New Report: Hostile School Climate for LGBTQ+ Students as Support Declines

For Immediate Release: October 18, 2022


New Report: LGBTQ+ Students Experience Hostile School Climates as School Support Declines

Research reveals decrease in availability of school resources including GSAs, inclusive books and supportive teachers

NEW YORK (Oct. 18, 2022)—GLSEN, the nation’s leading organization on LGBTQ+ issues in K–12 education, announced today new findings from the 2021 National School Climate Survey showing a recent decline in the availability of school resources for LGBTQ+ youth.

Since GLSEN launched this biennial survey in 1999, the National School Climate Survey (NSCS) has established itself as the most comprehensive research studying the experiences of LGBTQ+ youth in schools across the United States. Over the past two decades, GLSEN has witnessed a considerable improvement in the lives of LGBTQ+ students, but development has stagnated in recent years. The report from this year provides a detailed road map for how school administrators and educators can improve student safety, mental health, and academic performance amid an increasingly hostile political climate.

“The National School Climate Survey has been a strong catalyst for transforming education systems for over two decades, but this year’s report shows we must make additional progress before LGBTQ+ youth are at minimum safe in schools where they can thrive and reach their full potential,” said GLSEN Chief of Staff and Deputy Executive Director for Public Policy and Research, Aaron Ridings. “Students report a decline in school resources, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a period of mass disruption and trauma, and the attacks on LGBTQ+ youth from anti-LGBTQ+ extremists continue to create a chilling effect that threatens the wellbeing of gay and transgender youth across the country. We need leaders in states across the country who will uphold basic civil and education rights and let educators teach and students learn.”

Findings from the 2021 National School Climate Survey include:

  • Schools remain hostile for LGBTQ students. The vast majority of LGBTQ+ students who attended school in-person at some point during the 2021-2022 academic year (83.1%) experienced in-person harassment or assault based on personal characteristics, including sexual orientation, gender expression, gender, religion, actual or perceived race and ethnicity, and actual or perceived disability.
  • Fewer resources are available for LGBTQ+ students. The percentage of LGBTQ+ students who have a GSA available at their school has dropped significantly since 2019. Access to LGBTQ+ inclusive books and resources and the number of supportive school personnel also decreased.
  • Bullying and harassment goes beyond the classroom. Students who were in online only learning environments during the pandemic experienced higher rates of online harassment based on sexual orientation, gender, and gender expression than those who were in hybrid learning environments.
  • School policies discriminate against LGBTQ students, especially transgender and nonbinary students. Most LGBTQ+ students (58.9%) experienced LGBTQ+-related discriminatory policies or practices at school. There has been an increase since 2019 in restrictions on students’ use of name and pronouns and clothing based on gender norms.
  • Anti-LGBTQ harassment and hostile school environments directly harm mental health and academic performance. A hostile school climate affects students’ academic success and mental health. Nearly one-third (32.2%) of LGBTQ+ students missed at least one day of school in the last month due to feeling unsafe. LGBTQ+ students also reported having lower self-esteem and higher levels of depression, as a result of the harassment.

“The 2021 National School Climate Survey reveals that LGBTQ+ students are experiencing unacceptable rates of bullying and discriminations in the classroom, which impacts their mental health, self esteem and educational aspirations.” said Joseph Kosciw, Director of GLSEN Research Institute. “But, our research also points to how schools can better support LGBTQ+ students: evidence shows that inclusive policies, GSAs, and supportive educators play a critical role in creating encouraging educational environments where all students can thrive.”

“Being LGBTQ+ makes it so that I always feel like I’m different from everyone else. For example, when I was the only girl who brought another girl to prom, I couldn’t enjoy the experience because of how many stares I got from other students and teachers.” said Via (she/her), a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council. “By censoring books about LGBTQ+ people, prohibiting teachers from talking about queer issues, and purposely blocking GSAs from being established, my school makes it undoubtedly clear that I am not a welcome member of the community as my cisgender and heterosexual peers.”

The report also includes recommendations for schools to improve LGBTQ+ student well-being, including providing:

  • Dedicated support from schools and staff. Students who feel safe and supported at school have better educational outcomes. LGBTQ+ students who have LGBTQ+-related school resources report better school experiences and academic success.
  • Inclusive school policies and anti-bullying safeguards. Students who identify as LGBTQ+ should not face discrimination under dress code rules and the use of bathroom facilities. Schools should put in place comprehensive anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies that support students' identities and provide easy-to-use tools for reporting and dealing with bullying.
  • LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum. Inclusive curricula should be positive and accurately representative of LGBTQ+ people, history, and events. Compared to students in school without an LGBTQ+-inclusive curriculum, LGBTQ+ students in schools with an LGBTQ+-inclusive curriculum were less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation (23.4% vs. 34.0%), gender expression (34.0% vs. 54.0%), and gender (29.1% vs 42.6%).
  • GSAs in more schools. Compared to LGBTQ+ students who did not have a GSA in their school, students who had an active GSA in their school were less likely to hear homophobic remarks at school – using “gay” in a negative way (56.6% compared to 74.3% reporting often or frequently), “no homo” (56.6% vs. 67.0% reporting often or frequently), and other homophobic remarks such as “fag” or “dyke” (34.0% vs. 49.8%) often or frequently.

About GLSEN’s 2021 National School Climate Survey

The 2021 National School Climate Survey was conducted online from April through August 2021. To obtain a representative national sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) youth, outreach was conducted through national, regional, and local organizations that provide services to or advocate on behalf of LGBTQ+ youth, and advertised and promoted on social media sites, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. To ensure representation of transgender youth, youth of color, and youth in rural communities, special efforts were made to notify groups and organizations that work predominantly with these populations.

The final sample consisted of a total of 22,298 students between the ages of 13 and 21. Students came from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands. Just over two-thirds of the sample (67.2%) was White, 33.9% identified as cisgender female and 31.3% as nonbinary, and 30.1% identified as bisexual and 28.8% as gay or lesbian. The average age of students in the sample was 15.4 years and they were in grades 6 to 12, with the largest numbers in grades 9, 10 and 11.

Download the full report, executive summary and related content HERE.

Join us Wednesday, October 19th at 4:00 pm EST for GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey Webinar.


GLSEN works to create safe and inclusive schools for all. GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression. Each year, GLSEN programs and resources reach millions of students and educators in K-12 schools, via action at the national, state and local level. Since 1990, GLSEN has improved conditions for LGBTQ+ students across the United States and helped launch an international movement to address LGBTQ+ issues in education.