Dr. Payne serves on the New York State Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) Task Force, the DASA State Policy Committee, and the New York State Education Department Diversity Certification Work Group. QuERI has served as pro-bono consultants for the NYCLU and the Department of Justice on LGBTQ student harassment cases. Through this work, we hope to bring research on the LGBTQ student experience to the practice of policy making in support of LGBTQ students and families.
The intent of the Queering Education Research Institute (QuERI) is to design policy recommendations that will be an integral part of safe and affirming school environments for all students. It is our belief that these policies should not only reflect school responsibilities as defined by local, state and federal law, but also proactively address the needs of marginalized students who have historically been underserved by educational law. Research consistently confirms that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) students are particularly vulnerable in the school environment. Lawsuits are continuing to work through the judicial system, but schools can ill-afford to wait for legal precedent to define their responsibility to this group of students. Furthermore, we believe that the purpose of school policy should not be limited to defining a school district’s legal obligations. Policy has the potential to establish expectations for and provide an organizational framework for maintaining a respectful and equitable school environment. Therefore, we recommend a “best practices” approach to school policy that reflects the school district’s intent to uphold the safety and dignity of every student.
A “best practices” approach to designing LGBTQ culturally competent policies relies on education research and understanding schools as social and institutional spaces. Such an approach includes anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies, but is broader than protecting the physical and emotional safety of victimized students and looks at schools as social systems where not all student contributions are visibly valued. We recommend a policy strategy that allows platforms for contributions of all students to be valued in the school community. Beyond curricular inclusion, this would include diversifying students’ avenues for earning recognition or prestige in the school environment. This is an important step because schools traditionally reward idealized performances of traditional gender and heterosexuality in very visible ways (i.e. athletic events; Homecoming traditions; Prom queens), while other kinds of success—arts, academics—are much less likely to be ceremoniously recognized.
Research tells us that policy alone does not change the experiences of LGBTQ students in school. It is important to recognize that LGBTQ students occupy a unique place in their marginalization and that requires specific attention. LGBTQ hatred and harassment is often referred to as the last “ acceptable” prejudice, referencing a cultural trend toward “political correctness” and a tendency for people to hide their racial, ethnic and religious prejudices from public view. Not only is it often considered acceptable to demean, devalue and harass LGBTQ people, such behavior often serves the role of elevating the status of the (usually male) harasser – stressing his heterosexuality, masculinity and manhood. In other words, students find it useful to harass LGBTQ students and because it serves a purpose for them, it is harder to stop the behavior through “just say no” approaches. Education must be a part of the solution and schools must make institutional statements about the value and importance of LGBTQ students to the school community.
Ultimately, our hope is for schools to think broadly and creatively about the kinds of institutional changes that can be implemented in efforts to create school cultures that affirm all identities.“In 2009, the NYCLU successfully settled a historic case accusing a school district of systematically failing to protect a young man from violent bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender non- conformity… [as a part of the settlement process] Dr. Payne and her team, with the support and encouragement of the NYCLU and the United States Department of Justice, which had intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of the NYCLU’s client, … overcame a great deal of political and bureaucratic resistance to incorporating language and concepts pertaining to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression and deftly navigated the complex dynamics of reform.”Johanna Miller, J.D. & Corey Stoughton, J.D., New York Civil Liberties Union.
State of New York, State Policy Committee for the Dignity for All Students Act Implementation, 2010 to present.
State of New York, State Task Force on Dignity for All Students Act Implementation, 2010 to present.
State of New York, School Professional Pre-service Diversity Certification Committee for Dignity for All Students Act Implementation, 2012 to present.
Research Consultant to the New York State Department of Education for the implementation of the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) State Policy Group, New York State, 2010-present.
LGBTQ Policy Consultant for New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA), during joint work on a settlement, 2010-2012.
LGBTQ School Harassment Trial and Settlement Policy Consultant, New York Civil Liberties Union, 2009-present.
Equity in New York State Sex Education Curricula, Consultant, New York Civil Liberties Union, 2009-present.
Payne, E. & Smith, M. (2012). Drafted New York State certification requirements for pre-service school professional training on LGBTQ issues.
Payne, E. & Smith, M. (2012). Drafted pre-service education component of legislative amendment for New York State Dignity for All Students Act 2.0.
Payne, E. & Smith, M. (2012). LGBTQ Inclusive School Cultures – What’s Policy Got to Do With It? Huffington Post. September.
Payne, E & Smith, M. (2011). New York Harassment Case [District name] Supplement Document: QuERI Transgender additions to the joint New York State School Boards Association (NYSSBA) and QuERI policy recommendations in the [District name] LGBTQ Student Harassment Settlement.
Payne, E. & Smith, M. & New York School Board Association (2011): LGBTQ Inclusive Policy Recommendations in the [District name] Settlement.
Payne, E & Smith, M. & Johnson, R. (2009-2011). School and District Policy andprocedures qualitative analysis conducted for the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU). For settlement negotiations and resolution of harassment suit: Performed policy evaluation study of [District name] Central School District [School name] High School Student-Parent Handbook; [District name] Central School District Anti-Harassment Policies; [District name] Central 2008-2009 Code of Conduct; [District name] Central Harassment Complaint Procedure. October 2009. Revised Policies produced 2010-11.
Payne, E & Smith, M. (2008). Including the LGBTQ student: Proposals to amend teacher certification requirements in New York State. Created at the request of New York State Human Rights Commission to be submitted to the New York State Department of Education in response to LGBT hate crimes in the state in 2008.