New Pa. Regulations Strengthen Anti-LGBTQ and Racial Discrimination Protections

LGBTQ people living and learning in Pennsylvania now have another layer of protection thanks to recent regulatory changes at the state level.

Changes ordered by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and codified last week by the state’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission also offer safeguards to ensure that students are not discriminated against based on texture or the hairstyle of their hair.

Pennsylvania is one of 21 states without laws specifically prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination, but Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement last week that the new regulations were “another important step in ensuring that all Pennsylvanians can live in the dignity and freedom”.

“I’ve been clear – hate has no place in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “This includes protecting the rights of people who are discriminated against by a school, landlord or employer because of their love or gender identity.”

Kristina Moon, staff attorney at the Education Law Center, said the new regulations were significant.

Over the past two years, there has been “a growing number of attacks on the rights of gay, transgender, and non-binary students, in the form of various policies proposed and passed by school districts, as well as proposed legislation. at the state level,” Moon said. These have taken the form of excluding transgender students from sports teams, banning pride flags in classrooms, and even mentioning gender identities in teaching.

The settlement aligns with federal and state court rulings, Moon said, and provides families who experience such discrimination another avenue in addition to filing a federal Title IX complaint: filing a complaint with the US Human Relations Commission. Pennsylvania.

The regulatory change also broadened the definition of the term “race” in a way that specifically protects policies that target ethnic characteristics, such as hairstyles commonly associated with black culture, such as afros, locs, braids or the wigs.

“There have been policies in school grooming codes and uniform codes for too long that unfairly target black and brown students,” Moon said. “This will clarify and confirm that such policies are racially discriminatory.”

School policies that prohibit hairstyles that are historically and culturally associated with Black students and their culture – some policies that specifically prohibit afros or locs or long braided extensions or locs or wigs.

The regulations provide protections under the Fair Educational Opportunities Act and the Human Relations Act, which prohibits discrimination in schools, employment, housing and public accommodations.

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