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LGBT youth and allies rally today with California lawmakers for school safety and equality

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Nearly 60 California high school students are talking today with state lawmakers and administrators about the harm caused by extreme discipline policies like "zero tolerance" and the need to implement protections for LGBT youth.

The students attending the seventh annual Queer Youth Advocacy Day are LGBT and straight ally youth activists representing Gay-Straight Alliance clubs from towns and cities across state.

Students will rally at the State Capitol's north steps at 11 am where they will be joined by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymembers Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), Toni Atkins, (D-San Diego), Betsy Butler (D-Los Angeles), Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento), Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) and Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens).

Following the rally, students will visit their representatives' offices to advocate for AB 1729 and AB 2242, two bills that would address the use of extreme and unfair discipline policies, under which LGBT students, students of color, and students with disabilities suffer disproportionate rates of suspension and expulsion.

Students will also meet with state officials from the California Department of Education to discuss the implementation of existing safe schools laws, including the Gender Nondiscrimination Act and the FAIR Education Act. Both laws were passed last year with support from youth advocates during the 2011 Queer Youth Advocacy Day.

"Students shouldn't be denied an education just because of who they are, but for many LGBT youth in California that's the reality created by unfair discipline policies and schools that fail to protect students from harassment," said Carolyn Laub, executive director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network. "The courageous youth leaders in the Capitol today are building on years of student advocacy in California to demand that all districts respect the letter and spirit of our hard-won safe schools laws."

"While LGBT youth today are growing up in an era of greater awareness and acceptance of LGBT people, schools are still ill-prepared to fully ensure the emotional and psychological well-being and development of LGBT students. We're proud to join with our partners today to empower courageous lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people to tell their stories and make change that will impact their lives and the lives of the next generation of LGBT Californians for years to come," said Clarissa Filgioun, Equality California board president.

"Along with our partners, The Trevor Project is incredibly proud of the empowered youth who advocate for their rights to safety and equal treatment in school and in their communities on Queer Youth Advocacy Day, " said Abbe Land, executive director and CEO of The Trevor Project.

"The young people of Queer Youth Advocacy Day are leading the charge for equality and social justice," said Masen Davis, executive director of Transgender Law Center. "We thank GSA Network and all our partners in helping to empower youth to advocate for themselves and their communities at the Capitol."

"I'm so proud of the young people at Queer Youth Advocacy Day who joined LGBT equality organizations to create safe and respectful school communities for all students," said James Gilliam, deputy executive director for the ACLU of Southern California.