Every two years, the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network conducts a school climate survey to assess the experience of LGBT young people across the country. Today, the group released its report from 2011, and though there is definitely marked improvement since the 2009 study, LGBT students still face very high levels of bullying and victimization. Here are some of the key findings:
- 81.9 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 38.3 percent reported being physically harassed, and 18.3 percent reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
- 63.9 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 27.1 percent reported being physically harassed, and 12.4 percent reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender expression.
- 84.9 percent of LGBT students heard “gay” used in a negative way (e.g., “that’s so gay”) and 71.3 percent heard homophobic remarks (e.g., “dyke” or “faggot”) frequently or often at school.
- 6 in 10 LGBT students (63.5 percent) reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation; and 4 in 10 (43.9 percent) felt unsafe because of their gender expression. 80 percent of transgender students reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender expression.
In addition to these high rates of negative experiences, the study also found a correlation between how safe and included students felt and how well they performed academically:
- Nearly one third of LGBT students (29.8 percent) reported skipping a class at least once and 31.8 percent missed at least one entire day of school in the past month because of safety concerns.
- The reported grade point average of students who were more frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression was lower than for students who were less often harassed (2.9 vs. 3.2).
- Having a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in school was related to more positive experiences for LGBT students, including: hearing fewer homophobic remarks, experiencing less victimization because of sexual orientation and gender expression, being less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation (54.9 percent of students with a GSA vs. 70.6 percent of other students) and having a greater sense of belonging to their school community.
- Students in schools with an LGBT-inclusive curriculum, i.e. one that included positive representations of LGBT people, history and events, heard fewer homophobic remarks, were less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation (43.4% of students with an inclusive curriculum vs. 63.6% of other students), were more likely to report that their peers were accepting of LGBT people (67.0% vs. 33.0%) and felt more connected to their school.
- Compared to students at school with a generic policy that did not include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, students attending schools with a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that included specific protections heard fewer homophobic remarks, experienced lower levels of victimization related to their sexual orientation, were more likely to report that staff intervened when hearing homophobic remarks and were more likely to report incidents of harassment and assault to school staff.
School climate is getting better, but only slightly. The programs and policies that are supposed to make a difference are making a difference, but are still not prevalent enough: only 45.7 percent had a GSA, 16.8 percent had an LGBT-inclusive curriculum, and 7.4 percent had a comprehensive anti-bullying policy. These are exactly the kinds of effective interventions anti-gay conservatives are trying to block. More must be done to open up discussions and schools and help these young people feel authentic about who they are.