Several new protections for LGBTQ students and families were unveiled on Thursday by the Biden administration, including establishing a coordinator to “lead the charge” against banning books in schools, administration officials said.
The yet-to-be-named Education Department coordinator will train school districts and advise them that banning books “may violate federal civil laws if they create a hostile environment for students,” said White House domestic policy adviser Neera Tanden.
Almost 1,500 instances of book banning in schools, affecting 874 different titles in the first half of this school year, according to PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans, representing a nearly 30% increase over the previous school year.
More than a quarter of the banned books have LGBTQ characters or themes, according to PEN. The states that have implemented the greatest number of books bans this year are Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah and South Carolina.
“Book banning erodes our democracy, removes vital resources for student learning and can contribute to the stigma and isolation that many communities face,” Tanden said.
A new joint effort by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Justice Department to train LGBTQ centers to deal with threats of violence, including shooting and bomb threats, along with cyberattacks, was also announced by administration officials. Last month, DHS noted the United States’ “heightened threat environment” and said LGBTQ individuals and events are “likely targets of potential violence.”
DHS said some might be inspired to commit violence by factors including “their perceptions of the 2024 general election cycle and legislative or judicial decisions pertaining to sociopolitical issues.”
The Health and Human Services Department also promises to issue new “evidence-based” guidance to mental health providers for care of transgender kids, according to administration officials. Specific guidance was not immediately provided to CBS News, and it is unclear when the guidance will be made public, but officials said the guidelines would “support” and “affirm” transgender kids.
Officials said the guidance is aimed at addressing the higher rates of suicide attempts among LGBTQ adolescents compared to their heterosexual peers. A report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in March noted LGTBQ students are three times more likely to attempt suicide, and between 25% and 51% of transgender students have attempted suicide.
These actions come as the highest number of proposals limiting LGBTQ rights for adults and children have been proposedin statehouses across the country this year.
More than 525 bills of these bills were introduced in state legislatures in 41 states in 2023, and 76 of these bills became law as of June 5, according to a tally by the Human Rights Campaign.
President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will talk about these actions with “hundreds” of LGBTQ families and speak out against anti-LGBTQ legislation on Thursday evening, at what the White House is billing as the “largest-ever” Pride event on the South Lawn of the White House, according to officials.