THE SHOCKING WAYS SCHOOLS FAIL STUDENTS WHO ARE LGBTQ+
Students who are LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Plus) face discrimination and harassment daily at school, by both students and adults (13). All research indicates that a school’s climate has a direct impact on a student’s academic and social outcomes, yet schools continue to be unsafe and inhospitable to students who are LGBTQ+. A 7%-11% (8) prevalence of students who are LGBTQ+ occurs in our public and private schools and they continue to not be allowed to freely achieve academic success and progress, as compared to other students. They are denied equal access to their education due to hostile environments, intimidation and shunning. Pervasive Illegal sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, harassment and bullying continue to be allowed, tolerated, ignored and not appropriately addressed by professionals within our schools. The result is that students who are LGBTQ+ are two times more likely to drop out of high school. Public schools are responsible for protecting and educating all of our students, but the following statistics demonstrate that all too often they fail to protect and educate their students who are LGBTQ+.
DISCRIMINATION, HARASSMENT AND BULLYING PERVADE OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Students who are LGBTQ+ are 2 times more likely to be injured or threatened with a weapon at school compared to other students. (2)
48% of students who are LGBTQ+ are excluded at school as compared to 26% of other students. (1)
Students who are LGBTQ+ have adverse health and mental health consequences due to being rejected, bullied and harassed.
Students who are LGBTQ+ are 4 times more likely to miss school because they feel unsafe.(2)
21% of students who are LGBTQ+ are regularly bullied (called names and threatened). (1)
17% of students who are LGBTQ+ are physically assaulted at school as compared to 10% of other students.(1)
51% of students who are LGBTQ+ are verbally harassed as compared to 25% of other students.(1)
65% of students who are LGBTQ+ are frequently exposed to homophobic remarks. (5)
85% of students who are LGBTQ+ were verbally harassed in the past year. (5)
Students who are LGBTQ+ are 4 times more likely to commit suicide. (2)
50% of students who are LGBTQ+ are rejected by their parents and 26% are forced to leave home. (3)
30% of students who are LGBTQ+ have been physically abused, as a direct result of their sexual orientation or gender identity, by family members. (6)
20 - 40% of homeless youths are identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual. (4)
33% of students who are LGBTQ+ experienced cyber-bullying as compared to 14% of other students. It should be noted that those exposed to cyber-bullying vs just school based bullying were at high risk of poor school performance, depression, suicidal ideation, self-injury, and suicide attempts. (7)
42% of students who are LGBTQ+ experienced school based bullying as compared to 24% of other students. (7)
Student bystanders to discrimination and bullying are negatively effected by witnessing it and being schooled in hostile environments. (11)
LGBTQ+ STUDENT RIGHTS IN SCHOOLS
All students who are LGBTQ+ must be treated with respect at school. We all must remind schools that gender identity and expression are protected by the U.S. Constitution and Title IX.
Public schools must address LGBTQ+ student harassment.
No student (LGBTQ+ as well as other students) should ever be exposed to homophobic statements.
Enforcing gender stereotyping (dress, behavior or appearance) is not allowed under Title IX.
Public schools cannot blame gender or sexual identity for the cause of harassment or bullying. All public schools must actively enforce an anti-bullying policy.
Public school officials may not “out” students about sexual orientation or gender identity, even if others know, not even to their parents.
Public schools may not silence students who are LGBTQ+ about their sexual orientation (talking about or wearing clothing reflecting being LGBTQ+).
Public schools must treat students who are LGBTQ+ with respect as related to restroom and locker room access.
Students who are LGBTQ+ have the right to respectfully express a viewpoint and feel safe doing so, especially over controversial gender or sexual identity issues.
All students have the right to learn about LGBTQ+ issues and history.
All students have the right to have a safe environment to report harassment, discrimination, bullying, assault or sexual misconduct by other students or adults and have the reassurance that the incident(s) will be handled with confidentiality and care in a prompt and fair manner.
Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) and Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) Clubs are allowed under the Federal Equal Access Act, just like any other non-curricular club.
It can be a social club, support group and or an activist organization.
These groups are for all students, not just students who are LGBTQ+.
Students who are LGBTQ+ should report different treatment from other clubs (unequal access to school facilities, funding and treatment).
GSA or SAGA clubs follow the same club development and policy rules as any other school clubs.
Students who are LGBTQ+ have the right to be called by their chosen name and have their preferred pronoun used.
Students who are LGBTQ+ cannot be refused the right to bring a same sex date to a dance or prom.
Students who are LGBTQ+ can run for any gender identified position they want to (Prom Queen OR King), since the First Amendment gives students who are LGBTQ+ equal protection to express themselves.
STUDENTS WHO ARE LGBTQ+ ARE AT EVEN HIGHER RISK AT UNIVERSITIES
The environments become even more hostile and dangerous for students who are LGBTQ+ as they transition to college, where the severity of the issue is unacknowledged and unaddressed. This occurs at both private and public institutions, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, as reported in an extensive AAU (The Association of American Universities) Survey (9) of 27 elite universities. This survey disclosed that:
75% of college students who are LGBTQ+ experienced sexual harassment.
9% experienced sexual assault involving rape, with only 1 in 4 incidents being reported to authorities. This is a significant public health issue.
13% experienced partner violence.
25% experienced unwanted sexual contact including genital groping or forced kissing.
SELF-ADVOCACY FOR STUDENTS, WHO ARE LGBTQ+
All public schools need to actively teach and model tolerance and authentic inclusion of diverse groups. It is important that high schools teach students who are LGBTQ+ about their sexual orientation and gender identity rights and how to safely self-advocate, just as we would teach any other group of students about self advocacy skills, civil rights or disability rights.
Students who are LGBTQ+ must be taught how to:
Safely and effectively report bullying and harassment
Document occurrences in writing
Dates and times of EVERY homophobic or discriminatory incident
What was said and by whom – staff and student responses
How to summarize verbal conversations in writing
Who to send written documentation to and why
Request copies of school policy and procedures
Maintain copies of any documents they have filled out
Many states have anti-bullying laws that also apply to both private and public schools. Thus, students who are LGBTQ+ should talk to their school’s Title IX or GSA coordinator at their school or call the ACLU LGBT project or GLAD for additional assistance. If they are assaulted on or off school campus they should immediately report it to the police.
LACK OF ACCESS OF ANY STUDENT TO AUTHENTIC INCLUSION
WITH FULL AND ACTIVE PARTICIPATION AFFECTS ALL OF US
Discrimination in our educational system also attacks the very core of our democracy. When we fail to provide the appropriate support and environments necessary for ALL students to be active and informed full members of our democratic system, we fail all of us. Inequality and discrimination, in any form, is a major factor contributing to the United States’:
Lack of innovation (12)
National instability (12)
Decreased global marketplace competitiveness (12)
Stunted economic growth and system-wide financial instability (12)
Under employment for extended periods of time (12)
Weakened and shrinking tax base (12)
Increased mental health costs (15)
Increased levels of homelessness and costsWeakened democratic norms and principles. (12)
Decreased workforce size (15)
Decrease in international tourism to the U.S. (15)
Unrealized increase in GDP (15)
We must come to understand that "Human capital will determine power in the current century, and the failure to produce that capital will undermine America's security.” “…undereducated swaths of the population damage the ability of the United States to physically defend itself, protect its secure information, conduct diplomacy, and grow its economy.” (14)
Now the U.S. is ranked 14th in the world in education, in part because we fail to successfully include and educate so many exceptional students, who could also potentially solve our innovation and international competition problems. In 2008 the U.S. was ranked as the most innovative economy in the world and we are now ranked 8th. We have also plunged in our international ranking for our innovation capacity and internal competitiveness to 39th. Research has shown that, “Countries that treat LGBT people equally also have better-performing economies.” (15) We must realize that discrimination against individuals who are LGBTQ+ has a direct impact on our U.S. economy though decreased economic output for both individuals and businesses.
Our self-perceptions do not reflect international reality. We are resting on our laurels and refuse to seriously address facts that reflect the current discriminatory educational conditions in our country. Our education system is currently outdated, lacks innovation, and needs accurate information to effectively change our discriminatory practices and continued international decline.(15) As school administrators, policy makers, and parents we need to wake up and get our priorities straight. Once we realize that the lack of any student’s success has far reaching long term adverse affect for each and every one of us, we will hopefully begin to protect ALL students.
The successful schooling of each and every student is a national welfare and public health issue (10), not just an LGBTQ+ issue. We only hurt ourselves by allowing student discrimination to occur in any form in our society, especially in our educational systems. What we are doing now is clearly not working for any of our students, especially not for the 7% - 11% of our students who identify as LGBTQ+, and it is definitely not working for us nationally. We need to focus on:
Promoting success of all students, since all students are students first and their beliefs, preferences, or sexual, religious, political or disability identities are secondary.
Proactive prevention of discrimination at all institutional levels
Openly identifying discriminatory behaviors and call them for what they are
Reeducating students and adults who engage in discriminatory behaviors, and begin to hold them accountable.
Advocates for Youth American Psychological Association (APA)
GLAD (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders)
GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network)
Jump-Start Guide for Gay-Straight Alliances - GLSEN
Know Your Rights! A Quick Guide for LGBT High School Students - ACLU
LGBT Project: Schools & Youth - ACLU
Out, Safe & Respected: Your Rights At School - Lambda Legal
Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
Prom Resources for LGBT Students - ACLU
Safe Schools Coalition Tips on Starting a Gay/Straight Alliance - ACLU
United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR),
3 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
4 National Network of Runaway and Youth Services
5 National School Climate Survey - GLSEN
6 USC Social Work
7 Schneider, S.K., O’Donnel, L., Stueve, A. & Coulter, R. (2012). Cyberbullying, school bullying, and psychological distress: A regional census of high school students. American Journal of Public Health, 102 (1), 171-177.
8 How Many People are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender?". Williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu. 2013-06-16. Retrieved 2015-12-26.
Available at: http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/research/census-lgbt-demographics-studies/how-many-people-are-lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender/
9 AAU (The Association of American Universities) Survey.
Available at: https://www.aau.edu/Climate-Survey.aspx?id=16525
10 Christina Meneses, & Nicole Grimm, Heeding the Cry for Help: Addressing LGBT Bullying as a Public Health Issue Through Law and Policy, 12 U. Md. L.J. Race Relig. Gender & Class 140 (2012). Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.umaryland.edu/ rrgc/vol12/iss1/5
11 National Safe School Partnership, Bridging The Gap In Federal Law: Promoting Safe Schools And Improved Student Achievement By Preventing Bullying And Harassment In Our Schools Available at: http://www.glsen.org/binarydata/GLSENATTACHMENTS/ file/000/000/912-I.pdf
12 The Council on Foreign Relations (2012), How Inequality Damages Economies
13 United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance: Harassment of Students by School Employees, Other Students or Third Parties issues. Available at: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/shguide.html
14 Task Force Report 68, U.S. Education Reform and National Security, Chairs: Joel I. Klein, News Corporation, and Condoleezza Rice, Stanford University, Director: Julia Levy, Culture Craver
Available at: http://www.cfr.org/united-states/us-education-reform-national-security/p27618
15 M. V. Lee Badgett, The New Case For LGBT Rights, New America Magazine, November 20, 2014. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/11/the-economic-case-for-supporting-lgbt-rights/383131/