GLSEN Study Finds Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT Students Experience Harassment

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GLSEN, Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, today released the most comprehensive report ever on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, The 2007 National School Climate Survey. The report is being released in conjunction with the announcement that GLSEN will partner with the Ad Council on a multiyear national public education campaign targeting anti-LGBT language among teenagers.

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Although the results of this report illustrate the grim experience in school for many LGBT students, it also highlights the important role that educators and institutional supports can play in remedying the situation.

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, today released the most comprehensive report ever on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, The 2007 National School Climate Survey. The report is being released in conjunction with the announcement that GLSEN will partner with the Ad Council on a multiyear national public education campaign targeting anti-LGBT language among teenagers.

The survey of 6,209 middle and high school students found that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students (86.2%) experienced harassment at school in the past year, three-fifths (60.8%) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and about a third (32.7%) skipped a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe.

"The 2007 National School Climate Survey reveals that, on a whole, the situation is still dire for many LGBT youth when it comes to school safety," GLSEN Executive Director Kevin Jennings said. "It's hard to believe that anyone who reads this report could continue to turn the other way as our nation's LGBT students are bullied and harassed at alarming rates. The good news is there's hope. The 2007 National School Climate Survey also shows that when schools and educators take action, they can make a drastic difference."

Key Findings of The 2007 National School Climate Survey include:

A Hostile School Climate and the Effects on Academic Achievement:

  •     86.2% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 44.1% reported being physically harassed and 22.1% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
  •     73.6% heard derogatory remarks such as "faggot" or "dyke" frequently or often at school.
  •     More than half (60.8%) of students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and more than a third (38.4%) felt unsafe because of their gender expression.
  •     31.7% of LGBT students missed a class and 32.7% missed a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe, compared to only 5.5% and 4.5%, respectively, of a national sample of secondary school students.
  •     The reported grade point average of students who were more frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression was almost half a grade lower than for students who were less often harassed (2.8 versus 2.4).

Positive Interventions and Support:

  •     Students in schools with a Gay-Straight Alliance reported hearing fewer homophobic remarks, experienced less harassment and assault because of their sexual orientation and gender expression, were more likely to report incidents of harassment and assault to school staff, were less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation or gender expression, were less likely to miss school because of safety concerns and reported a greater sense of belonging to their school community.
  •     The presence of supportive staff contributed to a range of positive indicators including fewer reports of missing school, greater academic achievement, higher educational aspirations and a greater sense of belonging to their school community.
  •     Students from a school with a safe school policy that included protections based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression 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.

Despite the positive benefits of these interventions, only about a third of students (36.3%) reported having a Gay-Straight Alliance at school. The same number of students (36.3%) could identify six or more supportive educators and only a fifth (18.7%) attended a school that had a comprehensive safe school policy.

The percentage of states with comprehensive safe school laws is also low. Only 11 states and the District of Columbia protect students from bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation, and only seven states and DC protect students on the basis of gender identity/expression. The report found that having a generic law that did not include specific categories was essentially as effective for LGBT students as having no law at all.

"Since the first National School Climate Survey in 1999, we have seen little improvement in the overall school climate for LGBT students which is disturbing in that improving school climate facilitates student safety and relates to positive educational outcomes," GLSEN Research Director Dr. Joseph Kosciw said. "Although the results of this report illustrate the grim experience in school for many LGBT students, it also highlights the important role that educators and institutional supports can play in remedying the situation."

GLSEN's biennial National School Climate Survey is the only national survey to document the experiences of students who identify as LGBT in America's secondary schools. The 2007 survey includes responses from 6,209 LGBT students between the ages of 13 and 21 from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data collection was conducted through community-based groups, online outreach, and targeted advertising on the social networking site MySpace.

The survey is being released simultaneously with the announcement of GLSEN's partnership with the Ad Council. The Ad Council, known for public education campaigns such as 'Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires,' 'Loose Lips Sink Ships,' 'A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste' and 'Take a Bite Out of Crime,' is producing its first-ever LGBT-themed campaign, featuring TV public service announcements starring Hilary Duff and Wanda Sykes. The spots will debut later this month.

About GLSEN
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. For more information on our educator resources, research, public policy agenda, student organizing programs or development initiatives, visit http://www.glsen.org.

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Daryl Presgraves
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