Last week, the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics released a new report, Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2016. This report, which aims to establish, update, and monitor “reliable indicators of the current state of school crime and safety across the nation,” revealed the additional barriers LGBTQ students face when compared to their heterosexual and cisgender peers.
Relying on data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), the report emphasizes the higher rates of bullying LGB students face (no data was collected on transgender students by YRBS). In 2015, LGB students reported being bullied on school property at a rate of 34 percent compared to 19 percent for straight students. In addition, 28 percent of LGB students reported being cyber bullied in 2015 compared to 14 percent of their straight peers. The report then ties this data to numerous publications that have detailed how higher rates of harassment, victimization, and social isolation among LGB youth can lead to more depression, suicidal thoughts, lower academic achievement, and increased unexcused absences from schools, among other negative outcomes. This in turn contributes to higher rates of substance abuse among LGB youth, which the YRBS data also documented.
The report also cited the 2015 School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization in reporting that three percent of students reported being bullied at school because of their sexual orientation. Considering that the YRBS found that eight percent of students identify as LGB and 3 percent are unsure about their sexual orientation, this could suggest that more than a quarter of LGB and questioning students experience bullying because of their sexual orientation. In addition, the report highlights data from the Campus Safety and Security Reporting System which cited sexual orientation bias as the second most common motivating bias behind hate crimes in schools.
The report’s finding that LGB students face higher rates of bullying and harassment is consistent with HRC’s survey of more than 10,000 LGBTQ teens, Growing Up LGBT in America, which found that LGBTQ youth are twice as likely to experience verbal harassment, exclusion, and physical attack at school as their non-LGBTQ peers. Furthermore, GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey found that 58 percent of LGBTQ students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and 43 percent because of their gender expression.
HRC also advocates for anti-bullying legislation like the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA), which is sponsored by Representatives Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) in the House and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) in the Senate. SSIA would require public schools around the country to have comprehensive anti-bullying policies that include LGBTQ youth. HRC has been proud to partner with GLSEN to advance this vital legislation.
In addition, HRC and researchers at the University of Connecticut recently launched a major national survey of LGBTQ teens. The survey is open to teens who identify as LGBTQ, are between 13 and 17, and are living in the U.S. Eligible teens can take the survey here.
In order to address the barriers facing LGBTQ students, HRC Foundation works with educational institutions to create more inclusive and welcoming environments in schools. HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools is the nation’s premier resource for professional development tools, lessons, and resources that help elementary schools across the nation embrace family diversity, be LGBTQ-inclusive, prevent bias-based bullying and gender stereotyping, and support transgender and gender expansive students. To learn more about HRC Foundation’s Welcoming schools, click here.