GLSEN has partnered with the National Collaboration for Youth to release its biennial National School Climate Survey. The research was conducted during the 2008-2009 school year using various methods including paper surveys, online surveys, along with pinpointing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students and asking them to participate through means of social networking websites like Facebook and Myspace.
In 1999, GLSEN began data collection on the school experiences of LGBTQ students in order to fill a critical void in knowledge and understanding of the ways LGBTQ issues play out in our nation’s schools. Specifically, the 2009 survey includes 7,261 students from 2,783 unique public and private school districts representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey selected students representing diverse backgrounds in grades 6-12, and participants’ ages ranged from 13-18. The study focuses in on indicators of school climate as far as biased language, safety, and victimization; the effects of negative school climate on victims, the various resources available and the access students have to them, as well as the changes in trends noticed over time.
The 2009 survey found that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experienced harassment at school in the past year and nearly two-thirds felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation. Nearly a third of LGBT students skipped at least one day of school in the past month because of safety concerns. The effects of being unfocussed on academics at school or the feeling of fear associated with attending are obvious; the reported grade point average 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).
Unfortunately, LGBT students’ experiences with harassment and assault have remained relatively constant over the last 10 years. However, there has been an increase over time in the presence of several LGBT- related resources and supports in school, specifically: gay-straight alliances or other student clubs that address LGBT issues in education; school staff who were supportive of LGBT students; and LGBT-related materials in school libraries, which are all things the study finds to have contributed to more positive experiences for LGBT students in terms of dealing with less verbal harassment, less absenteeism, greater academic achievement, and a greater sense of belonging within the school community.
For more information on GLSEN and National Collaboration for Youth’s 2009 National School Climate Survey, click here, and to learn more about PFLAG’s work to cultivate respect in our nation’s classrooms, please click here.
This post was written by Eric VanDreason, the newest edition to PFLAG National’s Policy Team. To learn more about Eric and his role at the National Office, please visit our staff page here.