Just when you thought kids were becoming more open-minded and tolerant of others, a survey by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, shows we still have a long way to go.
Their 2009 National School Climate Survey of middle and high school students found that as many as nine out of ten LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past year, and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation. What's more, a third of them had had to miss at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns!
Even though the survey revealed a marked decline in the frequency of homophobic teasing and remarks, it found that more severe forms of bullying and harassment remain consistent.
Here's a smattering of the startling data:
- 84.6 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1 percent reported being physically harassed and 18.8 percent reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
- 63.7 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 27.2 percent reported being physically harassed and 12.5 percent reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender expression.
- 72.4 percent heard homophobic remarks, such as "faggot" or "dyke," frequently or often at school.
- 61.1 percent of LGBT students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and 39.9 percent felt unsafe because of their gender expression.
- 29.1 percent of LGBT students missed a class at least once, and 30 percent missed at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns, compared with only 8 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively, of a national sample of secondary school students.
GLSEN experts say that gay-straight alliances in schools result in more positive experiences for LGBT students, such as decreased absenteeism and less victimization. Yet unfortunately, less than half of the LGBT students studied (44.6 percent) reported having a gay-straight alliance at school, only 53.4 percent could identify six or more supportive educators and less than a fifth (18.2 percent) attended a school that had a comprehensive anti-bullying policy.
Something's got to give. In this day and age, there is absolutely NO REASON for LGBT students to EVER have to be afraid to be who they are.
What would be helpful? Maybe if Obama spoke out and the Department of Education instituted a nationwide ally program (such as the tolerance-promoting Straight for Equality program my peeps at PFLAG provide in major companies around the country), things would get better.
"In 1999, GLSEN began data collection on the school experiences of LGBT students in order to fill a critical void in our knowledge and understanding of the ways LGBT issues play out in schools," said GLSEN executive director Eliza Byard. "It could not be clearer that there is an urgent need for action to create safe and affirming schools for LGBT students. As our nation seems to finally be taking bullying more seriously, it is crucial that LGBT students are no longer left out of efforts to address this public health crisis."