Yesterday, GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) released its biennial National School Climate Survey.  This survey is a key measure of the lived experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students, including the effects of positive and negative school climates, access to supportive resources, and changes in school climates for LGBT students over time.  

According to GLSEN, some of the key findings include: 

  • 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. 

HRC has long advocated for passage of state and federal legislation to protect LGBT students from discrimination and harassment, including the Student Non-Discrimination Act and Safe Schools Improvement Act, which were included as a key indicator of support for equality in the recently released HRC 113th Congressional Scorecard.    

The Student Non-Discrimination Act, closely modeled after the protections in Title IX, would prohibit public schools from discriminating against any student on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  The Safe Schools Improvement Act would require school districts to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religion.  We will continue to work with the sponsors of this legislation and other allies on Capitol Hill to pass this vital legislation.

The HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools is one of the few LGBT and gender-inclusive programs in the country that has a K-5 focus with resources to help elementary schools and educators address bias-based bullying—including anti-LGBT slurs and gender put-downs.  Welcoming Schools staff and consultants are working all over the country to help elementary schools take a systemic approach to be inclusive of all kinds of diversity, including students with LGBT parents.  Contact us to learn more about how the Welcoming Schools program could be part of your school.

GLSEN will also be presenting a workshop on their findings at HRC’s 2nd annual Time to THRIVE conference where nearly 1,000 educators, social workers, professional counselors and other youth-serving professionals are expected to attend.  To learn more about the national Time to THRIVE conference, go to www.TimeToThrive.org.


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