LGBT Youth Face Hostile School Climate

Bertel King, Jr

Educators and LGBT experts from around the country met in San Diego this past week for the fourth Annual National Education Conference focused on LGBT youth. This year's event marked the fourth time that the only national educator conference focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, and ally (LGBTQIA) has come together. The goal of the conference was to help create safe, welcoming, and inclusive school environments for all students, regardless of their sexual orientation. While acceptance of LGBT youth has improved in recent years, research shows that there is still a long way to go.

The 2011 National School Climate Survey produced by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network in September 2012 showed that over 80 percent of LGBT youth were verbally harassed in the past year due to their sexual orientation. Nearly 40 percent were physically harassed and nearly 20 percent were physically assaulted while at school. Over 60 percent felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and nearly 30 percent skipped a day of school because of safety concerns.

Over 60 percent of LGBT youth were verbally harassed and over 10 percent were physically assaulted because of their gender expression. Over 40 percent of LGBT youth felt unsafe at school due to how other students reacted to their gender expression. Transgender students experienced more hostility than their non-transgender peers.

Locker rooms, bathrooms, and physical education classes were the locations where LGBT youth felt the least safe. A number of students reported discriminatory practices in place at their schools, with the most common practices being related to LGBT relationships not being permitted at school dances, less tolerance of public displays of affection, and the like.

Students who were more frequently harassed had lower grade point averages than their peers, and increased victimization was related to depression and low self-esteem. Over 60 percent of LGBT youth never reported incidents of harassment or assault.

The survey was based on responses from over 8,500 students from all 50 states and Washington DC.

"Given these statistics, it's not surprising that LGBT youth are at an increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors, suicide attempts, and suicide," Michael Yudin wrote in a blog post for the Department of Education yesterday. "We need to ensure that educators have the tools and resources to not only protect LGBT students from harassment and discrimination, but to ensure that they thrive in schools, not drop out!"

— GLSEN Sports Project (@GLSENsports) February 20, 2013

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