LGBT Students Still Feel Unsafe, but Some Things Are Getting Better

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) on Wednesday released the latest version of its biennial National School Climate Survey. The new survey, conducted in 2011, found that the majority of LGBT students still face harassment and feel unsafe at school—but for the first time since the survey began in 1999, it found “a significant decrease in victimization based on sexual orientation” and an increase in “levels of student access to LGBT-related school resources and support.”

The 2011 survey, which had 8,584 student respondents from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, showed that at school, 8 out of 10 LGBT students (81.9%) experienced harassment in the past year because of their sexual orientation, three fifths (63.5%) felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation and nearly a third (29.8%) skipped a day of school in the past month because of safety concerns.

Transgender students faced even more hostile school climates, with 80% reporting having felt unsafe at school because of their gender expression.

Increased victimization among all LGBT students was related to a drop in both grade point averages and self esteem.

Some things are looking better, though:

  • The percentage of students hearing homophobic remarks, such as “dyke” or “faggot” frequently or often has seen a major decline since 2001.
  • In 2011, there was a significant decrease in harassment and assault based on sexual orientation compared to findings released from previous years.
  • There was a small increase in portion of students who reported having a Gay-Straight Alliance at school.
  • Students reported a significant increase of positive representations of LGBT-related topics in their curriculum.
  • There was a small increase in portion of students who reported having access to LGBT-related Internet resources through their school computers.

The latest survey also supports the conclusion of previous ones: “a safer school climate directly relates to the availability of LGBT school-based resources and support, including Gay-Straight Alliances, inclusive curriculum, supportive school staff and comprehensive anti-bullying policies.”

The survey did not look at the experiences of non-LGBT children of LGBT parents (for that, see GLSEN’s 2008 report, Involved, Invisible, Ignored)—but I say a better climate for LGBT students (however slightly so) will likely help create a better climate for all children of LGBT parents as well.