NEW YORK, June 17, 2009 – Illinois schools are unsafe places for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) youth, according to a research brief released today by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
Inside Illinois Schools: The Experiences of LGBT Students, a report based on findings from 206 Illinois students who participated in GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey, shows that Illinois LGBT students face extreme levels of harassment and assault, skip school at alarming rates because of feeling unsafe and perform more poorly in school when they are more frequently harassed.
“While we applaud Illinois for being one of only 11 states to pass a law that explicitly protects students from bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, Inside Illinois Schools shows just how much work still needs to be done to make sure LGBT students in Illinois are safe in school,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. “GLSEN is hopeful Illinois will continue to address this pervasive problem.”
Nearly nine out of 10 (89%) Illinois LGBT students experienced verbal harassment based on sexual orientation in the past year, 43% said they had been physically harassed and more than a fifth (21%) said they had been physically assaulted.
About the National School Climate Survey
97% of Illinois LGBT students regularly (sometimes, often or frequently) heard the word “gay” used in a negative way in school, such as “that’s so gay.” 91% regularly heard homophobic remarks, such as “faggot” or “dyke,” from other students in school.
89% of LGBT students were verbally harassed, 43% were physically harassed and 21% were physically assaulted in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
76% of LGBT students were verbally harassed, 31% were physically harassed and 15% were physically assaulted because of their gender expression.
60% of LGBT students who were harassed or assaulted in school never reported it to school staff. Only 30% of students who did report incidents said that reporting resulted in effective intervention by school staff.
36% of LGBT students had skipped class at least once in the past month because they felt unsafe, and 37% had missed at least one entire day of school for this reason. Students who were more frequently verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation were more than twice as likely to miss days of school because they felt unsafe as students who were less frequently harassed (54% vs. 22%, respectively).
The grade point average of LGBT students who were more frequently physically harassed because of their sexual orientation was more than a half grade lower than of students who were less frequently harassed (2.1 vs. 2.7).
Illinois is one of only 11 states, along with the District of Columbia, that has passed a law explicitly protecting students from bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Yet only 18% of LGBT students reported that their school had this type of comprehensive anti-bullying policy.
The National School Climate Survey is a biennial survey examining the experiences of LGBT middle and high school students in U.S. schools. The survey, which was first conducted in 1999 and is the only national survey of its kind, documents the anti-LGBT bias and behaviors that make schools unsafe for many of these youth. The full 2007 sample consisted of 6,209 LGBT secondary school students, from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, between the ages of 13 and 21.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, 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.