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All schools now required to ensure safety and acceptance of LGBT individuals in classrooms

All schools in the Netherlands are now required by law to ensure the safety and acceptance of LGBT students and staff in the classroom. The new citizenship law, which articulates that mandate, will take effect on Sunday, Aug. 1. The COC has long advocated for the change in the law and is happy with the result.

'This is a wonderful step towards schools where everyone feels safe and accepted, whatever your sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics,' COC president Astrid Oosenbrug said earlier about the change in the law. 'Although more and more schools are on the right track, there is still a world to be won when it comes to acceptance of our young people.'

Oosenbrug calls on schools to start working on the new obligation immediately. Right now, "gay" is still the most commonly used swear word at school. LGBT youth are bullied up to four times more often than average. Almost half (43%) of openly transgender students are victims of verbal abuse.

The COC also pushed for the law because there are still schools that actively reject LGBT people: with anti-LHBTI statements, stating that LGBT people would be an "abomination" in the eyes of God, or that Allah would detest LGBT people.

In a letter to the Lower House in the fall of 2020, the COC, together with Rutgers, proposed tightening the law on the citizenship mandate for schools. That led to a proposal by former PvdA MP Kirsten van den Hul (PvdA), Peter Kwint (SP) and Lisa Westerveld (GroenLinks).

That proposal was adopted by the Lower House in November 2020; only PVV, Forum, SGP and Van Haga voted against it. The Senate voted for the proposal in June 2021, with only PVV, Forum and SGP voting against it. 

This is a tightening of the Citizenship Act by Minister Slob (Elementary and Secondary Education). This now states that schools must ensure "respect" for differences in sexual orientation and provide an environment in which LGBT people "feel safe and accepted. The same applies to other non-discrimination grounds.

The Citizenship Act formulates standards that schools must instill in their students to promote their becoming full participants in the democratic rule of law. The law will apply to all schools, both primary and secondary and, for example, schools on the BES Islands.

Through the so-called core objectives regulation, schools have already been required since 2012 to teach students to deal respectfully with sexual diversity in society. This also happened after a year-long campaign by the COC.