Book Review                                      Online Exclusive


The Right to Be Out 

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in America's

Public Schools

by Stuart Biegel, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minn., 2010, 328 pp., $19.95 softcover 

 Book Review: The Right to Be Out

The Right to Be Out, thoroughly researched, written and documented, is a resource that will serve many purposes for school administrators.

Written by a professor of law at UCLA, the book demonstrates how the right to be out, for both students and school staff, has evolved at an intersection between the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the free speech clause of the First Amendment. The inconsistencies from one state to another or even one school to another are still rampant and each court decision can shift momentum one way or the other. However, there seems to be a growing understanding and commitment to the rights of all.

As a judge who found in favor of the right of a student to wear a “Straight Pride” t-shirt said in his ruling, “All students benefit from the respectful and thoughtful exchange of ideas and sharing of beliefs and practices.”

It is not easy to read about the cruelty and bullying of students toward other students who are perceived to be or who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Even more disturbing — and hopefully eye-opening — are cases where school officials are the root of the problem.

The Right to Be Out recounts a detailed history, provides powerful case studies, cites key laws and court cases and provides prudent guidelines for action. As the author states, “perhaps the most important of all the themes that appear throughout this book is the value of working toward a reasonable middle ground.”

Reviewed by Bob Schultz, instructor, Brandman University, Irvine, Calif.


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