Monday, March 28, 2016

LGBT Youth and Their Sense of Safety

By Sam Piha


Sam Piha
We know that safety and school climate is becoming an important measure of school quality. We also know that physical and emotional safety are critical features of quality youth programs. In fact, safety is the number one standard of California's Quality Standards for Expanded Learning Programs.

But, physical and emotional safety is not enjoyed by many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) youth. According to Evie Blad, an Education Week staff writer, "Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students are the targets of bullying, harassment, and disproportionately high discipline rates at school, research suggests. But without consistently collected, reliable, large-scale sources of data, it's difficult to track the extent of those problems or the effectiveness of proposed solutions.


But we think we have sufficient data to begin this conversation. In 2013, the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) conducted a school climate study. This study examined the bias within schools towards LGBT youth. While afterschool programs are not responsible for the actions and policies of schools, the findings of this report shed light on what LGBT youth experience in their schools before coming to afterschool programs. Below are a few of the findings from this report.


School Safety
  • 37.8% of LGBT youth felt unsafe at school because of their gender expression.
  • Over a third avoided gender-segregated spaces in school because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable (bathrooms: 35.4%, locker rooms: 35.3%). 

Anti-LGBT Remarks at School
  • 56.4% heard negative remarks about gender expression (not acting “masculine enough” or “feminine enough”) frequently or often.
  • A third (33.1%) heard negative remarks specifically about transgender people, like “tranny” or “he/ she,” frequently or often.
  • 55.5% of youth reported hearing negative remarks about gender expression from teachers or other school staff.

Photo Credit:
https://queeryouthmentalhealth.wordpress.com/

Harassment and Assault at School
  • Compared to other LGBT youth, transgender, genderqueer, and other non-cisgender youth faced the most hostile school climates.
  • 55.2% of LGBT youth were verbally harassed (e.g., called names or threatened) in the past year because of their gender expression.
  • 11.4% were physically assaulted (e.g., punched, kicked, injured with a weapon) in the past year because of their gender expression.
  • 22.7% were physically harassed (e.g., pushed or shoved) in the past year because of their gender expression. 


School Performance
  • LGBT youth were more than three times as likely to have missed school in the past month than those who experienced lower levels (58.6% vs. 18.2%);
  • LGBT youth were twice as likely to report that they did not plan to pursue any post-secondary education (e.g., college or trade school; 8.2% vs. 4.2%); and
  • LGBT youth had higher levels of depression and lower levels of self-esteem.

A Separate Report on Antibullying Policies Found That:
  • Of the 70.5% of U.S. school districts with antibullying policies, a minority
    Photo Credit:
    http://www.bullying.co.uk/
    (14.1%) enumerated protections for youth based upon their gender identity and/or gender expression.
  • When accounting for all U.S. school districts, i.e., those with and without antibullying policies: Three in ten school districts enumerated sexual orientation, and not gender identity/expression.
  • In states with antibullying laws, 60.3% of districts were not providing protections to youth based on gender identity/expression in their anti-bullying policies.
  • Nearly six in ten (58.4%) LGBT youth were not receiving explicit protections from bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression in their school districts (i.e., their districts did not have LGB or LGBT-inclusive policies).

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