Only 28 States Have Known LGBTQ School Board Members, Report Finds

The LGBTQ community is "severely underrepresented" on school boards in the U.S., according to a report released Wednesday by the LGBTQ Victory Institute.

Titled "Few & Under Fire: LGBTQ School Board Members in the U.S.," the report presents results from the first nationwide survey assessing the number of school board members who are openly part of the LGBTQ community. The LGBTQ Victory Institute, a national organization focused on electing leaders within the LGBTQ community, conducted its survey among known LGBTQ school board members in April.

The report comes amid an elevated awareness about threats levied at school board members across the country during the coronavirus pandemic. Many of the known LGBTQ school board members contacted for the LGBTQ Victory Institute's survey told researchers they have been targeted specifically by anti-LGBTQ attacks, the report said.

The institute's report also comes in the wake of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signing legislation known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill into law, book bans that the American Library Association said often target stories "by or about Black or LGBTQIA+ persons" and political battles over transgender athletes' participation in sports.

Only 90 school board members are LGBTQ
A new report says only 90 of the estimated 90,000 school board members in the U.S. are known members of the LGBTQ community. Above, an empty classroom at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 in New York City is photographed on September 2, 2021. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

U.S. schools "have been ground zero for anti-LGBTQ vitriol this year," LGBTQ Victory Institute President Annise Parker said in a press release shared with Newsweek. "In many cases, school boards have the power to determine the rights LGBTQ kids do – and don't – have."

The institute's survey "reveals that LGBTQ people are seriously underrepresented" on school boards across the country, Parker said. "Those that do serve face attacks for showing up as their authentic selves and standing up for LGBTQ kids. It's time this dangerous, shameful reality is brought into the light so that we as a society can do better. Our kids' futures depend on it."

The LGBTQ Victory Institute estimates there are about 90,000 school board members in the U.S. Of those, only 90—or 0.1 percent—are known members of the LGBTQ community, which the report noted is a sharp contrast to the estimated 7.1 percent of American adults who identify as LGBTQ.

"To achieve equitable representation among school board members, U.S. voters would need to elect 6,300 more LGBTQ school board members," the report said.

Twenty-eight states have at least one school board member who identifies as LGBTQ, and the majority of those states have just one such member. California has the country's greatest number of known LGBTQ school board members at 22, the report said. Michigan has the second-greatest number of LGBTQ school board members with nine. Ohio and Pennsylvania each have seven.

The LGBTQ community is "most significantly underrepresented" among school boards in the South, researchers found.

"Just 13% of known LGBTQ school board members are from the South, despite the South making up 38% of the US population," the report said.

Most of the known LGBTQ school board members in the U.S. are gay cisgender men, the report said. Women and nonbinary LGBTQ school board members are "severely underrepresented," with about one in three known LGBTQ school board members identifying as cisgender women. Four of the known LGBTQ school board members are transgender women, "and there are only two trans men and two non-binary individuals," according to the report. "Less than one in five LGBTQ school board members are lesbian," it added.

The survey on which the LGBTQ Victory Institute based its report was conducted between April 19 and 28, 2022. All 90 known LGBTQ school board members were invited to participate in the survey, and 47 responded, the report said.