USA: Librarians Support Students Amid Anti-LGBTQIA+ Legislation, Challenges

Not specifically about legal librarians but considering what has been happening recently in states around the US we thought it would be good at  leastonce to have a positive story on the topic.

The School Library Jnl reports

During his sophomore year in high school, Bradley Savella and his family moved from Hawaii to Tennessee.

“I didn’t even understand what culture shock was until I moved to Tennessee,” says Savella, who graduated in 2021.

It took him a while to find his footing at his new school. Savella was also grappling with issues concerning his identity. But he says things began to turn around for him once he made a few friends and was introduced to Tyler Sainato, the school librarian at Cane Ridge High School in Antioch, TN, a suburb of Nashville.

“She was just a breath of fresh air, and she would always make me feel so safe,” says Savella, who came out as gay during his high school years. “She also was an advocate for the LGBT community, and she directed me to the GSA [Gay-Straight Alliance]. Being in Tennessee is a little scary for LGBT students and children.”

Tennessee students are not alone. Across the nation, there have been an increasing number of laws proposed and passed regulating what students can and cannot be taught about gender and sexuality in schools.

Books with LGBTQIA+ characters or themes are also coming under attack from conservative lawmakers who argue that these materials don’t belong in schools. The concerted campaign includes restricting access to titles these groups feel are inappropriate for young people through challenges and book removal from school libraries.

The vast majority of these titles have LGBTQIA+ themes or deal with race. Half of the American Library Association’s top 10 list of most challenged books in 2021 concern queer identity, and the three most challenged titled—Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, and All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson—all fall in this category.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis called Kobabe’s memoir “a cartoon-style book with graphic images of children performing sex acts” after he signed a bill that gives parents a greater say in which books are allowed in school libraries. The climate and discussion are so fraught that several school librarians contacted for this article declined to speak with SLJ out of fear of negative and personal consequences.

Advocates for queer young people say support from caring adults like Sainato is crucial.

LGBTQIA+ teens and young adults are four times as likely as their peers to die by suicide, according to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for queer youth.

Of 35,000 LGBTQIA+ youth ages 13 to 24 surveyed by the Trevor Project in 2021, 42 percent had “seriously considered” attempting suicide in the last year. That number jumps to more than 50 percent for those who identify as transgender and/or nonbinary.

“I really do believe that this work can save lives,” says Sainato. “I feel like it is part of my purpose to amplify voices that are not heard often. My role in that is to provide a safe space where people can ask questions, where people can find refuge, where people can find books or other information where they can see themselves represented.”

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