HRC Blog

Panel Explores Unfair Criminalization of LGBT Youth

This post is submitted by Diversity Intern Francisco Hernandez:

Last week, the Center for American Progress hosted a discussion on the unfair criminalization of LGBT youth.

Gay and transgender youth make up just 5 to 7 percent of the youth population, yet 13 to 15 percent of these youths are currently in the juvenile detention system, according to the panel.

The recent HRC Youth Survey showed that LGBT youth experience high rates of bullying and harassment in schools in addition to unwelcoming and unsupportive environments at school, at home, and in the community. These types of rejection, such as getting thrown out of the house, lead youth to seek economic alternatives, like survival sex, which puts them at risk of entering the juvenile detention system.

Gay and transgender youth make up 40 percent of the homeless youth population. Once in the system, unequipped facilities often do more harm than good due to a lack of strong policies and cultural competency training, according to the CAP panel.

“These are not systems set up to serve youth, let alone LGBTQ youth," said panelist Maya Rupert of the National Council for Lesbian Rights.

Marie Williams from the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network and Ryan Wilson from the U.S. Department of Justice were also on the panel, which was moderated by Aisha Moodie-Mills of CAP.

The number of youth in the system keeps increasing due to factors such as zero-tolerance policies on dress codes and suspension and expulsion policies for violence in schools. Sixty percent of LGBT youth miss school due to harassment and 30 percent report harassment from school administrators, according to the panel.

Schools that aren't entirely inclusive and culturally competent on LGBT issues are punishing youth who are just trying to defend themselves, Rupert said.

Wilson suggests increased research on the connection between youth, race, and the school-to-prison pipeline.

Read an overview of the experiences of LGBT youth in the juvenile justice system.

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