Monday, September 20, 2010

The Difference Of A Decade: Ten Years of GLSEN School Climate Reports

Last week GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) released their 2009 National School Climate Survey, documenting the experiences of LGBT students in schools across the country.

(Click here for the 13-page executive summary or here for the 164-page full report.)

GLSEN began compiling these reports and collecting data in 1999, and this report marks a decade of research. Some of their collective findings from the past 10 years include:
  • There was a steady decline in the frequency of hearing homophobic remarks from 1999 to 2003. (Between 2005 and 2009, students’ reports of these types of remarks did not decrease significantly.)

  • LGBT students’ experiences of harassment and assault have remained relatively constant over time. However, there were small but significant decreases in frequencies of verbal harassment, physical harassment, and physical assault from 2007 to 2009.

  • LGBT-related resources and support in school have steadily increased, e.g., gay-straight alliances, other student clubs that address LGBT issues in education, LGBT-supportive school staff, and LGBT-related materials in school libraries.
  • The 2009 survey includes responses from 7,261 LGBT students between the ages of 13 and 21 from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data collection was conducted through community-based groups, online outreach, and targeted advertising on Facebook and MySpace.

    Key Findings of the 2009 National School Climate Survey include:

  • 84.6% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 40.1% reported being physically harassed, and 18.8% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
  • 63.7% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 27.2% reported being physically harassed, and 12.5% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their gender expression.
  • 72.4% heard homophobic remarks frequently or often at school.
  • Nearly two-thirds (61.1%) of students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and more than a third (39.9%) felt unsafe because of their gender expression.
  • 29.1% of LGBT students missed a class at least once and 30.0% missed at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns, compared to only 8.0% and 6.7%, respectively, of a national sample of secondary school students.
  • The reported GPA of students who were more frequently harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender expression was almost half a grade lower than for students who were less often harassed (2.7 vs. 3.1).
  • Increased levels of victimization were related to increased levels of depression and anxiety and decreased levels of self-esteem.
  • 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.
  • Positive Interventions and Support:

  • Having a Gay-Straight Alliance in school was related to more positive experiences for LGBT students, including: hearing fewer homophobic remarks, less victimization because of sexual orientation and gender expression, less absenteeism because of safety concerns, and a greater sense of belonging to the school community.
  • The presence of supportive staff contributed to a range of positive indicators including fewer reports of missing school, fewer reports of feeling unsafe, greater academic achievement, higher educational aspirations, and a greater sense of school belonging.
  • Students attending schools with an anti-bullying policy that included explicit protections based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression (like the statewide anti-bullying law passed by Equality NC last year) heard fewer homophobic remarks, experienced lower levels of victimization related to their sexual orientation, were more likely to report that staff intervened when hearing homophobic remarks, and were more likely to report incidents of harassment and assault to school staff than students at schools with a general policy or no policy.
  • Despite the positive benefits of these interventions, less than a half of LGBT students (44.6%) reported having a gay-straight alliance at school, slightly more than half (53.4%) could identify six or more supportive educators, and less than a fifth (18.2%) attended a school that had a comprehensive anti-bullying policy.
  • The times, they are a'-changin. It's good to see the positive growth occurring across the country, and it's especially good to have more data supporting the efficacy of non-discrimination policies that explicitly protect LGBT folks versus those that only provide general protections.

    Little by little, we are creating an educational environment where all students, including LGBT ones, can feel safe enough to learn and succeed in school.

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