Six out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens say they feel unsafe at school. Eighty-two percent of that same group say they've been verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation, while 71 percent say they've heard homophobic remarks like "dyke" or "faggot" used with some frequency at school.
These are just three of the more disturbing statistics revealed by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network's (GLSEN) 2011 National School Climate Survey. According to GLSEN researchers, the annual poll -- which comprised 8,584 student respondents from all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia -- aims to "consistently examine the experiences of LGBT students in America’s schools."
However, it wasn't all gloom and doom. As GLSEN officials are quick to point out, the 2011 survey found a continued overall decline in anti-LGBT language, as in previous years. This year, they add, the survey shows a significant decrease in victimization based on sexual orientation for the very first time.
While acknowledging that the 2011 survey "marks a possible turning point in the school experiences of LGBT youth,” Dr. Joseph Kosciw, GLSEN’s Senior Director of Research and Strategic Initiatives, added, “An alarming number of LGBT youth still face barriers that inhibit their ability to receive an education. And although we have seen an increase in school supports that can improve school climate for these youth, many of these young people reported being unable to access these supports in their schools.”
The GLSEN survey comes on the heels of a new University of Michigan study, which found that the phrase "that's so gay" could have deep consequences for LGBT youth. The resulting data found that LGBT students who heard the phrase frequently were more likely to feel isolated and experience headaches, poor appetite or eating problems than those who didn't.
GLSEN officials also point out that the Democratic National Convention Platform included "explicit language affirming the need for anti-LGBT bullying prevention efforts," while the Obama administration "hosted the first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention."
View a selection of statistics from GLSEN's 2011 National School Climate Survey Below:
81.9 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 38.3 percent reported being physically harassed and 18.3 percent reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
A considerable number of students reported discriminatory policies or practices against LGBT people by their school or school personnel. Students indicated the most common discriminatory policy or practice was related to treatment of LGBT relationships (e.g., related to dates for school dances and public display of affection).
60.4 percent of LGBT students never reported an incident of harassment or assault to school personnel.
84.9 percent of LGBT students heard "gay" used in a negative way (e.g., "that's so gay") and 71.3 percent heard homophobic remarks (e.g., "dyke" or "faggot") frequently or often at school.
Transgender students experienced more hostile school climates than their non-transgender peers -- 80 percent of transgender students reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender expression.
Six in 10 LGBT students (63.5 percent) reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation; and four in 10 (43.9 percent) felt unsafe because of their gender expression.
LGBT students reported feeling unsafe in specific school spaces, most commonly locker rooms (39.0 percent), bathrooms (38.8 percent) and physical education/gym class (32.5 percent).
The reported grade point average of students who were more frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression was lower than for students who were less often harassed (2.9 vs. 3.2). Increased levels of victimization were related to increased levels of depression and anxiety and decreased levels of self-esteem.
Nearly one third of LGBT students (29.8 percent) reported skipping a class at least once and 31.8 percent missed at least one entire day of school in the past month because of safety concerns.
Being out in school had positive and negative repercussions for LGBT students - outness was related to higher levels of victimization, but also higher levels of psychological well-being.