In recent years, courts have split sharply over issues of transgender rights, especially with regard to children and teenagers in public schools. Both federal law and the United States Constitution prohibit these schools from engaging in unjustified sex discrimination, and judges have struggled to determine whether disparate treatment of transgender students comports with this command of gender equality. Some judges have asserted that school policies that single out transgender students constitute unlawful discrimination because of sex; others have argued that these rules are justifiable as measures to respect the privacy of other students.
While the judicial debate continues, the authors used the research technique of content analysis to examine the attitudes of high school students toward LGBTQ people using the largest online dataset of high school newspapers. A total of 1,124 school newspapers with over 8,000 references to LGBTQ terms over a three-year period were analyzed. Results highlight students’ growing tolerance of gender minorities, reveal that students have been having conversations about LGBTQ rights for years, and suggest that many students have already decided that their non-gender-binary peers are deserving of equal treatment. The views and values of today’s youth may presage a broader transformation in social and legal attitudes to transgender individuals.