board of Regents adopted a policy banning discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation (1997). Subsequent forums confirmed positive change as well as a continuation of the often horrific experiences of LGBTQQ youth in schools.
In September 2005, YPI was contracted by the RI Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to convene the RI Task Force for LGBTQQ Youth, the purpose of which is to develop a statewide plan addressing the needs of LGBTQQ youth.
In August, 2006 YPI released “Bandaids Don’t Cut It: A statewide plan to address the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth in Rhode Island.” This report illuminated opportunities to address the systematic change necessary to assist Rhode Island’s LGBTQQ youth. Rhode Island has amassed an expansive array of engaged, willing and passionate community based organizations, youth leaders, community members, educators and policy makers who are committed to addressing the needs and lives of LGBTQQ youth. The Rhode Island Task Force for LGBTQQ Youth was yet another example of this commitment. All partner agencies involved in this Task Force have committed to addressing recommendations internally and within their systems.
In September, 2006 Action Teams consisting of community members, people of faith, non profit agencies, educators, youth and legislators met to begin the work of implementing the Task Force recommendations. Action Teams have been formed in line with the recommendations (Child Welfare, Education, Data, Mental Health and Health & Human Services). These Action Teams prioritized several recommendations to work on in 2007 to forward the work from the Task Force at large.
Successes achieved through the work of this taskforce include:
Adding gender identity and
expression to the RI Board of Regents policy on discrimination (2010)
Adding LGBTQQ-sensitive questions on surveys that are taken
throughout the state including the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2007) and Survey
Mandatory trainings for all newly hired DCYF workers (2010)
LGBT inclusive language in Rhode Island’s Safe Schools Act (2011) RI
Gen. Law 16-21-33
In 2009, the taskforce reorganized its scope of work and plan of
action. Band-aids Don’t Cut It was re-formulated into the report “TowardComprehensive Inclusion: Addressing the Needs of Rhode Island’s LGBTQQ Youth”.
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey data from 2007 and 2009 shows us
that LGBU youth in Rhode Island are 2 to 4 times more at-risk then their heterosexual
peers in 27 out of 30 risk areas measured including drug/alchol use, physical
activity and suicidal ideation.
The 2010 Survey Works! Student Survey found that LGBTQ youth
were more likely to report feeling unsafe in school, 2-3times more likely to
experience bullying and less likely to feel that they had someone they could
Youth Pride continues to engage in discussions with state
agencies about improving service delivery to LGBTQQ youth and plans to re-engage
the Task Force in taking some new innovative steps in this process in the
2012-2013 school year.