Sadly, studies show that a majority of LGBT youth get harassed at school because of their sexual orientation.
According to the 2009, National School Climate Survey of middle and high school youth, because of their sexual orientation:
- 80% of LGBT youth were verbally harassed at school within a year of being surveyed
- 60% had felt unsafe at school within a year of being surveyed
- 40% had experienced physical harassment at school within a year of being surveyed
- 20% had experienced physical assault at school within a year of being surveyed1
How Serious Are the Consequences of LGBT Bullying?
LGBT youth are at greatly increased risk of long term physical and mental health problems, and even death, due in part to the bullying and abuse they suffer throughout their school careers.
According to Mental Health America, GLBT Teens:
- Are 200% to 300% more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual teens
- Are far more likely to suffer academically, because of the abuse they receive at school - 22% of GLBT teens say they’ve skipped school during the last month because of concerns for safety
- Are far more likely to drop out of school – 28% of GLBT won’t finish high school, which is three times the drop-out rate of heterosexual students2
And it’s not just GLBT teens who suffer from bullying based on sexual orientation. According to a Seattle Safe Schools Anti-Violence Report, for every 1 student who reports being bullied for being LGBT, 4 heterosexual students report being bullied for being perceived as gay or lesbian.3
Although many GLBT find that bullying and abuse diminishes as they move beyond the school years and into young adulthood and adulthood, unfortunately, the consequences of school aged bullying don’t drop away as quickly.In one study, LGBT young adults who reported high levels of bullying and victimization during their high school years were:
- 560% more likely to report having tried to kill themselves than LGBT young adults who reported more minimal bullying in high school
- More than twice as likely to be clinically depressed as young adults than those who were victimized less frequently
- More than twice as likely to have contracted a sexually transmitted disease by young adulthood4
Clearly, as children and teens LGBT youth suffer an unacceptable amount of bullying and victimization and the consequences of this harassment can be tragically high (suicide) and long lasting (depression into adulthood, etc.)
What Can Schools Do to Put a Stop to LGBT Bullying?
If you’re a LGBT student who’s getting bullied, you should know that you don’t have to take the abuse and you don’t deserve the harassment. To find out more about steps you can take to deal with a bully, read “Dealing with a Bully.”But beyond the individual level, research shows that school policies can make a huge difference in minimizing the amount and harms of LGBT bullying, and if your school or your child’s school doesn’t yet have effective anti LGBT bullying policies in place – lobbying for their implementation could make an enormous difference.
According to the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) 4 things schools can do to squash LGBT bullying are:
- Have an anti bullying policy, and in that bullying policy to specifically name and address bullying against LGBT students. As well as against students based on race, gender, disability etc. Schools that do not categorically forbid taunting or verbal abuse based on sexual orientation as good as condone it.
- Require all staff to get trained in GLBT bullying, so that they can recognize and put a stop to sexual orientation bullying on the spot.
- Support student initiatives to deal with LGBT bullying, such as by allowing the formation of Gay-Straight Student Alliance clubs and through other measures
- Teach respect and tolerance in the classroom5
- 1. Stop Bullying.gov: LGBT Bullying
- 2. Mental Health America: Bullying and Gay Youth
- 3. Reis, B. (1996). Safe Schools Anti-Violence Documentation Project, Third Annual Report. Seattle: Safe Schools Coalition School Victimization of Gender-Nonconforming LGBT Youth Linked with Depression and Quality Of Life In Adulthood
Page last updated Jun 22, 2011