In the past ten years an overwhelming amount of students have come out to say that they are some form of LGBTQ. According to the center of disease control roughly 1.3 million high school students identify as LGBTQ. These students face turmoil and outright discrimination in school. The widely used acronym stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender etc. While repetitive bullying has occasionally lead to self mutilation or suicide, bullying in LGBTQ teens make both of these occurrences significantly more frequent. Due to the overwhelming amount of harassment targeted towards LGBTQ students there have been a number of laws placed into order to protect these student, however these laws even when in effect are not always followed by school officials.
Anti-LGBTQ harassment is one of the more damaging threats these students face in our public schools. Due to the overwhelming amount of harassment there have been multiple laws put in place. For instance under the U.S Constitution, public schools are required to to address harassment against LGBTQ students the same way they would address any other harassment. Equal protection of the law regardless of gender, race, sexuality or disability is guaranteed by the fifth and fourteenth amendments. This prohibits taking bullying or harrassment including an LGBTQ person anyless serious. In addition title nine protects students in schools that receive financial assistance from discrimination based on sex. This also protects students from sexual harassment and discrimination for failing to conform to gender stereotypes.
Every year the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) produces a climate survey of LGBTQ high school students in the United States. This survey includes statistics on harassment, safety, gender identity and sexuality. As well as students access to a Gay-Straight-Alliance, supportive staff and curriculum resources. Schools nationwide are known to be a distressing place for LGBTQ students. The data provided by GLSEN was produced through a seven month online survey. To insure representation of all minority youths they made special efforts to notify groups and organizations that work with transgender youth, youth of color, and youth in rural communities as well as other minorities.This sample included 23,001 students ranging from 13 to 21 years old. Roughly 67.5% of students were caucasian, 34.1% cis-gender female and 41.6% either gay or lesbian. Schools nationwide are known to be a distressing place for LGBTQ students.This survey helped many schools find ways to better the enviroment for their LGBTQ students.
On overwhelming amount of LGBTQ students stated that they feel unsafe in school due to either their sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity. Due to the amount of saftey concerns for LGBTQ students over one-third of students stated they had missed at least one day of school due to feeling unsafe at school. 59.5% of LGBTQ teens stated they felt unsafe or unwelcome due to their sexual orientation and 44.6% said they felt that way due to their gender expression. Over a tench of these students stated they missed four or more days in the past month.These students said they felt threatened most in bathrooms (42.7%), Locker rooms (40.6%), and P.E. classes (39.3). The environment of a high school is a major part of a students education due to them spending the majority of their day in the same atmosphere. A majority of the reasons for lack of safety for LGBTQ students is due to the language used in school. 98.5 percent of students stated that they heard “gay” used in a negative way at school while 91.8% of them reported feeling distress due to the language. Teachers remarks make a big influence of students even when it is not seen. 56.6% of students reported hearing homophobic remarks from a teacher while 71% said they heard negative remarks about gender expression from a teacher or other school staff.
Bullying or many typed has been a problem in high school since they were first founded. But how much does someone’s sexual orientation or gender change that? More than 80% of LGBTQ students have experienced harassment or assault in school. Sexual orientation and gender expression are the most common reasons LGBTQ students were harassed or assaulted in school according to the GLSEN climate report. Bullying is not just verbal, nearly half of the students reported being physically harassed at school because they are part of the LGBTQ community while over half of LGBTQ students have been sexually harassed at school in the past year. Harassment doesn’t always end when a student leaves the school. Often bullying continues online. 48.7% of LGBTQ students have reported being bullied electronically in the past year either through texting, social media or email. The most common way to end bullying is to simply report it to an authority figure. How ever the majority of LGBTQ students who were assaulted or harassed at school did not report these incidents. When asked why they did not report the issue, the majority of students stated that it was because they feared that the situation would get worse due to ineffective interventions. After reporting the incidence 60% of students stated that the staff took no action in regards to the victimization. 21.4% of staff even told the student being harassed to change their behavior by “acting less gay” or dressing differently. These are inattaquit ways of handling these serious situations and can cause a great amount of stress for students.
Negative language surrounding a students identity can negatively affect a students self esteem and way they see themselves. In GLSEN’s climate report survey that asked students multiple questions about the amount of times they heard negative statements surounding LGBTQ students such as; “that’s so gay”, “fag”, “dyke” or “no homo”. 70% of students reported hearing these comments often or frequently in high schools all of the united states. Over 40% of students reported hearing students say “that’s so homo” frequently in school while 36.8% hears other homophobic remarks such as “faggot” ot “dyke” said frequently. Often when students use the term gay negatively they do not mean someone who likes the same gender, they mean something that is stupid or annoying. After hearing gay used in a negative manner 91.8% of students stated that they were in some form of distress. Negative comments are not just about one’s sexuality but also could be involving someone’s gender expression. Society often imposes norms for what is considered an appropriate expression of gender. Those who do not fit the gender binary or do not express their gender for what is seen to be “normal” are often a target for bullying and violence. 98.8% of students involved with the survey dont my GLSEN stated that at some point in the past year they have heard negative comments about gender expression in school.. When asked about comments made of gender expression 92.2% of LGBTQ students have heard comments about someone not acting masculine enough while 87.1% of students have heard comments surrounding not being feminine enough. The pressure to fit the gender binary is already overwhelming for our non gender conforming teens but it is only being made worse by the intolerance and negativity or others.
Discrimination in schools is such a large issue that there have been multiple laws put in place to help protect LGBTQ students from discrimintation. The most common form of discrimination presented in the GLSEN climate survey is the act or restricting LGBTQ expression. 32% of LGBTQ students stated that hey have been punished for displaying affection such as kissing, hugging, or holding hands to someone of the same sex. Other predominant acts of stifling LGBT expression in high schools is the restriction of LGBTQ involved clothing, LGBTQ discussions and writing or presentation topics involving LGBTQ issues. While this is not directly related to harassment of teens. Stifling of one’s expression is a large issue that often is one of the main causes of harassment because when a student is not allowed to truly express themselves, other students see that unlike heterosexual relationships this is not seen as “normal” and thus something that should be made fun of. One student in the survey stated, “When I tried to make one of my open ended projects LGBTQ related, the teacher told me that it was inappropriate and forced me to restart the project.” During these studys GLSEN found that LGBTQ students were half as likely to participate in extracurricular activities than their non-LGBTQ peers.
One large struggle of LGBTQ students (specifically transgender or non gender conforming students) is the separation in schools based on sex. The separation of girls and boys reinforces toxic gender roles and causes a significant amount of distress for trans and non gender conforming students. The separation depending on gender provides no option for non binary students often making them feel hopeless and alone. 48.6% of students stated that their homecoming courts (kings and queens) are separated by gender. Not only does this strictly enforce heteronormativity but it also leaves non gender conforming and transgender people feeling as though they are not accepted. Often schools also enforce dress codes based on gender, for instance it is frequently required for girls to wear dresses to prom or dances. This is an issue for transgender students who may not be out in school that may cause them to skip these dances all together due to the requirements. 31.1% of students stated that even their graduation attire is gendered with boys wearing one color and girls wearing another. The separation of gender in schools not only hard the students who do not identify with their birth gender but also gives the aggressors more reason to victemize the LGBTQ students due to their predominant sensitivity to the subject. Often when LGBTQ students are struggling it is hard to help them, instead it is best to show all students from the beginning that there are resources for them to use rather than helping them after they come out, are harrassed, or are already struggling. Less than half of the students in the GLSEN climate survey reported being able to find books including information on LGBTQ-related topics or LGBTQ history in their school library. LGBTQ representation in clasrooms is important for both the LGBTQ students and those who lack knowledge of the topic and perhaps could be the antagonizer. 64.8% of students stated that there had been no representation of LGBTQ youth in their classrooms during the past year while 15.3% said there had been repressentation of LGBTQ topics in a negarive view. Having a teacher, staff member or guidance counselor to be able to talk to is a large help to LGBTQ youth who may be struggling. 96.6% of students stated that they could identify at least one staff member in their school who they could turn to in time of need while 61% said they would identify six or more.
LGBTQ students who ar victemized often find it hard to continue attending school. LGBTQ students who are harassed and assaulted are found to have significantly lower grade point averages. 3.8% of LGBTQ students stated that they either do not plan to graduate or are unsure if they will graduate. 834 students in this survey stated they did not plan to finish high school due to mental health concerns while 539 said it was because of hostile school environments. One student in the survey stated, “I’m moving out of state so I can begin to transition from female to male. If I can get accepted to a college I would like to become a teacher but I’ve had no guidance and I’m not sure what I need or how to achieve anything”.
Bullying is a large issue all over the world. However LGBTQ students are an easy target as they are often already considered abnormal. This a large issue in the world because of the suicide rate of teenagers, specifically LGBTQ students. There are multiple organizations that work with LGBTQ youth to better their life. For instance GLSEN, one of the larger organizations, works with schools to provide gay-straight-alliances and help LGBTQ youth with nessesities such as housing, food and support. The Trevor project is also a widely known organization moseley known for their work with suicidal LGBTQ youth. The Trevor Project takes volunteers to run a 24/7 emergancy hotline for LGBTQ people in trouble. They help people who might be suicidal, or just struggling.
For my activism project I want to do something in my community. I want to start a small event to raise money for LGBTQ organisations in Maine. An annual event that brings awareness to the increasing amounts of suicides involving LGBTQ youth. The money will be donated to the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network to help other students not feel so alone.