LGBTQ+ students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in communication sciences and disorders are at risk of bullying, harassment, and discrimination related to their identity. Such discrimination is inconsistent with the principles of inclusivity and diversity that should be upheld within educational programs as defined by ASHA. Universities have a responsibility to thoroughly investigate and address incidents of discrimination, ensuring that all students can pursue their education in an environment free from bias.
Know Your Rights
Students can find resources or file complaints with the U.S. Department of Education. Through their Office for Civil Rights, the U.S. Department of Education ensures equal access to education and promotes educational excellence through vigorous enforcement of civil rights in U.S. schools. OCR enforces civil rights laws to protect all students from unlawful discrimination and harassment based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age. This includes students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, asexual, intersex, nonbinary, or identify their sexual orientation or gender identity in other ways (LGBTQI+). OCR offers resources for LGBTQ+ students and investigates allegations that involve discrimination within colleges and universities.
Anti-Discrimination Codes, Guidelines, and Standards in CSD
All ASHA members, certificate holders, and applicants have a duty to create a safe, inclusive learning environment for their students.
- The ASHA Code of Ethics, Principle I, Rule C specifically states, “Individuals shall not discriminate in the delivery of professional services or in the conduct of research and scholarly activities on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity/gender expression, sexual orientation, age, religion, national origin, disability, culture, language, or dialect.”
- Also, Principle IV, Rule M states, “Individuals shall not discriminate in their relationships with colleagues, members of other professions, or individuals under their supervision on the basis of age; citizenship; disability; ethnicity; gender; gender expression; gender identity; genetic information; national origin, including culture, language, dialect, and accent; race; religion; sex; sexual orientation; socioeconomic status; or veteran status.”
National NSSLHA also encourages a safe and inclusive learning environment through their Pre-Professional Guidelines, which state, “Students must not discriminate in the delivery of clinical services on the basis of age; citizenship; disability; ethnicity; gender; gender expression; gender identity; genetic information; national origin, including culture, language, dialect, and accent; race; religion; sex; sexual orientation; or veteran status.” These guidelines are enforceable by a student’s program or institution.
In addition, the Council for Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) is recognized as an accrediting agency for audiology and speech-language pathology graduate education programs by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. Programs accredited by CAA must adhere to the Standards for Accreditation of Graduate Education Programs in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology. Section 1.8 of those standards state, “. . . institution[s] and program[s] must comply with all applicable laws, regulations, and executive orders prohibiting discrimination towards students, faculty, staff, and persons served in the program’s clinics. This includes prohibitions on discrimination based on any category prohibited by applicable law but not limited to age, citizenship, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and veteran status.”
What Can You Do If You Experience Discrimination
Here are five steps that LGBTQ+ students and allies can take in response to identity-based discrimination:
1. Confide in Someone, and Report the Incident.
Consider notifying a trusted authority figure: Reach out to a teacher, professor, school leader (e.g., principal or student affairs staff), or supervisor to report the discrimination.
2. Document and Save Details.
Document what happened, where and when the incident occurred, who was involved, and the names of any witnesses. Maintain this record for each incident of discrimination. Then, be sure to save your evidence. Keep copies of any related documents, messages, emails, or other relevant information that can serve as evidence.
3. Consider Filing a Formal Complaint.
If the issue isn’t resolved through initial reporting, escalate the matter by filing a formal complaint with the appropriate entity—such as the school, school district, college, university, or relevant educational authority.
- If the complaint is against an ASHA member, certificate holder or applicant, you can file a complaint with the ASHA Board of Ethics.
- If the complaint is about an accredited program or a program in candidacy, you can file a complaint with CAA.
You may also consider filing a complaint with relevant government agencies responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws. This includes the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice or the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
Certain organizations have state-specific and additional Title XI resources:
- For LGBTQ+ state-by-state resources, visit The Equality Federation.
- Consider using these Title IX Resources for LGBTQ Students.
4. Seek Community and Peer Support.
Connect with others who have experienced similar discrimination, join support groups, or engage with LGBTQ+ or anti-discrimination communities to share experiences and find solidarity. Remember, you are not alone on this journey. The LGBTQ+ Communication Sciences and Disorders Student Association offers support and community .
5. Seek Emotional Support and/or Crisis Counseling.
Experiencing discrimination and bias can take a toll on your mental health. Seek support from mental health resources or counseling services available within the educational institution or externally, if needed.
A number of hotlines and text services are also available:
- Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741)
Text the Crisis Text Line to reach a crisis counselor who can offer support. This resource is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- The Trevor Project (call 1-866-488-7386, or text START to 678-678)
The Trevor Project is the world’s largest crisis intervention organization for LGBTQIA+ young people under the age of 25. You can reach The Trevor Project by phone, text, or chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Trans Lifeline (call 1-877-565-8860)
Trans Lifeline is a service devoted to offering care and support to transgender people. It provides peer support from a place of experience, as the organization is staffed by trans individuals.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (call 988)
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free, anonymous resource for anyone who is dealing with suicidal thoughts or behaviors. By calling or visiting the site to access their online chat service, you can talk to a specially trained counselor who understands the issues that LGBTQIA+ people may be facing. Their website also offers a section devoted to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer issues along with information for friends and family looking to help.
These resources are designed to empower LGBTQ+ students and allies to address discrimination effectively and to advocate for a safe, inclusive learning environment. Let’s work together to ensure that you and your peers can thrive in academia, regardless of your identity.
Learn More About the LGBTQ+ Communication Sciences and Disorders Student Association
The LGBTQ+ Communication Sciences and Disorders Student Association is a national student group created by and for LGBTQ+ students studying audiology, speech-language pathology, and speech and hearing sciences. The organization’s mission is to connect and support students, advocate for their needs in clinical and educational matters, and educate allies to support LGBTQ+ students. The association provides support and community through a mentorship program, community-building and career-focused events, one-on-one peer support, and other educational resources. Connect with us through our Instagram, Facebook, or mailing list, or email us with questions.