Wednesday, October 22, 2014

New National School Climate Survey: Schools Remain Hostile Places for LGBT Students

Here in Virginia, despite all too common news reports of bullying induced suicides, we still lack an effective state wide anti-bullying law thanks to the efforts of The Family Foundation and its political whores in the Virginia GOP.   God forbid that the "godly Christians" be barred from abusing others or that indifferent school administrators be held accountable for their failure to protect all students in their schools.   Sadly, the phenomenon in Virginia is not unique as underscored by GLSEN's new national school climate survey.  The good news is that overall, things have improved somewhat.  Here are highlights of the findings:

This latest edition of GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey, which first began in 1999 and remains one of the few studies to examine the middle and high school experiences of LGBT youth nationally, includes four major findings:
  • Schools nationwide are hostile environments for a distressing number of LGBT students. Seventy-four percent were verbally harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 55 percent because of their gender expression. As a result of feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, 30 percent missed at least one day of school in the past month.
  • A hostile school climate affects students’ academic success and mental health. LGBT students who experience victimization and discrimination at school have worse educational outcomes and poorer psychological well-being. Grade point averages for these students were between nine and 15 percent lower than for others.
  • Students with LGBT-related resources and supports report better school experiences and academic success. LGBT students in schools with an LGBT-inclusive curriculum were less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation (35 percent vs. 60 percent). Unfortunately, only 19 percent of LGBT students were taught positive representations about LGBT people, history or events.
  • School climate for LGBT students has improved somewhat over the years, yet remains quite hostile for many. Increases in the availability of many LGBT-related school resources, due in part to efforts by GLSEN and other safe school advocates, may be having a positive effect on the school environment. LGBT students reported a lower incidence of homophobic remarks than ever before – from over 80 percent hearing these remarks regularly in 2001 to about 60 percent now. 
Other key findings in the new survey include:
  • Thirty-six percent of LGBT students were physically harassed (e.g., pushed or shoved) in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 23 percent because of their gender expression, while 17 percent were physically assaulted (e.g., punched, kicked, injured with a weapon) in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 11 percent because of their gender expression.
  • Sixty-five percent of LGBT students heard homophobic remarks (e.g., “dyke” or “faggot”) frequently or often. Thirty-three percent heard negative remarks specifically about transgender people, like “tranny” or “he/she,” frequently or often.
  • Fifty-six percent of LGBT students reported personally experiencing LGBT-related discriminatory policies or practices at school and 65 percent said other students at their school had experienced these policies and practices. This included 28 percent reporting being disciplined for public displays of affection that were not disciplined among non-LGBT students.
  • LGBT students with 11 or more supportive staff at their school were less likely to feel unsafe than students with no supportive staff (36 percent vs. 74 percent) and had higher GPAs (3.3. vs. 2.8). Unfortunately, only 39 percent of students could identify 11 or more supportive staff.
  • Verbal and physical harassment based on sexual orientation and gender expression were lower than in all prior years of the NSCS, and physical assault has been decreasing since 2007.
In Virginia and elsewhere we need to continue to work to protect LGBT students and to end the undeserved deference given to Christofascists and hate groups like The Family Foundation.  The day needs to come where endorsement by The Family Foundation is a political kiss of death.

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