NEW YORK, Feb. 12 2008 – A year to the day after 15-year-old Lawrence King was murdered at E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, Calif., because of his sexual orientation and gender expression, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network is calling on school officials and policy makers across the country to take action to make sure all of their students are safe.
“Our thoughts continue to go out to an Oxnard community that will never be the same after this senseless display of hate,” said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. “Lawrence King was murdered simply for being himself. It is imperative that as a nation we do everything we can to make sure that the tragedy of Feb. 12, 2008 never happens again and that every student is safe, respected and valued in school.”
While King’s murder by a 14-year-old classmate is an extreme example of the hate directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students in school, GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey revealed that bullying and harassment of LGBT students is the norm rather than the exception in schools.
Nearly nine out of 10 LGBT students (86.2%) reported being verbally harassed, 44.1% being physically harassed and 22.1% being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, according to the survey of 6,209 middle and high school students.
Additionally, three-fifths of LGBT students (60.8%) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and about a third (32.7%) skipped a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe.
“While no one can deny that a serious problem exists in our schools, what is most troubling is that so few seem committed to doing anything about it,” Byard said. “The good news is that schools can take simple, proven steps right now to make their students safer. Every child deserves that much.”
GLSEN recommends four approaches that schools can take to address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.
Adopt a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that enumerates categories such as race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender expression/identity. Enumeration is crucial to ensure that anti-bullying policies are effective for LGBT students. Policies without enumeration are essentially as effective as having no policy at all when it comes to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment, according to GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey.
Require staff trainings to enable school staff to identify and address anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment effectively and in a timely manner.
Support student efforts to address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment on campus, such as the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance or participation in the National Day of Silence on April 17.
Institute age-appropriate, inclusive curricula to help students understand and respect difference within the school community and society as a whole.
Vigils are taking place across the country to remember Lawrence King. Find out more at www.rememberinglawrence.org.
GLSEN, 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. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN’s research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.