75% of Gay Students Harassed At School

Published: May 3, 2006

WASHINGTON – The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has announced findings from the 2005 National School Climate Survey (NSCS), the only national survey to document the experiences of students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) in America’s schools.

The survey results were released April 26 at the National Press Club in conjunction with GLSEN’s 10th national Day of Silence.

“The 2005 National School Climate Survey reveals that anti-LGBT bullying and harassment remain commonplace in America’s schools,” said GLSEN Founder and Executive Director Kevin Jennings. “On the positive side, it also makes clear that inclusive policies, supportive school staff and student clubs, like Gay-Straight Alliances, all relate to reduced harassment and higher achieving students.”

Key Findings of the 2005 National School Climate Survey include:

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The Scope of the Problem:

  • 75. 4 percent of students heard derogatory remarks such as “faggot” or “dyke” frequently or often at school, and nearly nine out of ten (89.2 percent) reported hearing “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay” – meaning stupid or worthless- frequently or often.
  • More than a third (37.8 percent) of students experienced physical harassment at school on the basis of sexual orientation and more than a quarter (26.1 percent) on the basis of their gender expression. Nearly one-fifth (17.6 percent) of students had been physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation and over a tenth (11.8 percent) because of their gender expression.

Academic Engagement, Aspirations and Achievement:

  • LGBT students were five times more likely to report having skipped school in the last month because of safety concerns than the general population of students.
  • LGBT students who experience more frequent physical harassment were more likely to report they did not plan to go to college. Overall, LGBT students were twice as likely as the general population of students to report they were not planning to pursue any post-secondary education.
  • The average GPA for LGBT students who were frequently physically harassed was half a grade lower than that of LGBT students experiencing less harassment (2.6 versus 3.1).

Positive Interventions and Support:

  • The presence of supportive staff contributed to a range of positive indicators including greater sense of safety, fewer reports of missing days of school, and a higher incidence of planning to attend college.
  • Students in schools with a GSA were less likely to feel unsafe, less likely to miss school, and more likely to feel like they belonged at their school than students in schools with no such clubs.
  • Having a comprehensive policy was related to a lower incidence of hearing homophobic remarks and to lower rates of verbal harassment. Students at schools with inclusive policies also reported higher rates of intervention by school staff when homophobic remarks were made.

Only nine states and the District of Columbia have comprehensive anti-bullying laws that specifically address bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and only three of these laws mention gender identity. Nine other states have “generic” anti-bullying laws that do not specifically define “bullying” or enumerate categories of protected classes such as sexual orientation or gender identity. The remaining 32 states have no laws at all.

The NSCS found that both states with “generic” anti-bullying laws and states with no law at all had equally high rates of verbal harassment. States with inclusive policies that specifically enumerate categories including sexual orientation and gender identity, however, have significantly lower rates of verbal harassment (31.6 percent vs. 40.8 percent).

“These reports from LGBT students echo recent reports from the larger population of students in the United States,” said Joseph Kosciw, PhD, Research Director for GLSEN. “In a recent national study conducted by GLSEN and Harris Interactive, 62.5 percent of secondary school students reported that other students were called names or harassed at their school on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, which was very similar to the 64.1 percent of LGBT students in the NSCS who reported experiencing such harassment.”

The National School Climate Survey was released in coordination with GLSEN’s 10th national Day of Silence(r) (www.dayofsilence.org) where nearly 500,000 students from 4,000 secondary schools and colleges were expected to take part in activities to address the serious problems of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment, while advocating for solutions – like inclusive policies, GSAs and educator trainings – to ensure safe schools for ALL students.

GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey is the only national survey to document the experiences of students who identify as LGBT in America’s secondary schools and has been conducted biennially since 1999. This year’s survey includes responses from 1,732 LGBT students between the ages of 13 and 20 from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data collection was conducted through community based groups and service organizations, from April to July 2005, and online from April to August 2005. The complete survey and additional information about methodology and demographics may be obtained by calling GLSEN’s Communications Department at 212-727-0135 or by visiting www.glsen.org.

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