GLSEN Report Demonstrates Schools’ Lack of Support and Inclusion of LGBT Families
NEW YORK, Feb. 28 – The first comprehensive report on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) families’ experiences in education, released today by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, in partnership with the Family Equality Council and COLAGE, has found that LGBT parents are more likely to be involved in their children’s K-12 education than the general parent population. These parents are more involved in school activities and more likely to report consistent communication with school personnel. In addition, both LGBT parents and children of LGBT parents often report harassment because of their family structure.
Current estimates indicate there are more than seven million LGBT parents with school-age children in the United States. Involved, Invisible, Ignored: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Parents and Their Children in Our Nation’s K-12 Schools examines and highlights the school experiences of LGBT-headed families using results from surveys of LGBT parents of children in K-12 schools and of secondary students who have LGBT parents.
Involved, Invisible, Ignored: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Parents and Their Children in Our Nation’s K-12 Schools (PDF: 141 pages - 1.4MB)
"Family and education are two of the most important aspects of children’s lives," said GLSEN Executive Director Kevin Jennings. "This report casts doubt on schools’ inclusion of different kinds of families in our education system. LGBT parents are actively engaged in their children’s education yet are often not accepted by school communities. Further, their children are often harassed in school simply because of the makeup of their families. All families in a school community should be valued and respected as equals."
Key Findings, Parents:
LGBT parents are more likely to be involved in their children’s education than the general parent population. Compared to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), LGBT parents are more likely to attend a parent-teacher conference in the past year (94% to 77%) and more likely to volunteer (67% to 42%).
More than half (53%) of parents described various forms of exclusion from their school communities: being excluded or prevented from fully participating in school activities and events, being excluded by school policies and procedures, and being ignored and feeling invisible.
LGBT parents reported mistreatment from other parents in the school community and even from their children’s peers at school – 26% of LGBT parents in the survey reported mistreatment from other parents and 21% reported hearing negative comments about being LGBT from students.
Parents whose child’s school had a comprehensive safe school policy that protected students from bullying and harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression/identity reported the lowest level of mistreatment and that there were no differences between the no-policy and generic-policy groups.
"I want my sons' school environment to give them the opportunity to learn without harassment, and I want to be a welcomed and integral part of their educational experience as they grow," said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council. "This report shows when schools have anti-bullying policies that are inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, the rates of harassment are lowered dramatically. These policies and comprehensive diversity curricula are tools that can curb mistreatment and bolster participation from all families. Knowing what works is a start, but schools have a long way to go and much left to do in putting them to the best and fullest use for our kids."
Key Findings, Students:
Nearly a quarter (23%) of students felt unsafe around other students at school due to others’ negative attitudes toward people with LGBT parents.
42% of students said they had been verbally harassed at school in the past year because their parents were LGBT. Over a third (37%) of students reported that they had been verbally harassed because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation and nearly a third had experienced verbal harassment because of the way in which they expressed their gender (32%).
Nearly a quarter (22%) of students said that a teacher, principal or other school staff person had discouraged them from talking about their family at school, and more than a third (36%) had felt that school personnel did not acknowledge their LGBT family (e.g., not permitting one parent to sign a student’s form because s/he was not the legal parent/guardian). Furthermore, 28% said they heard teachers or other school staff make negative comments about LGBT families.
"Students with lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender parents face isolation, invisibility and alienation due to harassment, name-calling and bullying in their schools," said COLAGE Executive Director Beth Teper, who has a lesbian mother. "On behalf of the millions of people who have one or more LGBT parents, COLAGE urges students, schools and communities to learn about this important issue as the first step in building safe school environments for all. We also applaud youth with LGBT parents who act as educators and leaders every day when they navigate often unwelcoming schools."
Request for interviews with LGBT parents and the children of LGBT parents can be sent to the media contacts above.
GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. For more information on our educator resources, research, public policy agenda, student organizing programs or development initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.
About the Family Equality Council
The Family Equality Council (formerly Family Pride) is the national advocacy organization committed to securing family equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer parents, guardians and allies. Our work consists of strategically linked initiatives—broad in scope, but simple in vision—love, justice, family, equality. For more information, please visit www.familyequality.org.
COLAGE is a national movement of children, youth, and adults with one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer (LGBTQ) parents. We build community and work toward social justice through youth empowerment, leadership development, education, and advocacy. www.colage.org.