In an interview with MSNBC, a representative for the group Moms for Liberty appeared to imply that LGBTQ+ children should be educated in separate classrooms from other children. The representative stated that “children with autism, Down Syndrome, they… have to be put into separate classrooms” and that similarly, “for children that identify differently, there should also be a specialized… something.” These disturbing comments are an attack on LGBTQ+ students, and they also inaccurately portray segregated classrooms as necessary for disabled students. All children deserve access to education alongside their peers, in safe and inclusive classrooms. ASAN stands against Moms for Liberty’s offensive comment and the hatred and exclusion that gave rise to it.
Students with disabilities, including autistic students and students with intellectual disabilities, belong in the regular classroom. They have every right to participate fully in school life alongside their nondisabled peers. Separate classrooms are not a benevolent service for kids with disabilities; they are a persistent form of discrimination. As a community that is often deprived of our right to inclusive education, we strongly condemn any attempts to separate LGBTQ+ students or to deprive them of participation. It is reprehensible to suggest that discrimination faced by students with disabilities should be applied more broadly to other marginalized communities. Disabled students are full members of our society, not culture war props.
LGBTQ+ students, including LGBTQ+ students with disabilities, deserve safe, inclusive classrooms. Additionally, all children, including transgender children, deserve to have full and complete participation in all aspects of school life. Transgender children should have the right to participate in sporting events as the gender they identify as, rather than the sex they were assigned at birth. We have long supported and participated in LGBTQ+ advocacy. Autistic people are more likely to identify as LGBTQ+ than non-autistic people. Exclusion from education results in exclusion from many of the opportunities otherwise available in adulthood. Inclusive education is crucial to ensuring that all students are safe and supported. This must include accessible and inclusive sex education and information about LGBTQ+ identities and advocacy.
In this clip, we heard a common claim from those targeting LGBTQ+ students – that they are advocating for the exclusion of these students from school life out of concern for privacy. But the policies they support contradict these claims. Every student should have the right to be their authentic self in school. Students are entitled to share as much or as little of who they are with peers and teachers as they choose. It is inappropriate and harmful to impose these decisions on students rather than honoring what the student chooses to disclose. Privacy concerns should never require students to hide parts of their identities they want to share.
The Moms for Liberty representative made these remarks in the context of an ongoing attack on the rights of LGBTQ+ children and children of color to participate and belong in schools, especially public schools designed to be open to everyone growing up in the United States. This attack has taken the form of preventing teachers from providing accurate instruction on U.S. history, including the history of slavery, segregation, and civil rights advocacy; or discussing LGBTQ+ issues, including their own identities and families or the identities and families of their students. It includes a Texas policy treating necessary medical care for trans youth as child abuse. And it includes book bans, such as those supported by Moms for Liberty, targeting books dealing with racial and LGBTQIA justice issues.
This remark demonstrates something many disabled advocates have long known: that the groups opposed to LGBTQ+ students being safe and welcome in K-12 education also support the exclusion of disabled students. Some disabled students are LGBTQ+, and even those who are straight and cisgender are harmed by the kind of rigid intolerance espoused by groups like Moms for Liberty. Such organizations are fundamentally hostile to the inclusion, belonging, and thriving of disabled people, including children in schools. ASAN opposes any efforts to place children in separate classrooms or schools on the basis of identity or deprive any child of the full benefit of inclusive K-12 education. ASAN will continue to advocate unrelentingly for inclusive education for all students.
For more information on ASAN’s position on safe and inclusive education for all students, please contact our Legal Director, Larkin Taylor-Parker, at email@example.com.
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. ASAN believes that the goal of autism advocacy should be a world in which autistic people enjoy equal access, rights, and opportunities. We work to empower autistic people across the world to take control of our own lives and the future of our common community, and seek to organize the autistic community to ensure our voices are heard in the national conversation about us. Nothing About Us, Without Us!