ICYMI: In States with Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws, School Hate Crimes Quadrupled, Washington Post Reports; Corresponding Surge in Youth Crisis Hotline Calls

by Jared Todd

Washington Post reports that “School hate crimes targeting LGBTQ+ people have sharply risen in recent years, climbing fastest in states that have passed laws restricting LGBTQ student rights and education”

Story spotlights how in Oklahoma, where community is grieving death of 16 y/o Nex Benedict, state superintendent Ryan Walters and anti-LGBTQ+ state laws continue to create an overall unsafe environment for students

WASHINGTON - Today, an article published in the Washington Post spotlighted the disturbing and dangerous correlation between states that pass anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and a rise in bullying and hate crimes in schools. Bills that aim to write hate into state law, through censoring or banning LGBTQ+ topics and books in the classroom, only help to affirm bullying, hate and discrimination, as evidenced in recent FBI hate crime data analyzed by the Washington Post.

The Post piece, which was written by Laura Meckler, Hannah Natanson and John D. Harden, outlines a number of disturbing facts that underscore the urgent bullying crisis across the country:

  • “In states with restrictive laws, the number of hate crimes on K-12 campuses has more than quadrupled since the onset of a divisive culture war that has often centered on the rights of LGBTQ+ youth.”

  • Overall, the number of anti-LGBTQ+ school hate crimes reported to authorities more than doubled nationwide between 2015 to 2019 and 2021 to 2022.
    • “Overall, there were an average of 108 anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes at schools reported to the FBI per year from 2015 to 2019 on both college and K-12 campuses. In 2021 and 2022, the most recent for which data were available, the average more than doubled to 232. (The number of reported hate crimes overall dropped in 2020, when the covid-19 pandemic shut down many school campuses, forcing learning online.)”

According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a third of the over 550 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state houses last year were attacks on any form of LGBTQ+ inclusion in the classroom with a disproportionate impact on transgender youth.

At the same time, the Washington Post reports that “Calls have spiked to the Trevor Project, which provides support to LGBTQ+ youth aimed at suicide prevention and crisis intervention. In the fiscal year ending in July 2022, the group fielded about 230,000 crisis contacts, including phone calls, texts and online chats. The following year, it was more than 500,000,” according to the Post article.

  • “The Rainbow Youth Project, a nonprofit that offers crisis response and counseling to at-risk LGBTQ+ youth, saw calls to its hotline rise from an average of about 1,000 per month in 2022 to just over 1,400 per month last year. The top reason cited by callers in 2023 was anti-LGBTQ+ ‘political rhetoric,’ such as debate over laws and policies limiting rights at school” [Washington Post, March 12, 2024]

Nex Benedict and the Youth Mental Health Crisis in Oklahoma:

  • In the weeks following Nex Benedict’s tragic death, the Rainbow Youth Project fielded almost 1,100 calls in Oklahoma in February – up from 321 calls the month prior, according to the Post.

Several OK laws are foundational to fueling anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments and bullying:

  • Ban on gender affirming care for youth;

  • Prohibiting students from using bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity; and

  • A bill being considered this year that would force schools to teach that “a person’s sex is an immutable biological trait.”

The aforementioned bills had the support of the OK State Superintendent for Public Instruction Ryan Walters, who continues to peddle harmful, transphobic tropes rather than do his job to make his state’s schools safer and more inclusive. In the Post piece, Walters doubled down on his anti-LGTBQ+ approach:

  • “Walters said he will continue to push for legislation to counter what he called ‘radical gender theory,’ which he defines as the notion that one’s gender can differ from biological sex.”

  • “‘There’s two genders. That’s the way God created us,’ Walters said. Some young people are confused, he said.”

  • “He added that he opposes bullying but wholly rejects the idea that the political environment is encouraging it.”

HRC partnered with over 350 LGBTQ+ organizations in calling for the immediate removal of Ryan Walters from his post as superintendent due to the abdication of his core responsibility to provide safe and inclusive learning environments for all students. Additionally, Chaya Raichik, founder of the anti-LGBTQ+ hate account “LibsOfTikTok,” remains on Oklahoma’s statewide library advisory board despite not being a resident of the state, having no formal qualification for the position, and consistently peddling hate online. In response, HRC’s Oklahoma members and supporters joined with other in-state organizations and parents to send an open letter telling her to stay out of Oklahoma and resign from her position on the board.

HRC Foundation’s 2023 Youth Survey Report provides further evidence that the safety of LGBTQ+ youth must be paramount for educators, school boards and administrators alike:

  • Almost half (46.1%) of LGBTQ+ youth, including over half (54.9%) of transgender and gender-expansive youth, feel unsafe in at least one school setting.

  • Bathrooms and locker rooms are where LGBTQ+ youth feel the least safe.

  • Almost 6 in 10 (59.4%) LGBTQ+ youth—including 62.6% of transgender and gender-expansive youth—have been “teased, bullied, or treated badly” at school for at least one reason in the prior year.

  • More than half each of LGBQ+ youth (51.7%), and transgender and gender-expansive youth (55.6%) were victimized specifically due to their sexual identity, gender identity, and/or gender expression.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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