U.S. high school seniors hold more liberal views on LGBT issues than the rest of the country's adult population, but schools remain a "hostile environment" for gay students, a survey released on Monday found.
The following is an excerpt from an article printed by Reuters. Any opinions either stated or suggested are not necessarily those of GLSEN or its members.
By Christopher Michaud
New York (Reuters) -- U.S. high school seniors hold more liberal views on gay issues than the rest of the country's adult population, but schools remain a "hostile environment" for gay students, a survey released on Monday found.
The random poll of 1,003 high school seniors designed by Hamilton College and conducted by Zogby International, which the pollsters said was the first national survey of high school seniors on gay issues, found that 85 percent of seniors thought gay men and
lesbians should be accepted by society.
Two-thirds of those surveyed said gay marriages should be legal, compared to only about one-third of adults overall in recent polls, and 68 percent of the seniors said gay couples should be allowed to adopt children. Eighty-eight percent supported hate crimes legislation and 79 percent favored anti-discrimination laws protecting gay people.
"Large majorities of seniors take pro-gay positions on relevant gay issues," said professor Dennis Gilbert of Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, whose survey research class designed the poll, conducted March 16-20.
"And virtually every definable demographic group took these positions," with the exception of evangelical or born-again Christians, Gilbert said, adding that the students "were consistently more liberal (on gay issues) ... than older Americans."
The results, he said, "reinforce the impression of long-term change -- that people are becoming more tolerant of gays," Gilbert said.
Despite the apparent overwhelming support for gay people, however, the survey found U.S. high schools remain a largely hostile environment for gay students, with nearly half having witnessed students being called "faggot," "homo" or "dyke" to their face. Some 88 percent said the phrase "that's so gay" is used to describe something that is disliked.
More than half of the survey's participants, 53 percent, said gay issues have not been discussed in any of their classes. Thirteen percent said their school had an organization to support gay students. And 59 percent said openly gay students attended their school.
Despite voicing strong support for gay people in general terms, the seniors expressed a much lower comfort level with specific hypothetical situations.
While 62 percent said they would be comfortable in a class taught by a gay man, only 43 percent were comfortable with the idea of a gay, same-sex, lab partner. Thirty-eight percent were OK with a gay teammate who used the same locker room. Only 31.5 percent said they would be comfortable at a party with both gay and straight couples.
Gilbert said that "verbal abuse and social discomfort are things that are going to ease over time," as gay people are increasingly open and accepted in society.
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