GLSEN ( Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network ) released its eighth biennial National School Climate Survey report late last year. The report and subsequent state snapshot resultswhich were release last weekincludes information about LGBT student's experiences in middle and high schools across the country along with demographic and school characteristic differences and information about changes in school climate over time.
"The survey allows us to understand the ever-changing landscape that is the education system for LGBT students," said Dr. Joseph G. Kosciw, GLSEN's chief research and strategy officer. "This most recent report shows that there has been progress in improving the school experience for LGBT students and that positive LGBT resources in school can make a difference in the lives of these youth."
The survey looked at the indicators of a negative school climate for LGBT students such as hearing anti-LGBT remarks, experiencing harassment and assault and anti-LGBT discrimination at school. The survey also examined the ways that a hostile school climate effects LGBT students' academic achievement, educational aspirations and psychological well-being and whether LGBT students reported their experiences of victimization to school officials and/or family members and how the adults responded. In addition, the survey looked at the degree to which LGBT students have access to Gay-Straight Alliances or similar clubs, school anti-bullying/harassment policies, supportive staff/teachers and/or curricula that are inclusive of LGBT-related topics.
The state snapshot survey looked at data from 29 states including Illinois. The findings show that Illinois schools were not safe for most LGBT secondary school students. In addition, the findings indicate that many LGBT students in Illinois lack access to LGBT inclusive curriculum nor are they protected by comprehensive anti-bullying/harassment school policies.
Illinois' report showed that the vast majority of LGBT students reported hearing anti-LGBT remarks at school. Ninety-two percent heard the word "gay" in a negative way while 85 percent heard homophobic remarks such as "fag" or "dyke". Eighty percent heard negative remarks about gender expression while 56 percent heard negative remarks about transgender people. LGBT students also reported hearing anti-LGBT language from school staff25 percent heard staff make negative remarks about someone's gender expression while 17 percent heard staff make homophobic remarks.
Although most LGBT students Illinois have been harassed or assaulted at school, 57 percent of those students never reported it to school staff and 46 percent have never told family members about the incident( s ). Of those who did report being harassed or assaulted to staff/teachers, only 32 percent of those reports have resulted in effected intervention by school authorities.
As for in-school resources and supports for LGBT students, only 11 percent attend a school with comprehensive anti-bullying/harassment policies that included protections for students based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Although LGBT students in Illinois feel unsafe at school, most could identify at least one staff member supportive of LGBT students, however, only 67 percent could identify six or more supportive staff members. Also, only 22 percent were taught positive representations of LGBT people, history and events and 45 percent couldn't access LGBT content on school computers.
To ensure that LGBT students in Illinois feel safe and welcome across the state; GLSEN urges Illinois school leaders, education policymakers and other adults charged with making schools safe for all students to implement comprehensive school anti-bullying policies, provide professional development for school staff concerning LGBT issues, increase access to LGBT-inclusive curricula and resources and be supportive of Gay-Straight Alliances.
"Progress is being made in our nation's schools. But when more than half of LGBT youth continue to report unsafe or even dangerous school climates, we all have a responsibility to act," said Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN. "The large number of students who reported hearing anti-LGBT language and who continue to experience verbal and physical harassment in Illinois schools is unacceptable. GLSEN calls on everyone in Illinois to join us in ensuring students and educators are given the resources and support to create safe and affirming school environments. All members of the school community need to feel empowered to intervene when others are undermining these efforts."
See www.glsen.org/nscs and www.glsen.org/statesnapshots for more information.
Earlier Windy City Times coverage at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/GLSEN-webinar-shows-climate-for-LGBT-students-in-US-schools/49474.html .