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Study: 9 of 10 LGBT Students Face Harassment at School

On the heels of the awful news out of Indiana this morning comes this 10-year study on bullying from the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

Billy "The 2009 survey of 7,261 middle and high school students found that at school nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation. Nearly a third of LGBT students skipped at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns. An analysis of National School Climate Survey data over 10 years showed that since 1999 there has been a decreasing trend in the frequency of hearing homophobic remarks; however, LGBT students’ experiences with more severe forms of bullying and harassment have remained relatively constant."

Said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard: "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. 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."


Student Experiences, a Hostile School Climate and the Effects on Educational Outcomes and Psychological Well-Being:

  • 84.6% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1% reported being physically harassed and 18.8% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
  • 63.7% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 27.2% reported being physically harassed and 12.5% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender expression.
  • 72.4% heard homophobic remarks, such as "faggot" or "dyke," frequently or often at school.
  • Nearly two-thirds (61.1%) of students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and more than a third (39.9%) felt unsafe because of their gender expression.
  • 29.1% of LGBT students missed a class at least once and 30.0% missed at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns, compared to only 8.0% and 6.7%, 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 (2.7 vs. 3.1).
  • Increased levels of victimization were related to increased levels of depression and anxiety and decreased levels of self-esteem.
  • Being out in school had positive and negative repercussions for LGBT students – outness was related to higher levels of victimization, but also higher levels of psychological well-being.

Positive Interventions and Support:

  • Having a Gay-Straight Alliance in school was related to more positive experiences for LGBT students, including: hearing fewer homophobic remarks, less victimization because of sexual orientation and gender expression, less absenteeism because of safety concerns and a greater sense of belonging to the school community.
  • The presence of supportive staff contributed to a range of positive indicators including fewer reports of missing school, fewer reports of feeling unsafe, greater academic achievement, higher educational aspirations and a greater sense of school belonging.
  • Students attending schools with an anti-bullying 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 than students at schools with a general policy or no policy.
  • Despite the positive benefits of these interventions, less than a half of LGBT students (44.6%) reported having a Gay-Straight Alliance at school, slightly more than half (53.4%) could identify six or more supportive educators and less than a fifth (18.2%) attended a school that had a comprehensive anti-bullying policy.

School Climate Over Time: 1999-2009

  • There was a steady decline in the frequency of hearing homophobic remarks from 1999 to 2003. In recent years, between 2005 and 2009, students’ reports of hearing these types of remarks have not decreased significantly.
  • LGBT students’ experiences of harassment and assault have remained relatively constant over time. However, there were small but significant decreases in frequencies of verbal harassment, physical harassment and physical assault from 2007 to 2009.
  • There has been an increase over time in the presence of several LGBT-related resources and supports in school, specifically: Gay-Straight Alliances or other student clubs that address LGBT issues in education; school staff who were supportive of LGBT students; and LGBT-related materials in school libraries. 

Sorry - a little tight to read here. Click over here for a version that's a bit easier to read.

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  1. Sadly, this is nothing new to any gay person who went to public school in this country in the last 100 years.

    Posted by: gaylib | Sep 14, 2010 10:10:55 AM

  2. I am so tired of GLSEN. They do the same thing every year. I almost think they just readjust their numbers. They need to DO MORE! their website is old and never updated, their staff is VERY white and so is all of their advertising.

    I commend GLSEN for all they have done and for being a leading national organization in LGBT youth rights, but they need to move in a different direction. Keep the mission but be more innovative, get out there more, DO SOMETHING ELSE. They are getting stale, stale, stale.

    Posted by: Johnny Garcia | Sep 14, 2010 10:24:41 AM

  3. I would say it's something more like 20 out of 10 LGBT students face anti-gay harassment at school. 10 of those harassed end up being gay, the other 10 are those accused of being gay simply for being different, smaller, weaker, or smarter than those that harass.

    Being targeted for being different under the guise of 'faggot!'-hood isn't exclusive to those of us who really are, unfortunately.

    Posted by: sfikus | Sep 14, 2010 10:35:32 AM

  4. And the 1 out of 10 that don't get harassed don't get harassed because they are so deeply closeted that no one knows that they're gay and don't know to harass them.

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Sep 14, 2010 11:28:50 AM

  5. Hatred of LGBT persons permeates our society. It will be a long time before the numbers change, but I guess we have to start somewhere.

    Posted by: Chad | Sep 14, 2010 11:53:38 AM

  6. DUH!!!!!

    Posted by: Ken Atkins | Sep 14, 2010 12:13:59 PM

  7. Yes to SFINKUS.

    Further, it's gay kids, tall kids, fat kids, skinny kids, smart kids, slow kids, short kids, popular kids, unpopular kids and just about everybody else that gets harassed in school. Though I'm trying to think of the exception to getting harassed and can't.

    Posted by: Sean | Sep 14, 2010 12:26:24 PM

  8. Yes, Sean, everyone does get harassed in school. BUT, the black kids, brown kids, tall kids, short kids, etc can go home and discuss their experiences with others who can sympathize and offer coping mechanisms to young minds. Gay kids, quite often, have no one to confide in about the bullying at school for fear of broaching a topic that they themselves may not truly understand.

    Terribly, terribly sad.

    Posted by: Brian | Sep 14, 2010 12:39:52 PM


    After subjecting Walker to a series of degrading insults ( a regular occurrence during filming) and with Walker visibly in shock, Vaknin Cooly, nad with disturbingly sadistic insight, described the process to him:

    "Your body was flooded instantly with adrenalin and its relatives like norepinephrine… Now when these moments pervade the bloodstream, your brain reacts. It shuts down certain centers and activates others. This is called the stress reaction, or stress syndrome, actually. Then when the abused recedes, the adrenalin levels being to drop."

    "As they drop, the entire system goes into mayhem. So what bullies usually do, they start and stop, start and stop. That achieves the maximal stress syndrome, and this is the great secret of bullying. Never overdo it. Small doses. The victim will do the rest."

    Posted by: I'm Layla Miller I Know Stuff | Sep 14, 2010 2:21:13 PM

  10. Brian makes a very important point. When I was young and teased or bullied for being foreign, immigrant, etc. I could go home and find support and affirmation from my family and the immigrant community that we were part of. When I was teased or bullied because I was thought to be gay I did not have anyone to talk to or any sort of support at home or anywhere else.

    Posted by: Vlad | Sep 14, 2010 3:00:59 PM

  11. Unfortunately, the only practical solution to ending bullying in schools the absence of comprehensive and effective administrative strategies to end it implemented by an aware and motivated faculty is through violent confrontation. The violence never stops violence crowd simply doesn't understand bullying. HS is the law of the jungle/prison. It's been my experience that if you want to stop a bully, you don't let up until he's not moving or begs you to stop...but make it look an accident, or you're fucked.

    Posted by: TANK | Sep 14, 2010 3:57:12 PM

  12. I guess I was lucky, although I 'm not stereotypically 'gay' looking, acting or speaking. There was very little bullying where I went to school in NYC and Boston. We had plenty of 'different' kids but they weren't really harassed and most of the kids were cool. There were numerous kids in particular at a Catholic all boys school I attended in Boston who were openly (not flamboyantly) gay, popular and jocks. They were never harassed. There were other kids who were 'different' and they weren't harassed either. I don't know why this is. This was almost 20 years ago, maybe it's worse now, or maybe other factors like location, local attitudes and stuff matter. I hear these horror stories some people experienced and experience in H.S. and I feel bad for them. In my experience there was much more bullying in grammar and Jr. High than in H.S.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Sep 14, 2010 8:19:37 PM

  13. Indiana? I am shocked...shocked!...that such things go on in Indiana.

    Nobody dared to bully me when I was in school 40 years ago, although it was generally known that I was queer. I had a reputation as one mean, relentless bastard. Not big, not strong, just mean.

    Posted by: wimsy | Sep 15, 2010 9:37:02 PM

  14. "The IU GLBT Center’s renovation coincides with a new study of the continued prevalence of harassment of gay and lesbian students in schools.

    According to a study done by the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network in 2009, ridicule towards gay or lesbian students is still prevalent in schools.

    Office Coordinator of The GLBT Center, Doug Bauder while referring a study done by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, Straight, and Education Network, says the study found that 9 out of 10 gay or lesbian students are still facing persecution.

    “Kids in high school who are gay or lesbian still experience a fair amount of harassment,” he said, “and Indiana in this study, which was done in 2009, did not fare well.”

    The campus funded the renovation and the Alumni Association, four individuals in particular, bought new furniture.

    Friday afternoon a gathering of students, faculty and supportive alumni attended the “Rainbow Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony” to help celebrate the building’s renovation.

    An IU student and the outreach Coordinator of the GLBT Center, Eric Gonzaba said the center is inviting the head researcher of the Gay Lesbian Education Network to speak at their next event."

    Posted by: balo du lich | Oct 17, 2011 4:58:43 AM

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