LQBTQ+ Rights

For NJ Students

On this section of our website, BCLA is providing information and references to Federal and NJ state legal codes and department policies. This information is not a form of legal advice, and our community members should consult an appropriately qualified attorney if they wish to know how any particular law or regulation applies to their specific circumstances.

Know your rights as a member of the LGBTQ+ Community! 

Here on this page, you can find resources for understanding, protecting, and enforcing the rights of students.

Also see our page for Civil Rights organizations

Fort Lee Advocating for Transgender Student Rights

Fort Lee Residents Advocate to keep Transgender Student Rights in their School District

Fort Lee is currently in a debate about keeping or repealing policy 5756 protections for transgender students in their school district. In a recent Board of Education meeting, the BoE voted 4-3 to repeal their current policy 5756.

Fort Lee residents in support of keeping the protections have formed petitions and created this Fort Lee Policy 5756 Factsheet to help dispel misinformation about policy 5756. Also, you can sign the petition to keep policy 5756 protections in place.

A showing of support from Fort Lee residents is needed as this battle continues to preserve important LGBTQ+ rights in our schools.

LGBTQ+ Student Rights in New Jersey

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, also known as NJLAD

New Jersey protections for students begins with the state's protections for all citizens, provided by NJLAD which prohibits discrimination and harassment based on actual or perceived race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, and other protected characteristics. The law applies in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation (generally, places open to the public, including businesses, restaurants, schools, summer camps, medical providers, etc.) [1]

The NJLAD protections apply to students in schools, and the NJ Office of Attorney General provides a brief NJ Factsheet on LGBTQ+ Student Rights in Schools.

Here is what the general protections include, as described by the NJ Attorney General:

A student cannot be subjected to bias-based harassment from students or school staff in a way that creates a hostile school environment. If a school knows or should have known about such harassment, it must take action to stop it. The LAD also applies to school-sponsored functions and activities that take place outside of school hours. The LAD also prohibits discrimination in the implementation of class placement and school discipline policies, including suspension and expulsion. Finally, a school cannot retaliate against a person for reporting bias-based harassment or discrimination, for exercising or attempting to exercise these or any other rights under the LAD, or for assisting someone else in exercising their rights. [2,3]

Principals and Supervisors all over the the state of NJ want these LGBTQ+ protections in place in school districts. The New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association released this 2023 statement about the need to provide LGBTQ+ student protections and the importance for local school districts to vote to affirm them.

[1] factsheet_LAD.pdf (nj.gov)
[2] Know the Law | Public Accommodation Discrimination - New Jersey Office of Attorney General (njoag.gov)
[3] fProtections against discrimination and harassment in school (act_YB.pdf nj.gov) 

Transgender Student Rights in New Jersey

New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) Guidelines for Transgender Students (aka Policy 5756)

In 2017, the NJDOE created guidelines for all NJ school districts with the goal to provide direction in addressing common issues concerning the needs of transgender students, and to assist schools in establishing policies and procedures that ensure a supportive and nondiscriminatory environment for transgender students. These guidelines are commonly referred to as Policy 5756. [4] You can read the complete DOE Guidance for school districts for the full details.

These guidelines recommend that all NJ school districts adopt specific protections for transgender students that include: confidentiality and privacy concerns, procedures for school records, ensuring that a transgender student is addressed at school by the name and pronoun preferred by the student that corresponds to the student's gender identity, issuing school documentation such as student identification cards in the name preferred by the student, providing same opportunities for physical education, participation in gender-segregated school activities, not requiring a transgender student to use a restroom or locker room that conflicts with the student's gender identity, and providing reasonable alternatives if needed to ensure a student's safety and comfort, and more. [4,5]

Limitations of the Guidance

The NJDOE guidelines are just that - recommendations. The NJDOE does not require local school districts to formally adopt the guidelines.  Some Boards of Education for Bergen County school districts have adopted the guidelines, but many have not. And many local school districts are currently in conflict about adopting or repealing these policy 5756 protections. You can read an NJ.com article about one of these conflicts which occurred last year.

In the past, the NJ Division on Civil Rights of the NJ Attorney General's Office has sued some local school districts when they adopted policies in violation of LGBTQ+ and/or transgender students' rights. [6] But the best protection that transgender students have is the formal adoption of policy 5756 in their own local school district.

You can read more about one such important battle for keeping policy 5756 protections in place in this Fort Lee Residents factsheet created to prevent the repeal of Fort Lee's currently in-place policy 5756 protections. 

[4] N.J. Legislative Statutes Title 18A (state.nj.us)
[5] Transgender Student Guidance for School Districts (nj.gov)
[6] NJ judge blocks school districts’ transgender policies. Now what? | NJ Spotlight News 

Further Resources for LGBTQ+ Students

New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) Guidelines for Transgender Students (aka Policy 5756)

U.S. Federal Rights for LGBTQ+ Students

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) lists out LGBTQ+ student rights at school that apply all over the United States, not just in New Jersey. The SPLC also works to protect all LGBTQ+ rights beyond schools, through the legal system and court battles.

NJ Student Rights Handbook

This Student Rights Handbook for students in NJ schools was created in cooperation by the ACLU of NJ and the NJ State Bar Foundation. 

NJDOE Resources for LGBTQ+ Youth and Students

There is a published pamphlet with links to NJDOE resources in support of LGBTQ+ youth and students. Some are resources for teachers or about curriculum, and many are for individual students in search of support.

Filing a complaint for a violation of your NJ Civil Rights

If you believe your civil rights have been violated, you can file a complaint with the NJ Division on Civil Rights of the NJ Attorney General's office. The site provides instructions and further information on the complaint process.

For the Legal Details

If you are legally inclined, you can read the full text of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.